Madden NFL 15 is another entry in what’s become one of the world’s most popular sport’s games. Second perhaps only to FIFA, this franchise has a strong, established fanbase and commands spectacular brand recognition. It’s a winning formula for EA Sports, and it’s a series that I’ve been a part of more often than not.
When a new Madden comes out, I wind up playing it. If I’m not reviewing the game, the itch comes on about halfway through the football season, and I head out to pick it up. Now, in my mind, there are different types of Madden players. There are those who dabble into each mode lightly while focusing on bringing one franchise to one Super Bowl before moving on, and then there are those who hit the nitty gritty of team management exceptionally hard.
I’m a mix of both. While you won’t find me aiming for year 10 of my franchise, you will see me in between games focusing on development and team strength. In this year’s entry, all of that stuff feels a little more compact and fluid. In Connected Careers (yes, that’s back), depending on if you play your franchise as a coach, player or owner, you’ll be able to dictate whether your players earn experience or confidence before games.
Selecting one or the other eats into the amount of prep time you have for each game. Confidence rewards you in the short term, getting a slightly more dynamic effort from players on the field for that next week. Experience, though, leads towards longer term rewards that those folks aiming for 10 years of franchise mode should desire. This mechanic presents a bit of risk to working with players. If you’re up against the best team in the league as one of the worst, do you waste your time on confidence or ante up the experience.
That level of depth applies to each of the game’s modes, a bag that looks incredibly similar if not identical to Madden NFL 25. Madden Ultimate Team returns, of course, and Connected Careers brings each element online if you choose. For your information, I wasn’t able to get online for a full league during the review period, no one has the game.
As for the on the field action, if you’ve ever caught yourself mumbling about a general distaste for the defensive side of the ball in Madden, this year’s edition might answer a lot of your gripes. EA Sports focused on defense this year, and playing the game from that vantage feels much better because of it.
You, of course, can take the standard overhead view with the QB at the bottom and move between players during each play in order to try and stick to routes and cover receivers or hit gaps during a blitz. There’s a tackling cone now if you do make it to the ball carrier. Once you have that player in the cone in front of the one you control, you can either press X for a conservative tackle or Square for an all out hit. Square, of course, leads to some missed tackles and loss of field position.
The way I play, though, felt much better and more entertaining. As a play starts, I’d hop between defensemen. I’d typically settle on a lineman or linebacker before the play starts. Pressing the left stick, I’d lock my action to that single player during the play and the camera moves to a third person, over-the-shoulder perspective. I am a linebacker for a single play, and I hit blocks hard, press a button prompt to perform a swim move and, if I’m lucky, achieve several sacks a game.
There’s not too much in Madden during defensive play that’s more rewarding than a user sack, and this new vantage point coupled with the tackle cone and new way to move through blocks lead to a whole lot of sacks.
Offensively speaking, not too terribly much has changed. The big thing that most will notice is that EA Sports has added community statistics to play calling. You’ll see a suggested play, and below it will run some text that may read something like “This play has a 60% rate of success with our community,” or whatever. Madden NFL 15 tells you exactly why a play is being suggested, and that information pushed me more often than not to go with the suggested play and then audible on the ground.
My only real complaint here comes from the running game and navigating gaps. Holes don’t open up too often in the offensive line. I regularly found myself hitting a hole, getting stuck on one of my own blockers and sliding a few yards before being forced down. It doesn’t feel as smooth or smart as it should, especially since that up-close action feels so much better on the defensive side.
As for looks, yes, this is easily one of the best looking Madden efforts. The Ignite Engine still comes with a few hiccups, though collision glitches don’t happen as often as they did before. Following each play, you’re still going to see players step through each other’s chests, bump and slide into each other as they return to the huddle and generally look super stiff. The looks don’t match the crazy hype and sizzle stuff they show at press events, but it does look good.
If only I could easily skip pre-game and halftime discussion. That’s my biggest minor gripe here. All of that stuff is skippable, but it doesn’t happen fast enough for my liking. Once you see the drum up and halftime stuff that EA Sports set up, you’ll enjoy it. After you’ve seen it 10 or 15 times, you’ll be spamming all the buttons on your DualShock 4 to move on. It’s annoying, and the skip happens, but only after a 30 seconds or a minute of rolling that canned footage with slightly altered vocals.
2014/15 is a good season for Madden. The defensive play and depth of control in each mode makes this a game that should reward series fans for a long time coming. It’s also a good looking effort on the PlayStation 4. Superstar Mode is still a no show in the way it used to be, but the Connected Careers stuff encourages play with friends in a big way. If you have friends that dig Madden, Madden NFL 15 should be a good time. It’s not a constant hit, but its success is strong.
Madden NFL 15 review copy provided by publisher. Review done on PS4. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.