Madden 15 Review

By Blair Nokes on October 6, 2014

Since 1994, EA Tiburon has been delivering us a yearly Madden title. 20 years is a long time to consistently release a game, and you would think that there might not be much to add in the way of new gameplay innovations. And I'm sure that some would suggest there are a few of the yearly releases that don't add much outside of the updated roster. Madden 15 is not one of these cases. For the first time in their franchise, the team have worked at expanding on a team that really needed expanding "“ the defense. In Madden 15, it's all about the D, offering new gameplay innovations that seem so simple to incorporate that you'd wonder why it wasn't thought of before. On top of that, EA focused on visual presentation, making full use of their new and improved EA Sports Ignite Engine that they are using for this year's line of sport titles, like UFC, NHL and FIFA. Fans left feeling slightly disappointed with Madden 25's debut on the eight-generation consoles will be happy to know that Madden 15 was built with the new consoles in mind rather than being a quick port to ship out for a launch title.

The core gameplay is fundamentally the same, albeit some new refinements. But first, let's talk about their biggest focus, the Defense. There are new sets of pass rush tools you can utilize to beat your blocker and disrupt the backfield. There are new mechanics to jump the snap, shed blocks and steer offensive linemen. A new camera perspective allows you to play from an angle behind the player. This lets you focus on your opposing linemen and can lead you straight to the QB. The linemen now have a neat quick time event that can let you rush past the opposing line if successful. Winning the quick time event will let you break open a path leading for the Quarterback; it's an incredibly satisfying mechanic that really gives you control over the defensive line. Naturally, this new camera mode is disabled when playing offline multiplayer. As a whole it's a great feature that really lets you play the game from a new perspective, but I've often used it sparingly and just stuck with the traditional camera. The new camera has you locked to one player for a play, so unless you are 100% confident you're stopping the play, it's easier to just asses the field holistically. EA have also added a risk/reward mechanic, allowing Defenders to make aggressive or conservative tackles. A proximity cone is displayed at your feet, showing you the effective range of either tackle. Aggressive tackles can lead to big plays and fumbles, while Conservative tackles serve to bring the ball carrier down without giving up extra yards. It's a welcome addition that allows you to control how you hit, and has consequences for either.

For those new or more unfamiliar to the franchise or how to play in general, EA have offered a very robust tutorial mode, that not only lets you focus on basic and advanced plays for both offense and defense, but also play concepts and deeper strategies. These should all run you a good few hours of honing your skills, and on top of that EA have included The Gauntlet mode, which a continuous string of challenges that get increasingly more difficult, complete with boss battles. You only have five chances, so if you fail then your turn ends, and the challenges vary from intensity from simple run plays to the end zone, to making a successful field goal attempt from the other end of the stadium, factoring in the hurricane wind.

The main menu remains consistent with other EA Sports layout, offering large tiled windows that seem to cater to your recently played modes, or suggested modes to try out. Connected Franchise allows you to play as an Owner, Coach or Player. "˜Never Say Never Moments' allows you to replay moments from weekly NFL games, starting you off with a selection of the best of 2013, and continuing on for each week, giving players three moments per week to recreate. It is a wonderful companion to keep you engaged with the live sport and video game counterpart. They also let you replay that famous Panthers @ Seahawks match as the game's opening experience. Ultimate Team makes a welcomed return, and continues to deliver a fantastic fantasy football experience, and engage players with the addiction of card collecting. You get a welcome booster pack to start you out, and more packs can either be purchased through the PlayStation Store or Xbox Live Marketplace, or by playing games and collecting the in game currency needed to buy booster packs. Those with the Ultimate edition of the game have a nice $40 boost to really get you started. Essentially, cards come in all different forms and uses, from players to coaches, and from stadiums to character buffs. You can collect players new and old to form your ideal fantasy football team, and compete online against other fantasy teams. EA makes sure this community receives a lot of attention, offering community challenges, and showcasing a team of the week. On top of that, they give you solo challenges to complete, allow you compete in head to head seasons, and of course challenge your friends to see who has the best ultimate team. Those looking for a reason to come back regularly will enjoy the potential longevity of the Ultimate team mode.

Visually this game hits a lot of high notes, though it isn't as polished as their other sport releases. Stadiums look enormous, and packed with full 3D fans that no longer look like 2D sprites. The physics engine offers some great pileups and heavy hits. Players look detailed enough, but compared to NHL they do need more work. NHL had the bonus of utilizing the groundbreaking character modelling that they used in UFC, and I hope that next year's Madden will do the same. The pre-game show featuring Phil Sims and Jim Nantz do a decent job of adding a level of authenticity while narrating the game, though the character models used as their representation still have some poor lip syncing. Hopefully offer real people behind a green screen next year, much like NHL.

The camera presentation is really noteworthy here. The new "˜global dynamic camera' gives the game's "broadcasts" a more professional feel; they even replace pre-rendered post-play cutscenes with dynamic scenes. Jumbotrons in the stadiums now display scenes generated by this new camera system, and it is just great attention to detail overall.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Madden 15 is a very strong installment in this long-running franchise. It offers new and very needed gameplay innovations for the Defensive teams, new tackling mechanics, new improvements for man and zone coverage, a new skills trainer mode, a challenging gauntlet mode, and of course the return of Madden's Ultimate Team. There is a wealth of content in this year's Madden, and EA Tiburon made sure to deliver a game that had the visual fidelity to go along with all the gameplay improvements. It's definitely not EA's prettiest sport title this year, but it's certainly no slouch either. Madden 15 is highly recommended.

All about the D! New Defense mechanics change the way you play defense.
Robust Skills Trainer tutorial section.
Ultimate Team offers loads of replayability,
Broadcasters still don’t look convincing enough.
Visuals still have some room for improvement compared to other EA Sports titles.
While the new camera is a great feature, some may not utilize it or just stick with the traditional view.
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