With last year's Madden NFL 15, EA Sports delivered one of the strongest entries in the series yet.
With a big overhaul for the game's core mechanics, it made not only Madden but American Football itself very easily accessible and enjoyable for newcomers.
Now, the annual series returns with Madden NFL 16. Resultingly, expectations are now high just as the curiosity that surrounds this newest entry. How do you top a successful major overhaul of the mechanics?
Let's find out whether Madden NFL 16 is a step forward or rather something that lingers around in the achievements of its predecessor...
Updated Core Mechanics - "Small Improvements on a Great Foundation"
In Madden NFL 15's big mechanics overhaul, most of the new tweaks and improvements centered around the defensive mechanisms of the game. In that sense, Madden NFL 16 feels like a concluding next step in that direction, since now the games updated core mechanics mainly focus on new additions to the offensive gameplay. Especially passing received much attention this time around and has been significantly expanded for the quarterback as well as the receiver.
Now, there are 3 types of ways on how to catch the ball depending on the situation the receiving player is in, while each catching-type has its share of benefits and risks:
The first way to catch is an "Aggressive Catch", which is more or less an all or nothing attempt to get to the ball, coming in very handy when surrounded or severely chased by defenders.
The second way to catch comes in the form of the "Run After Catch", which is great in situations when you are very open and have good enough free catching space around you.
The last way to catch is the "Possession Catch", which turns out useful when trying to stay in bounds or when trying to secure a precious first down.
|Gotta catch 'em all.|
While not initially too easy to get into, since it can get a bit overwhelming at first having to constantly decide in a matter of a split second which catch to use, it all gives catching a deserved amount of control. In previous Maddens, catching has always come down to running fast enough to the destined spot and jumping at the right time (and a bit of luck of course). This time around, catching has received a nice burst of control with the 3 catching types that resultingly make playing matches more strategic. Depending on situations, catching can therefore be handeled far more intuitively and approached according to the stakes and the moment itself. It all causes a nice risk vs. reward situation in which it for example might come in handy to risk injuries and or penalties with aggressive catches to catch that ball and make a crucial touchdown before the end of the game.
Matches become a tad bit more tactical and tense through it, even when the new catching takes a bit getting used to. Thankfully though, Madden 16 does a superb job of easing you into the new additions and improved mechanics with a wide assortement of fun and easy to get into tutorials.
|Wel, not much of an Aggressive Catch when there's nobody around you, right?|
On top of that, the quarterback's arsenal of tools to get that glorious touchdown is slightly but notably amped up as well:
By double tapping the receiver button you can now throw a touch pass which becomes very useful in situations when you have to throw below defenders or when you have to draw back into coverage. What's even more noteworthy is the addition of being able to decide whether to throw a high or low pass to a receiver, making it more intuitive to avoid dangerous interceptions by opposing players.
Looking at the defense, Madden 16 utilizes pretty much the same great mechanics introduced in last year's entry, with just a few tweaks.
The most notable of which is the option to focus on the ball or the receiver when a pass is thrown. Depending on your playstyle though, this option is either quite useful or entirely expendable. While it can be said that focussing on the ball can maybe lead to a slightly increased chance for a turnover, keeping the focus on the receiver is still the much safer option and will most likely remain sticking with newcomers and veteran players alike.
|Defending mechanics of course remain untouched in Madden 16.|
Modes - "Casualties by Set Priorities"
Madden 16's focus in terms of improvements truely lied on the offensive mechanics rather than anything else in the game. And nowhere does this get more obvious than when looking at the offered modes in the game.
Madden NFL 16 isn't really a game that is too short on modes, but it's not chock-full of them either.
While fun modes like the Ultimate Team mode, Career and Season Mode are of course all there, don't expect anything large in terms of new modes to be present.
With that said, the only new mode that is added to the roster, is named "Draft Champion".
Draft Champion is apparently very much comparable to the Arena in Hearthstone and works in the same combination of a somewhat cards based game with actual football match gameplay. There, a draft lasts 15 rounds, with the player having to select one of three available players and assign them to positions in each round. After the draft, your team can be used and played against the computer or other players in a single elimination tournament of up to four games. Won matches then grant you coins or additional cards.
