Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Temperatures are cooling, leaves shall soon begin to drop, and the feel of rain is in the air. This could mean only one thing: Fall is fast approaching, which means football is back! That’s right, time to break out the coolers, load up on brews, and become one with the couch. But only on Sundays…and two games on Thursdays…and Monday night, but the rest of the week, it’s you and the ol’ ball and chain. Until playoffs start and Saturday games are added. Fellas, just remember to bring home flowers from time to time. Especially with the return of Madden season, football overload is imminent.
In an age where technology is forever molding and changing, the growth of ideas must be able to follow along with all things new. Madden Football is no different. The NFL as a whole has become one of the biggest money-making, attention-grabbing companies of all time. We see major interests in fantasy leagues, cities constantly building new stadiums to house more fans, and college players becoming megastars before they even turn professional (make it rain, Manziel). Simply, everyone wants to get their hands on the product as much as possible. AndMadden NFL 15 is here to satisfy that craving.
This year’s title marks the first edition that has been created with next-gen being the focus in design. Copies of Madden NFL 15 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will still be available, but it’s all about full steam ahead, making progress forward. Like they say, out with the old, in with the new.
So what is new? Well, Madden is a one stop shop for game modes old. All of the same modes you have played the last few years are present, which aren’t many, but quality over quantity, right? Now before we get ahead of ourselves (like I said, “progress forward”), the paint job and even the body models are mostly the same, but under the hood we’re looking at a fresh engine, literally. As some are aware of, the old consoles used the Infinity engine. For next gen, EA has implemented the Ignite engine and you feel the difference immediately.
Along with the new physics engine, the game modes themselves have been upgraded. Madden Ultimate Team and skills trainer have been given among the biggest facelifts. MUT still caters to diehard fantasy team players and will continue to allow card packs, trades, the collecting of better players, and so forth. It’s just all more detailed-oriented, as well as slightly disorienting. Contract signings, solo challenges, line-up adjustments, flashy things in the screen, some guy talking about sets and binders—you name it, they got it. Fortunately, there’s an instant help option, which partially adds assistance.
Connected Careers has once again returned, except with a name change. Newly dubbed Connected Franchise, the mode has pretty much the same features. Here, you can take on the aspect of a player, coach, or owner and build upon your own legacy or continue with current personnel or past legends. However, the mode doesn’t quite have the same feel as old franchise modes, and weeding through the extras can be time-consuming. It is nice to see there’s a multiplayer option to play locally, though. And don't forget never-say-never moments. Playing through those is a great way to remember some of the classic games from last season.
The new skills trainer possibly could be the best teaching aid the developers have added. The old skills games stayed fairly linear in approach and taught basics in how to use controls. Madden 15’s trainer goes further and gives in-depth techniques to not just only moves, but strategies and play-calling. It teaches you how to recognize coverage. Once you’ve identified said coverage, making the right reads should come second nature.
In terms of actual move sets, many of the usual abilities still continue to make an impact. On offense, using a variety of spins, jukes, trucks, cuts, and hurdles can prove devastating. Even more so when using the ever-so-popular move modifier, which still takes regular moves and enhances them when coupled with solid timing and execution.
By contrast, Madden 15 focuses on defensive aspects on this side of the ball. Starting with the defensive line, a number of moves have been added for rushers to attack the backfield more. When near the line of scrimmage, try timing your rush to the snap. Using RT or R2 at the exact time the ball is hiked, will give the rusher a better opportunity to correctly engage a blocker. Once engaged, using X and A (Xbox) or square and X (PlayStation) will use pass rush moves to shake the opponent and open lanes to get to the QB or running back. And when finishing plays, it’s a must to wrap your opponent up or destroy him with a hard-hitting tackle. Square up and either hit conservatively or aggressively. Taking a more passive approach yields in almost sure tackles every time. But taking the risk to attack tough can result in immediate stops and some fumbles or injuries. This new tackling system can give certain defenders the upper hand.
Other useful tactics for both sides of the ball include the new camera angles. Offensively, you are now able to zoom close or move out wide. There’s even a side view, which is horrible to look at but if it works, use it. Defensively, you no longer just have to play from the offensive point of view. Flipping the camera brings a new perspective look at the offense. Locking onto a single player is available as well. At first it feels strange to play from the new angles, but after a few repetitions you’ll notice how effective the change can be. All of the view switching can be done pre-snap by using the D-pad.
If you’ve notice the change of button layout, the D-pad is no longer used for alignments or defensive assignments. Such signals are called using a number of buttons, including both top bumpers as well as the letter pad. It’s highly advised to practice first, before taking others head on seriously. Everything is fast pace and one wrong or late audible can spell disaster. A skill that also must be learned comes in the form of the new play-selecting options. Not only has the layout completely changed, a few other fresh pieces make an appearance such as “ask the community." When picking plays, you’ve always been able to “ask Madden," where most of his plays are random and computerized. Now with “ask the community," you can see plays others have used in similar situations, giving statistics on what kind of plays typically work, as well as average yardage from used plays.
How all this translates to physical gameplay is that movement feels fluid with a small touch of realism. The pace of the game is fast and intense, but the players themselves show just the right amount of burst when running and cutting. In Madden 25, gameplay seemed too easy, and return men would break for touchdowns too regularly, speedy receivers would torch just about every corner or safety, and scores would reach 50 like it was the new 20. Madden 15 is more about timing, calculations, and knowhow. And you got to love being able to bounce off of your own teammates and recovering from wrong reads when running the ball. This has been keyed on before but is still a great improvement here.
Surrounding the play on the field are the lights and sounds of the game. Presentation is at an all-time high. EA compiled a number of actual NFL players and took face and body scans in order to have the authentic look of real players. Stadium designs look fantastic, and halftime shows give detailed notes to the game you have been playing. It’s all about that HD experience. On top of that, the online modes so far look satisfactory and play smoothly enough.
Madden NFL 15 is a solid title that's actulaly one of the better editions to date. To help compensate for the lack of playable game modes, each mode is heavily layered with razzle-dazzle features to fill the void. Small touches of detail, such as kicking and punting assistance, cover the rest of the holes. Cam Newton even lends a hand or a voice in this situation and drops some knowledge for everyone. It’s just a shame a Seahawk made the cover this year... *cough cough* Madden curse *cough*.
Copy provided by publisher. Review based on Xbox One version. Also available for PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3.
Madden NFL 15
In-depth training sessions
New camera angles
Lack of game modes hide behind a curtain of fluffed features
Real player face/body modeling...
Overhaul of pre-snap button layout
...can be slightly confusing picking plays as well
Illustrates the smarts that go into playing football
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