Better with Kinect? It's the tagline that's become more of a punchline for hardcore gamers, but EA Sports is doing its best to boost the credentials of Microsoft's mega-selling peripheral not through motion-control, but via voice commands in its top sports franchises.
This season's FIFA update allows you to eff and blind at the ref as a gameplay feature, as well as switching stuff like tactics, formation and camera angles on the fly. For Madden's latest Xbox outing, however, the fit is arguably even better.
"It can be confusing with the amount of options we put on the screen to navigate menus," admitted Victor Lugo, the designer responsible for Kinect implementation in this year's Madden, speaking to us at EA Canada last month. "We wanted to use very common language that people can understand to try to allow them to use these commands."
The stop-start nature of American football lends itself well to voice comms, putting the player in the helmet and '80s diva shoulder pads of a quarterback, calling plays and directing the team in offence and defence.
Example: "Manningham. Streak. O Line. Aggressive. Set hike!" No fiddling with menus, less fuss. That's how it works at a basic level, and: "For advanced users we allow you to use the controller as well as use your voice to get that extra command in and edge out your buddies," said Logan. But there's more. "One thing we're doing, which is pretty innovative with this game, is using what we're calling dynamic grammars," Logan said. "There are commands that we're loading directly into the game right now. What dynamic grammars do is take text and dynamically load it in, the name of the characters you have, your custom audibles and basically uses phonics to sound it out."
Which is a long-winded way of saying: "If you type your name in there you can just say your name. If you put all your custom audibles in you'll be able to say them. All that adds up to the ability to add any play into the game and call out the name of any player, and that's over 6,000 commands." Neat.
Meanwhile, Madden NFL 13 is also coming to Wii U and promises to take advantage of the Game Pad. Sadly, it wasn't on show at EA Canada during our recent visit, but EA supplied us with the following info today, explaining it will include "streamlined playcalling, pre-snap adjustments and personnel management - all directly from the innovative Wii U Gamepad touchscreen."
Exactly what that means is anyone's guess, but what EA has already demonstrated is a compelling set of features for the Wii U version of FIFA 13, which you can read about elsewhere on Eurogamer today, suggesting there's scope for genuine game-enhancing uses alongside any obvious touch- and motion-control additions.