With its combination of a somewhat draft based card game with actual short football matches, Draft Champion is a nice addition to the household modes, though it remains to be seen how much of a player- or fan base it will evoke after time.
|It's "collect and fight" in Draft Champion.|
Online play works well all around and there is little noteworthy to mention here.
Each mode offers the expected addition of an option to play against other human players' teams and it all works very well with steady framerates and fluid match progressions.
The only minor nagging point though, is that Madden 16 is yet another Madden without a solution to disconnect problems during an ongoing match. With an initialized reconnect initiator that could avoid matches to get entirely cancelled and you resultingly losing your made progress in said match, online play would be substantially made more enjoyable. It's only a small problem that only occassionally occurs and that should be relatively easy to fix, making it the more puzzling why this feature still hasn't been implemented yet into the game's multiplayer suite.
|The new but welcome "Captain Obvious"-style of presentation.|
Graphically, Madden NFL 16 shows that EA's football franchise still remains the visual peak in EA Sports' games assortement. Topping that off, Madden NFL 16 boasts the same graphical splendor of its predecessor while working with a much more solid framerate and just feeling and playing a bit less wonky.
Complete with a new style of presentation during matches that displays the players' stats and milestones more obviously yet also clearer, Madden NFL 16 somewhat feels more polished in the graphical department even if it might only come down to marginal differences.
With stadiums, the fields and player models looking incredibly real, this is easily the highlight of the Ignite Engine to date.
Soundwise there are not many improvements made upon the already very solid commentaries made throughout the matches along with a nice variety of pop music tracks accompanying the menues of the game.
The only rather negative note that has to be made are the players' voice acting performances in some of the game's cutscenes - they are horrible. Though they are voiced by actual NFL players, the lines come off as terribly forced and even more horrendously acted, sounding like somebody unmotivatedly reading them off a script in a booth. Yet seeing how we are talking about a sports game here and given the fact that these are atheletes voicing the characters and no professional actors, it shouldn't bother anyone too much - yet it definitely remains cringeworthy since Madden NFL 15 clearly managed to avoid such unintentionally hilarious moments.
|Please never voice-act ever again.|
All in all, Madden NFL 16's welcome improvements to the offensive gameplay mechanics make it definitely a step forward for the franchise albeit not that big of a step. Choosing between 3 different ways to catch the ball during a pass indeed do make matches more strategic and tense after getting into the flow of the new mechanics. Unfortunately though, this main improvement on the offensive play has been given so much focus in Madden NFL 16 that improvements on other aspects of the game are pretty scarce. Except a few minor tweaks here and there, Madden NFL 16 basically feels like a slightly extended and more polished version of Madden NFL 15.
With the game working on the great gameplay foundation set by its predecessor, it indeed does good by only improving necessary aspects of the game and not "fixing what isn't broken". Likewise, Madden NFL 16 doesn't offer a lot of new modes aside from the household modes already present in Madden 15. Actually, there is only one main new mode, Draft Champion, which manages to blend strategic trading card gameplay with actual football match gameplay to a surprisingly fun effect.
It all makes Madden NFL 16 definitely a great game with welcome improvements and additions, but there's just not enough new brought to the table to justify an immediate purchase if you already own Madden 15 or aren't a die-hard Madden fanatic.
With that said, gamers entirely new to Madden or who don't own Madden 15 should definitely skip to Madden 16 right away, while gamers already owning Madden 15 should maybe wait for a price drop before "upgrading" to this "Madden NFl 15 2.0" called Madden 16.
Despite its only marginal yet definitely effective additions, Madden NFL 16 of course still remains a great game thanks to its predecessor's superbly set new gameplay foundation. And with Madden NFL 16, it undeniably feels like Madden 15 just got a little bit better.
Final Verdict: 8 out of 10
Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.
Status: Great / Only for Fans or Newcomers
Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.