Whether it’s because of the brand or its stranglehold on the NFL licenses, EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise sells extremely well year after year. This year, however, aside from this outrageous commercial, EA Sports didn’t hype it much—which is strange, because this is a pretty damn good season of Madden.
What Is It?
Madden NFL 15 needs no introduction. It’s this year’s edition of the only football sim in existence, both in the collegiate and professional ranks. The franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and its next-generation iterations on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were expectedly not that much different from its PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 counterparts.
This year, quite a few tweaks have been made to refresh the gameplay and make it really feel new, but new doesn’t always mean better.
Why Should I Care?
Madden 15 features a couple things that significantly change the way Madden is played. Most notable of which is its focus on making the defensive gameplay more enjoyable. As an avid player of the series since the late 90’s, I’d have to say that it really isn’t that much more fun than it’s been in previous years. It’s just different.
The changes include a camera angle shown from the defensive perspective and using a button system rather than the right stick to shed blockers. While these changes may be a welcome addition to some, to others they’re also a bit out of left field. It’s nice to be able to really feel like you’re playing defense, but you’re really keying in on only one player, whereas control of your defense as a whole is more easily had in the standard camera view.
Plays in the NFL are bang-bang. They begin and end in an instant, and for veterans playing in All-Madden mode, it’s sort of an unnecessary chore to shed blockers using QTE commands when you’ve been used to the stick for the last few years.
On top of that, the new angles are best used when you’re blitzing the quarterback. Playing coverage from this perspective is more difficult than it has to be, and players will definitely be torched when going against more skilled offenses.
Speaking of offense, this side of the ball has seen marginal change. The most obvious of which is the playcalling system. Instead of laying the plays out on a row, they’re now vertical. Because of that, experienced players can often find themselves picking the wrong play. Actually, the few games I’ve played online each required my opponent to call timeout just because he called the wrong play.
The layout aside, the system isn’t without its improvements. Now, instead of the “Ask Madden” option, players now have the “Coach’s Suggestion” options, which look at your own down and distance and scouts your opponent to really pick the best play for the best situation. And if you don’t like that play, you also have options offered by others in the Madden Community, along with a percentage indicating the plays effectiveness. Is it thoroughly accurate? That part is hard to judge as it really depends on your skill level, but this is something I wouldn’t mind seeing EA build off of in future releases.
The offensive game also has its new camera views. By pressing up or down on the D-pad, you can zoom in and out of the field freely, allowing you to easily identify the formations on the field.
Madden 15’s new camera mechanics are a hate-it-or-love-it addition. Also up for the debate is the fact that you can’t use any of these mechanics when in the game’s local multiplayer mode, which is fine, because I envision a lot of offsides and encroachment penalties happening just because of opponents trolling each other using different camera angles. In online multiplayer, it’s fair game. Then again, your opponent won’t know what camera angle you’re using anyway.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As far as modes of play go, this is where you’ll hardly see anything new. Connected Franchise has made its return, and they’ve thankfully given players the ability to use more than one team or character. This was something that the game severely lacked last year, as I primarily played Franchise Mode using local multiplayer, which wasn’t an option in last year’s game. You still have the option of being a player, a coach, and an owner, and there are literally no limitations with how many of each you can use.
Also making its return is Madden Ultimate Team, fantasy football for real—kind of. Using Madden Points, which you can accumulate slowly through gameplay or quickly using actual money, you can purchase cards to bolster your own fantasy lineup of players new and old to use against others. This was a cool feature when it first came out, but there’s really nothing all that exciting about it anymore unless you’re someone that religiously plays that mode.
Madden NFL 15 is a game that has marked a significant amount of change, and as great as that is, I still don’t feel like I have an authentic NFL experience. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – EA Sports has no reason to not take advantage of the ESPN branding and licensing they have access to, especially with the NCAA Football license no longer being used. The game looks better than it ever has, but it still pales in comparison to the presentation that NBA 2K provides. Yes, comparing football to basketball is pointless, but there’s no reason why EA Sports can’t use live locations or show scores for other games happening in the league. Heck, they did that in Madden NFL 11 with the likes of NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan and Fran Charles—what went wrong here?
CBS A-team Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are back with the commentary, and they still suck. Put Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth back in there, or Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden. Maybe even Madden. Hell, give us the option of choosing the network and commentary to play the games under. This is next generation football, and developers haven’t even scratched the surface with a truly authentic NFL television presentation.
My personal complaints aside, Madden NFL 15 is still a fun game worth buying. If you’re a veteran of the series, a lot of the things you’re used to will take some re-learning, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, just because the game is filled with quite a bit of nuances doesn’t mean it’s good thing either. The game’s balance really just depends on patience level of the player. The game also really lacks the presentation that a lot of other sports games do right, and that’s just sad considering this is the only game featuring the most popular sport in America. If you have an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and haven’t taken to plunge into Madden yet, it’s a solid buy. If you’re still on Xbox 360 or PS3, then pass.