EA Sports Madden 15 - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2014/09/ea-sports-madden-15-review.html

Despite yearly outings in the lineup, EA Sports games gained wide popularity among its long lasting fanbase. One of the strongest in the EA Sports lineup is undoubtedly EA's American Football game franchise Madden.
After last year's outing with some rather irritating control mechanics, it should be time for Madden to rethink some of its gameplay design choices. With the new next-gen graphics engine Ignite rising up with other EA Sports titles like UFC, NHL and FIFA, one can only hope that the developers of the newest Madden entry, "Madden 15", take advantage of that and give Madden a needed overhaul in specific aspects. Have old merits been adressed or is this rather the same old same old? 



Gameplay
 

Updated Core Mechanics - "Making Unfun Things Fun"

Though playing as the offense is still probably the most fun and exciting part about any Madden match, when deep-throw-passes get succesfully caught by teamplayers to score a touchdown or when enemy tackles are skillfully avoided to make a critical first down, Madden 15 shows that it put quite an impressive amount of effort to make defense a much more intriguing part of the game.
While in previous Madden entries the defense-play always turned out as some sort of a drag, mostly due to unclear- or simply not tight enough control mechanics, Madden 15 revamped its defense mechanics to such a point from which defense gets vastly more strategic and as a result clearly amps up the balance overall between the two opposing teams in the game.

With that said, in defense, the proximity cone from Madden 06 makes a return, but this time not for the quaterback, but instead for other players.
During defense, when controlling players, the proximity cone is used to show the effective range of tackles. If the ballcarrier is outside of the cone, a hard tackle (or agressive tackle) can be performed as a last ditch effort to try to salvage some crucial yards during a match. In that sense, hard tackles can be more effective to bring the ballcarrier down instantly as well as having a longer range (because they are mostly performed through jumps). Additionally hard tackles can also potentially trigger a fumble and therefore turn the game's tide.
However, if the ballcarrier is inside the proximity cone, a normal tackle is a much safer bet since hard tackles take longer time to get up from the ground if they are performed unsuccessfully.

Madden 06's proximity cone makes an updated- and welcome comeback.
 
While offense mechanics work mostly the same way as in previous Maddens, the defense mechanics are now given a much needed and very welcome risk vs. reward system, in which strategic thinking replaces the previous entries' redundant spamming of the tackle-button. Decisions about hard tackling or conventionally tackling have to be made in split seconds, which gives matches great tension even when playing in defense.

Also, the Line of Scrimage has received great updates as well.
Now, a new player-lock camera is introduced that gives you the option to either focus on the player or the ball and can be triggered on the fly during matches. Often the choice on what to focus on can be depending on the player you are currently controlling as, making this a much needed new update.
Further accompanying the new defense updates is the fact that defenders now have a much better and fair chance to break through the line of defense. Therefore, Quarterbacks can no longer feel as safe behind their blocking teammates since it is now possible for the defending player to directly disengage with the blocker in an attempt to keep them contained. Engaging with a blocker and maneuvering him to the side to then tackle the Quarterback and achieve a sack is now much more technical and hugely rewarding. Yet of course, the disengage feature also helps to combat against Runningbacks who like to run on the far outside of the field and to prevent them from doing so.

Time to wrestle it out!


Tutorials & Training Modes - "Here's to Newcomers and Pros Alike"

Madden has always been and still is an extremely competitive game (especially when going online). It can be pretty overwhelming for newcomers of the franchise and newcomers to American Football itself to join the fun this late, yet along with its updated mechanics, Madden 15 does a tremendous job of keeping pros still interested in the game while presenting itself as immensely welcoming to newcomers.

With that said, Madden 15 features a detailed 4 hour tutorial that does a great job of integrating newcomers and veterans alike into the game's gameplay system and even manages to offer players new to the sport itself a great introduction to the American Football's rules.
During training, you are set against a number of challenges that go through specific aspects and topics to complete your knowledge and skills for football matches. Each time a set of challenges is completed you are granted a booster pack of cards that can be used in the game's Ultimate Team mode later on. Having this as a sourceful reward after completing each training set makes training never feel worthless but always motivating to finish all of the sets.
Furthermore, there's also the Gauntlet Mode which has you go through every training drill or strategic maneuver learned. There, you are given three total lives (or rather "tries") to successfully achieve a touchdown through performing a specific drill. After each successful completion of a drill, one point is earned. On every fifth drill however, a sort of boss battle begins, which ranges from scoring a 100 yard touchdown or making a long distance field goal in heavy wind conditions.
Sure, Gauntlet Mode might occasionally feel incredibly video gamey and even a bit goofy at times but overall it does a very great job of putting skills and tactical thinking to the test without overcomplicating things too much during training.

