This year’s Madden title will be the first one completely designed for all current consoles, since Madden 25, the oddly-titled anniversary edition, was merely ported to the next generation late last year. What EA Sports needed to do is clean up the balance in its rendition of the game of football as well as make it more justifiable for both new and annual players to pick up yet another Madden game.
Performance is key this time around, and player ranks aren’t the best judge either. For instance, a quarterback may be ranked 75 overall, but if that quarterback has a skill in passing on the run at 90, then that 75 overall quarterback has the ability to perform better on the run. Likewise, the same goes for all positions on the field. This kind of statistical depth gives Madden 15 a feel of number management that doesn’t necessarily mimic an RPG’s number scheme, but it makes for the closest rendition to football without going over.
The best inclusion this year, especially for new players and those wishing to learn more about the game of football, is the enhancement to the Skills Trainer. I’ve watched football for a long time, but I’ve never really been able to make much heads or tails when it comes to identifying specific defensive schemes while on offense, and even though I’ve played Madden consecutively for the past six years, I still make bad reads on both sides of the ball due to a lack of familiarity. Skills Trainer this year has added a great deal of regimens that both explain the different defensive coverages as well as identify their tell tale signs, allowing more and more players the ability to learn more proficiently; the Gauntlet at the end more than tests one’s newly-discovered knowledge in a big and intriguing way.
Unlike last year, Madden 15 is more challenging all around. The defensive side of the ball has indeed been fortified, but the ability to play the game overall has been heightened: it’s simply harder to play against a defense and harder to defend and offense. This is due to the game’s clear-cut performance: cuts are cleaner, trench interaction is more detailed and refined, and what-would-be-considered "natural player interaction," like stepping to avoid a teammate’s leg, allows the gamer to think less about the little things and more about the full play at hand. That way, fewer mishaps take place that cause plays to be unnaturally executed or stopped, such as a "suck-in" block or teammate-induced trip. Collectively, this allows the player to know exactly what’s taking place and more clearly identify what good or bad choices were made on each and every play. Granted, not all things are perfect, as I on many occasions was either the beneficiary of or the recipient of what I would call sliding tackles, where the tackler would be able to dive for a tackle about three body lengths away and still make the tackle, even if the ball carrier is running away from the tackler.
To add to that, the Hit Stick has also undergone a change that has taken away the aggressiveness of it by swapping in strategy. Now, instead of hitting the right joystick in a desired direction in order to attempt a tackle, the joystick must now be aimed. By doing so, a cone appears in front of the defender, displaying where the defender can tackle. Ideally, the joystick must be held toward the target and aimed before letting go to initiate the tackle. Personally, this takes away from the solidarity behind a strong hit, resulting in a preference shift away from using the right joystick and back to using the X and Square buttons for conservative and aggressive tackles, respectively.
The look and feel to Madden 15 is stupendous. The graphical overhaul performed since last year has trumped what’s come before it, and the NFL Films touch on pregame and post-game delivery makes the game feel like Sunday every day. At the same time, there’s room for improvement. For instance, a lot of the videos before each game cannot be skipped. Surely, a lot of the game’s loading is intended to be disguised by those videos, but it can become more frustrating to watch the same video over and over as opposed to simply looking at a slightly longer loading screen. At the same time, the efforts put into the game by NFL Films is indeed stellar, so it’s worthy of praise in and of itself, but this is still a video game that’s going to be played by gamers, so there will more than likely be some animosity toward this addition.
After playing nearly 200 games last year, what I couldn’t help but notice is a massive handicap on the team that was losing in each and every game: moving the ball was harder, and turnovers were aplenty. Of course, that sort of momentum shift is realistic and reflects on the game of football itself, but the level of severity was atrocious, because no team panics when going down by three points in the first quarter. Madden 15 balances that much better this year. Player confidence plays a key role in how each player performs, so one player’s dropped pass or miscue won’t directly affect the way that the entire team is playing anymore; still, if you have a pick-throwing machine like Tony Romo or Jay Cutler, then you have more important things to worry about.
Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) prior to this year has always been a money generating machine, and this year is no different. However, what Madden 15 does right is give players reasons to come back and keep playing without spending a scad of cash. The single player events are more organized and engrossing, and each week yields a new challenge relative to the previous week’s NFL games or special complimentary players to add to the gamer’s roster. All in all, this is a hearty compliment to this year’s more consistent servers.
The Windows 8 look is here to stay, it seems, which isn’t entirely bad. What was off putting had to be the changes made to some of the menu organization. Specifically, this pertains only to some of the deeper options like Free Agency and Schemes, so it’s not all bad; it’ll just take some getting used to.
As I mentioned before, the server stability is much better this year, and what makes things interesting is that the game rewards players for good connections and penalises those with bad connections. If a player disconnects due to a bad connection, then that player loses the game while his or her opponent gains a free win instead of just affecting online rank or MUT coins.
For football fans, Madden 15 is a sure sell, because people who love football and love playing football will get this at some point and time in the near future, and even though the heightened Skills Trainer educates with fine detail, there really isn’t much incentive for new players to jump into the game. Like I said before, Madden 15 is a hefty challenge, even on the easier difficulties. Though this game really is meant for football affiliates, it doesn’t do any favors for those wishing to join the ranks and jump in the trenches with the NFL superstars. On the other hand, any fleeting interest in football will be catered with all that Madden 15 has to offer.