Ah, it’s August, and the muggy air means only one thing – football season is approaching. With camp officially underway and preseason games going down, the second edition of Madden on next-gen consoles is dropping in our laps. It feels good. It feels real good. But, is it better than Madden 25? Have the dev teams ironed out the kinks with the new hardware? Is this the Madden we MUST own? Is this the Madden we deserve? Read on (or scroll to the bottom to see the score) and you’ll find out the answer.
Madden 15 is all about the defense. After years of high-scoring affairs, the team has focused their efforts on the phase of the game that has unfortunately been eschewed in both the real life NFL and in Madden. In Madden 15, a host of new features make the defensive side of the ball pop and be a hell of a lot more fun to play. Now when you’re a defensive player, a sort of hitbox forms in the direction of the tackle you want to make, so gone are the days of horribly missing open-field tackles, now the game behaves much more realistically. You know when you can make a tackle, and exactly where you are in proximity of the guy with the ball. Your defensive players have just as much controllability as a running back, and it feels good. I’m the guy who (used to) blow an easy tackle at least once a game that would in turn lead to a touchdown, so this focus on wrapping up players with a more efficient tackling system is a godsend. I love it. And damn, those tackling animations are friggin’ amazing… But we’ll get to them in due time.
The biggest change on the defensive side of the ball is the new point of view. The camera zooms in behind you so you can feel the bone-crushing hits powered by the Ignite engine. While a fine idea that adds a cinematic flare to what some people consider a boring part of the game, I immediately moved the camera back to its normal view. I think this is pretty much the QB cone of defense. Anyone who actually likes Madden likely will never use this view. I don’t think defense is boring. I’m trying to stop my opponent, not be aesthetically pleased. I’m happy enough with the visuals, but once again, I’ll get to that later.
On the D-line, you are more clearly awarded for jumping the snap. A rumble and notification shows if you timed the snap well or poopy, and the effects on your player in his timing are clear. In general these mets games in individual defensive play are welcomed, and make for a more engaged defensive player.
The next big change is the passing game. No longer will lazers be shot from your QB directly into your receiver’s soft hands, no. Now your WRs will reach out and nab balls, the ball may be thrown low or high, and in general, everything seems more realistic. I usually play a game manager style, but that’s because I grew up in Chicago and John Shoop had a severely negative impact on my psyche, so I really like it when I can make a 5 yard pass. This game lets you do that. While this Madden has its long bombs, so does the real NFL. I would say the offense is more tempered in this release in a very good way. It feels more like a real NFL game, with ebbs, flows and actual special teams play.
Oh yeah, the kicking has been redone, again, but this time it’s actually added more wind recognition and a kind of Tiger Woods (PGA?) mechanic. You see where your punt or kickoff (or field goal) will go depending on the power of your kick, and it’s handled really well. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been able to actually kick a punt into a sub 10-yd line area, but with this system I can do it consistently, depending on my field position, obviously. It adds a lot of tactics to the third phase of the game, something that’s been missing for a long time.
On the offensive side of the ball, rushing has been improved greatly, and that’s because of the awesome physics. With that said, now I can finally start talking about the Ignite engine. I have the feeling that we were barely able to see what this engine could do in Madden 25. I was impressed by Madden 25, but this is truly the best tackling physics in a game ever. It obviously helps the gameplay loads, and the sheer joy I get from running the ball is almost indescribable. Now the running back may hit the backs of his offensive lineman, holdout his hand push off into a cut that finds a hole until he’s drug down by a lunging defenseman grabbling at his legs. The organic nature of the tackles are almost shockingly better than previous years. With year after year of seeing the same animations hardening my begrudging joy of Madden, it’s like playing a brand new game again.