What makes training worthwhile?...Money, of course!


Multiplayer
 

Aside from the training modes, offline matches against selected AI-controlled teams or offline matches against another human player's team, there's sadly not that much Madden 15 offers offline players in terms of gameplay modes. The real meat and bones of the game truely lie in its online multiplayer suite.

There, it quickly becomes apparent that Madden 15's two core game modes are the online modes Connected Franchise and Ultimate Team. Both are online focussed competitive modes that can be played in private or public leagues.

The mode Connected Franchise gives a choice of how to be involved in the NFL matches themselves. You are given the choice of controlling a current player, a custom player, a coach or an owner.
As a player, you are only in control when it's that specific person on the field, which, though it can feel a bit underwhelming and less exciting at times, makes a great job of simulating the career of an actual NFL player who simply has to do his job on the field in order to secure his team's victory. Yet, of course earning XP throughout matches and upgrading your specific player is quite intriguing in the long-run and makes it all worthwhile.
Owners on the other hand, dictate pricing and finance higher staff and can even move the entire team to a different city. Playing as an owner rather serves as a light yet quite nice managing simulator in Madden 15. Though much of the actual field excitement is lost, it's a nice new perspective and layer to playing Madden.
Lastly, you can play as a coach who basically just commands what happens on the field, making you practically dictate and control the entire team.
Connected Franchise is most probably the most fleshed out career style mode in Madden 15 and offers a nice variety of perspectives to influence NFL matches as a player, coach or owner. While some of them may be less in-depth as others, it's nice to get the choice. Though this is still no true competition for actual sports-manager simulators.

Ultimate Team meanwhile is similar to Fantasy Football, in which you can earn currency through won matches to unlock packs of player cards to fill out and customize your team. Sort of mimicing trading card games through it's collecting system while also featuring actual matchmaking can make Ultimate Team easily addicting. Building up your team and making it stronger and stronger can be very time-consuming though, which the shortened 10 head to head seasons balances out fairly well overall though.

Playing as an owner is no true sports manager simulator but still nice to have.


Graphics
 

Although Madden 15's actual player characters don't feature the same amount of graphical detail as previously seen in EA Sports UFC, Madden 15 is still a very impressive looking game. Like this year's other EA Sports games, Madden 15 is also powered by EA's Ignite engine, which, in combination with Madden 15's new more realistic presentation, does a great job of simulating TV-broadcast NFL matches.
With pre-game and half time shows laying out stakes and highlights of matches, and most importantly seeing your touchdown displayed on a big screen in the stadium is immensely satisfying and cool to look at. 
With only a few minor bugs occasionally occuring during matches here and there, Madden 15 delivers a pleasing graphical update to the series that fits this early stage of next-gen (current gen) consoles. 


Sound
 

Soundwise there's not much to talk about. What's most notable about the sound however are the outstandingly real reactions of the commentators during matches. They quickly and fittingly react to devastating tackles or turns of the matches' tide and simply always underline and hold the simulation of a real football match together very well.      

Is this real life?


The Verdict

All in all, despite Madden 15's core game modes focussing primarily on online play, Madden 15 does a great job of updating its mechanics substantially without alienating its already established fanbase.
Most notably the defense mechanics have received a much improved overhaul. Now, defense is no longer the tedious unstrategic spamming of buttons from previous Maddens but now actually gives you fair tools to tactically diminish the offense's chances to score or even turn the tide of the game completely.
Furthermore, the game's tremendously well done and rewarding training mode makes Madden 15 a very great strating point for newcomers while longtime-fans of the franchise will easily get into and love the new additions to the gameplay mechanics.

Though gamers who prefer offline play should definitely take into account that Madden 15's core game modes and meat and bones are primarily centered in its multiplayer suite, Madden 15 is easily recommendable for beginners who want to get into American Football gaming as well as fans who will love the franchise's improvements. Simply put, with its updates, Madden 15 has been made much more tactical, easy to get into, and most importantly much more fun.

          
  
 Final Verdict: 8 out of 10 

Status: Great!




Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.

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