The Frostbite Engine dates back to Battlefield Bad Company as it was once DICE’s in-house game engine to use. This engine evolved to allow building structures to tumble, use any space of any area without limits and has pushed visuals thanks to enhanced lighting. With Frostbite 3, new weather effects have been implemented and physics-based rendering. This began with Battlefield 4 and has included other series such as Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Need for Speed. The FIFA series and Rory McIllroy PGA Tour also use it and it has benefited those two sports.
Madden NFL 18 will mark the series jumping to Frostbite for the first time while leaving its Ignite Engine behind. This opens the door for lifelike visuals, but more importantly, improved physics. The FIFA games feel much more physical since making the jump to Frostbite, and the choice to make the move for McIllroy PGA Tour allowed players to hit balls anywhere and not feel limited with their shots. Electronic Arts is promising photorealistic visuals and new lighting effects to bring the NFL to life, but there are more important aspects that could bring the game to where fans have wanted.
In the past, the Madden series has been solid and entertaining, but players commonly either exploited something or complained about an instance that would never get solved. Major aspects such as the running game suffered due to how the offensive line blocked. True holes would never get open and it would be difficult to establish a run game rendering it useless. With the physics model involved with Frostbite, one-on-one battles and blocking assignments should vastly improve. Defenders should not be able to just warp off blocks to make a tackle. A.I. programming will have a good bit to do with it, as well. EA Tiburon, however, has made strides with that in the past few years and it could have been the Ignite Engine that was holding that aspect back.
Another aspect that will be seriously improved will be the catching. EA has revealed that Target Passing will be in Madden NFL 18 for the first time, but no action has been shown as to how this will work. Back in 2006, EA introduced the Vision Cone and while it was a good idea on paper, it lacked in execution. When jumping to the current generation, EA implemented the ability to throw high and low to help put the ball where you want it and also changed the catching mechanics. However, drops would still happened and the idea of doing so, while better than nothing, was still cut and dry. Then there were sideline catches that would get reviewed and you would think clearly that a catch either was or wasn’t made only to have it overturned. With Frostbite, that should no longer be an issue and catching should be consistent.
A bigger thought would be the improvement of wide receiver and defensive back battles. Much like the improvements to blocking, a lot can be gained from the physics of Frostbite for these battles to help create separation. Receivers who are not great at creating separation or defenders who are physical should see an increase of use if implemented correctly. EA has already noted that coverage changes would be happening with the new game and this could change how each game in Madden flows going forward.
While there is a ton of potential for Frostbite, the engine has had its issues in the past especially with sports games. No one ever knows until the game hits and people have time to get into it. FIFA has had some gaffs in the past that have resulted in some funny memes. Rory McIllroy PGA Tour did not look as great as many thought it would and the game never had the same muster as previous Tiger Woods series. This could be a process where it will take a few years to offer the experience that EA is seeking to provide. The goal should be to offer a solid foundation to build on at the bare minimum and not release a game that is full of buggy physics.