Madden 16 Review

By Blair Nokes on September 8, 2015

The folks over at EA Tiburon really added something refreshing to their long lasting yearly Madden franchise with Madden 15. For the first time, we were given a game where a considerable amount of thought was put into the defensive line. With another year and another season on the horizon, the bar is set rather high for the video game series. Madden 16 seeks to add even more content, and gameplay variety than ever before and really show off why it's the only NFL video game series for good reason. The question we'll look at here is whether or not it really does add enough change, or if it falls in line as so many other sports installments.

The First Interactive Experience is a gameplay mode I really look forward to. When players boot up the game for the first time, you can take part in a hypothetical Super Bowl matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. You will take control of the Steelers in pivotal moments throughout the game and attempt to take home a 7th Super Bowl Championship. One of the most intriguing features is that there are actually branching segments in story points based on your successes, failures, actions and performance throughout. It's definitely encouraged to go back and check it out again to see how things turn differently from your first attempt.

Madden 16 features new gameplay add-ons. Much like putting the spotlight on the D-Line last year, these year our attention's placed on the wide receivers. This year's boasts a new host of wide receiver catch mechanics. Players now have full control to make amazing plays, and it really adds a level of strategy as to how you want to go forward after a catch is successful. Aggressive catches are idea whenever you're placed with a defender contesting the ball. Receivers in an aggressive catch will attempt a high point catch. They are rather risky, as the receiver exposes his body which could naturally open them up to bigger hits, and on top of that there is also nearly no opportunity to add additional yardage after the catch. Run After Catch, or RAC, is best when a catch is made in an open space, and will cause your player to turn upfield and maximize yardage. One of the downsides of RAC is that a good hit against you can dislodge the ball. Finally, Possession Catch is a viable option when you're trying to make a catch on the sidelines. The payoff is that players secure possession of the ball at the cost of gaining yards. The drawback is that aggressive defenders may have a stronger chance of making the interception. Having spent time tinkering with all of these modes they are a phenomenal addition to the core gameplay and all offer a legitimate answer in their own respective circumstances.

Quarterbacks also get some love this year, with a few new additions to their toolset. Bullet passes have been reworked to a very simplistic approach; holding any of the receiver buttons will prompt a bullet pass. These are perfect for precisely timed plays like curls. Lobs are designed to work just by tapping any of the receiver button, perfect for streak plays. Touch passes are done by double-tapping the receiver buttons will cause the QB to throw a ball past a linebacker or underneath a defender. They're ideal for dropping a ball into holes in zone coverage. Shot Plays are new concept entirely for this year's instalment "“ where one or two receivers run deep routes down the field while the TEs and RBs stay to block. This allows your QB to be free to try and exploit the defensive mismatch and take a shot down the field. High throws are combination throws that can be used alongside bullets, lobs and touch passes. Holding the left bumper or L1 button prompts this, and are effective when receivers have an obvious height advantage to other players. They are tougher to pull off as they can potentially lead to an overthrow and are easy to intercept, so there is a risk/reward in effect. Lastly, low passes are completed by holding the left trigger, and doing this has the receiver shielding the ball from a defender and quickly go to the ground. Combining this with possession catches are great for plays where you're looking to pick up a few yards. However, QBs with lower accuracy may result in tossing the balls to the ground and would be more prone to incompletions.

Madden 16 also took another opportunity to pay attention to the Defense, offering a few new modes on top of last year's tools. Organic Gang Tackles help bring down the ball carrier. Additional defenders can join in the hit, influencing the runner's momentum. Play Ball happens when you hold down the Triangle button, causing the defender to attempt to the optimal path to the ball to try and make an interception or break the pass. Finally, Play Receiver is the more conservative approach that can basically guarantee a tackle at the sacrifice of being unable to intercept.

This is a very meaty update to the Madden Franchise, catering to a wide range of plays, catches, passes, and runs, and is proof that not every yearly instalment in a sports game offers minimal improvements or innovation. EA Tiburon clearly heard these claims, and boldly said "challenge accepted."

Aside from the core gameplay innovations, EA Tiburon also threw new additions to preexisting modes. First off we have the Connected Franchise mode which offers in game drive goals that dynamically update every time you take the field. Drive goals vary in degrees of challenge, such as picking up two first downs, or completing three passes in a row. These goals will reward your teams with experience boosts if completed, however there really is no penalization for losing or missing a goal. While it feels like a very hand-holding experience, I can understand how punishing a team for not completing an optional challenge isn't a necessity. CFM also includes a new scouting system; players and their highest graded statistics will be revealed first, and will let you access a prospect's raw ability without dumping a lot of time. This definitely feels like a very streamlined and simplified game mode, almost to the point of oversimplification. Nevertheless fans outside of the basic Play Now/Online/Career modes will enjoy an added layer of depth to the core game.

Similar to other EA Sports games, Madden returns with another fantasy football mode. Draft Champions allows players to build teams from the ground up, utilizing modern NFL stars and legends of former years and decades. When selecting a player, you'll want to strategize exactly why you made your choice by factoring in the ratings of available players, the selected coach and playbook, etc. Once you've crafted your team you can take them to the field against human drafted teams or the CPU. You will need to win a series of games, with the rewards increasing with every victory. Winning all the games in a given series and you secure a championship, but lose one and it's game over. Finishing a Draft Champions event will have you starting a new draft and creating a new team. The design of this mode is meant to be quick and repeatable, ultimately offering fresh new experiences in a sitting.

Madden 16 comes in with a visually stunning presentation, offering new camera angles during the play to really showcase the mimicry of broadcast games. Replay angles and on-field graphics are meant to better tell the story of any one game. One of the greatest additions are the augmented broadcast graphics. Throughout the game, special on-screen windows will appear showing major milestones, stats, performances and more for any given player. Virtual monoliths showcasing player profiles and team stat comparisons continue to add to the authenticity of its presentation. There are also considerable enhancements to the density to crowds, the look and feel of the gear, signs, head tracking and props that leave players with one of the most believable football game worlds to date. One of the biggest drawbacks to all of these gorgeous improvements is the increase in loading times. Playing locally yielded some pretty lengthy timeframes with loading as you begin in the start menu which loads your EA account then allows access into the main menu, which has loading time for your selected mode, which then loads as you finally start a match. There's a lot of downtime there between actual playtime, and it brought us out of the experience in those moments.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Madden 16 did what I didn't think was possible and outshone the improvements made in Madden 15. Normally I usually see vast improvements to these sports games over a multi-year period; this is possible one of the first instances I've seen consecutive improvement. With a whole host of gameplay modes, a virtual ton of new additions to the core gameplay mechanics and a tremendous improvement on visual presentation, EA Tiburon sought to prove that they aren't slouching between years, and really want players to see the value in the latest year's long-running Football Franchise.

New mechanics for Wide Receivers adds a completely new layer of depth for ball possession.
The Camera angles really add a lifelike level of authenticity.
Streamlining QB throws allows fast-reaction movements and precise inputs for any situation.
Loading times can be ridiculous.
Connected Franchise almost seems too simple at times.
Expect hilarious collision physics.
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