Football season has officially started and we all know what that means. Another entry into the the long list of Madden NFL games is out. Madden is one of the longest running video game franchises out there even though most of the recent additions don’t seem to do much different from their predecessors. Madden NFL 15 however is looking to change all that in a big way this year. Just about everything in Madden 15 received a much needed tune up this year and it shows.
The first thing you are going to do once you start up your new Madden game is get dropped into last year’s NFC championship game between the Seahawks and the Panthers. You have just enough time left to try a make a comeback with the Panthers so they can go to Superbowl XLIX. The main reason for this is to hide the install of the game which is fine because I’d much rather jump in and play then look at an install screen. After the NFC Championship is decided you are free to do whatever it is you like but I suggest starting with Skills Trainer.
With all the changes that have been made to Madden over the years the Skills Trainer is a must if you haven’t played in a while. Even hardcore Madden fans who already know the basics should give it a look just for the quick refresher and to learn the new additions. The skills trainer is broken down into different sections like basic offense and defense then it gets into some of the more advanced stuff like how to read defenses. If you are a trophy hunter there’s some trophies to be earned here but that’s not all. Every time you complete a full set of training activities you also get a booster pack for the fan favorite Madden Ultimate Team. Basically what I’m saying is no matter what type of Madden player you are this should be your first stop.
Once you got your new skills down its time to test them out in the all new Gauntlet Mode. In the Gauntlet you get 5 lives to complete as many skill tests as you can and there are a lot of them, like around 40 so good luck with that. If you went through the skills trainer you probably already completed something like most of what you’re gonna find here. After every 5 levels your treated to a boss stage. Boss stages can be crazy and will probably be your downfall. One of the earlier boss level will have you following some blockers as a bunch of people try to tackle you and it just gets harder and harder from there. With all the emphasis on the skills trainer and the Gauntlet mode that EA put into this years Madden I’m really disappointed that the rushing attack mini game wasn’t reintroduced. Its the perfect mini game for groups of people who just want to pass two controllers around the room and have a little fun so its exclusion the last few years has been really annoying to me. It was a big pastime in my house when it existed.
The biggest changes in Madden NFL 15 this year are on the defensive side off the ball which is something that’s been needed for a while now. Does anyone remember the QB Vision cone from a few years ago? Well its back just on a different side of the field this time. Now when you switch to a defender a cone appears showing just how close you are to the ball carrier so you don’t accidentally miss your tackle thinking your closer then you really were. Unlike the QB Vision cone this actually works really well and has drastically improved my tackling.
Another big change comes in the form of being able to jump the snap at the line. Pressing R2 as soon as the ball is snapped will give you an advantage over the lineman blocking you. Once you’ve jumped the snap and make contact with a lineman a button will pop up like a quick time event. Nailing that button at the right time will help your guy slide past the line and land a devastating blow to the opposing quarterback or at least force him out of the pocket. Not only does this new jumping the snap feature help on defense but it helps on special teams too. I feel like I have a decent shot at blocking every field goal and extra point I come across this year. Even punts feel like they can be gotten to on a consistent basis and its all thanks to that one little addition.
On the offensive side of the ball there are some notable improvements most of which occur in the pre play mechanics. Max protect blocking is a nice new feature that sets all of your tight ends and backfield players to block for the QB in an obvious blitzing situation. This year quarterbacks are also a little less accurate which sounds like a bad thing but really it’s not. In past games just about any quarterback could dominate the passing game but this year you can really feel the accuracy of the elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees while having to put in some extra effort to make the passing game work with some of the less accurate QB’s like Geno Smith. Its not impossible to have a great game with the less accurate guys you just need to have a solid game plan and adjust when necessary.
The overall presentation this year is fantastic. The Start, half time show and end of every game feels like your watching a live NFL match up. The new cinematic camera angles which can be easily cycled through in game by pressing up and down on the D-Pad in single player also help drive home the feeling of an authentic NFL experience. The biggest problem with the presentation is the comically terrible sports announcers Phil Simms and Jim Nantz. Not only do you constantly hear the same open ended phrases like “Its always better to be ahead then behind” but they mix up player names, positions and even what team it is with the ball. For everything Madden does right every year this is always the one thing they can never seem to nail down.
The new play calling screen in Madden 15 takes some getting used to. At first I hated it but after tweaking the settings and spending some time with it its grown on me. Once you find the settings that work for you you’ll notice these percentages on some plays. These are the plays the Madden community tend to pick in any given situation. These will be helpful to Madden newcomers and veterans alike. The only real problem I have with the play calling screen is that it can be a little too touchy sometimes. I’ll press up once to change to a different play and it jumps 2 places which in a single player game is manageable but when you are playing someone in the same room as you or online in a head to head game picking the wrong play can be the difference between victory and defeat especially if you don’t realize it jumped when you picked your play.
Pro Tip: Hold the button of the play you want to pick then change the plays on the screen and release the button. Your screen watching friend won’t know what hit him until its to late.
Of course fan favorites Connected Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team make their return this year. Each one has been given some slight upgrades but nothing really game changing. Madden Ultimate Team is a little bit more welcoming of newcomers and people who don’t want to spend real money on virtual decks of football cards but to truly get that dream team you always wanted be prepared to pump a little extra cash into the game.
I’ve been a madden fan for as long as I’ve been able to pick up the sticks and the series has had its ups and downs. Even when Madden is at its worst I still always manage to have fun with it. Luckily this year its worst can be turned down in the setting section under announcer’s commentary and if that’s the worst part of the Madden experience this time around then I would call it a winner. Everything from the accuracy of the quarterbacks to the major improvements on defense come together to make this the best Madden game in the last 5 years by far.