On the surface the graphics are brilliant. I played on an Xbox One which looked noticeably inferior to the PS4 edition last year, but this year it’s stunning. I haven’t been able to see the game in action on PS4 yet, but if it’s much better than this, I might just curl up in a ball and cry tears of joy. I mean, if we’re seeing the sweat glisten off the tights of a player now, what’s it going to be like in five years? But then, I’m a total sucker for these fancy graphics. I would’ve been fine with gaming technology ending 3-5 years ago. Seriously, how do these visuals keep getting better? The glint of the helmets, the grass chunks flying into the air, the jerseys bending and contorting with the movement of players. I remember thinking Madden 2001 looked real. This puts me on the field. Still, there are some weird and funky animation glitches that
Load times are faster than Madden 25 on the Xbox One. The presentation is fine, and the apparent optimization of the game has removed the stutters from the menus. Everything is slick and expensive. Everything is just faster and smoother. Now that the devs have had an extra year on the hardware, things are really looking slick.
Unfortunately, the game still has some of the same text from previous years in franchise mode, a lack of innovation in general as far as an RPG-esque immersion that Madden should be striving towards (like the NBA 2K series boasts). There has to be a couple copywriters making cash doing something less important than updating the copy on EA’s flagship franchise, right? Please diversify.
The big new feature in franchise mode will let you not necessarily practice, but to spend points on working with certain parts of your team in order to raise their confidence. A high confidence rating for your player will raise up a variety of skill points, so doing these simple navigations of the menu are key. It really puts you more in touch with your team.
But then, the gameplay is what matters most, and the gameplay is much improved in Madden 15. Screen passes aren’t as overpowered as previous years, the running game has a satisfying, grindy feel to it, and in general it feels like the football simulation that’s been strived at over the last decade or so. It’s really taken that long, and while I liked last year’s iteration a lot, I hated 2013. This year, I think, could be the best Madden ever. Seriously.
While the play-calling interface is a little much to get used to at first, the new crowdsourced suggestions from the community showing the average amount of yards a play picks up (or how many yards an offensive play goes for against a certain defensive front) is very cool, especially for online play. Gone are the days of letting the guy next to you pick a punt return formation, only to take a passing play on 4th down, forcing him to burn a timeout. Now, the computer won’t even let you pick a 4th down play on defense until the offense has picked. Very cool. little things like that make me happy. You can even have a local play join in as a random opponent in franchise play. Well done, EA.
And he comes the most self-aware part of this review. Could this really be the best Madden ever? Better than 2005, the game whose spine was laid throughout the next decade? It has to be. While this game doesn’t innovate in many ways beyond user experience and collision detection (if you want me to get down to the unsexy nitty gritty), it still presents the best football experience I’ve ever experienced. This is kind of a shocking revelation after years of mediocrity and almost-completes.
Playing Madden makes me want to watch football. Outside of a few animation glitches that will only make you laugh (I’m all for these weird glitches that show dudes doing the splits for what that’s worth), the on-field play is superlative. The commentary however, along with some of the calls on the field, are generations behind. I had the commentators say the same line 2 out of 3 sentences, and that’s just unforgivable. It’s like they recorded as little new commentary as they could. On the flipside, I played as the Browns, and after Hoyer threw a couple interceptions, put in Manziel to start the second half. The halftime breakdown highlighted Hoyer’s faults and discussed the QB change, which was pretty damn cool. It seems like the base calls are dull, while the 1-10 moments have been ironed out to exist perfectly in their rare occurrences.
As far as gameplay modes, you have everything you expect. Madden Ultimate Team has its addicting, #pay2win goodness (it’s even more refined this year). Heads up play lacks any All-Pro or classic teams, which totally sucks. The online play wasn’t really responsive enough at this pre-release stage for me to judge, and the practice mode is something I simply don’t care about.
EA is making a big to-do about the Madden Director’s Cut, an NBA 2K-style opening scene in the vein of an NFL Films moment, but it’s just a scenario mode with V/O. Get me to the game. I’m not sure if it was worth the effort, but that’s just my hipster opinion.
So is Madden 15 worth a purchase? Yes. Unequivocally yes. I’m feeling nervous about this score, because I’m just so damned used to being down on Madden, but the beautiful graphics, the solid as hell gameplay and in general ‘complete’ feel of the game leaves me to declare this game a success. A massive success. This Madden is the first Madden in ten years that makes me feel the Fifa or NBA 2K feels… Totally satisfied.