We continue our Midterm Review series with our Madden 15 Review. In hopes of more accurately portraying the ins and out of the game in much more in-depth fashion than the average review. Having months to breakdown the game and fully understand it’s systems and mechanics while the average reviewer may only have had a fews days to give a general overview.
With Madden NFL 15, the team at Tiburon looks to expand upon the solid foundation laid by Madden 25 and deliver fans the most authentic football simulation to date. We take a closer look at the finished version of this years game in the video above and the text below.
Connected Franchise returns as the most enticing offline mode, allowing the player to take full control over his or her organization, ranging from GM duties, coaching duties, or specific player duties. New this year is the ability to allocate hours towards game preparation each week. Do you want keep your team’s confidence high, or do you want to develop the skills of individual players? It’s all up to you. Your philosophy as a head coach also translates into how likely free agents are to sign with your team. Numerous variables, including more than just money, are taken into account when a player is looking to sign with a new team.
Now the real question becomes, “all these new financial models are nice, but do they produce realistic outcomes?” The general consensus from the Madden community and some of our own testing indicates that specific simulation engines require some fixing. Simulation stats at the end of the year are all over the place, and the progression and regression engines are in need of some serious fine tuning. Regardless, the options remain vast and somewhat robust, if not lagging slightly behind other major sports titles.
Finally, other game modes including Madden Ultimate Team and the Gauntlet provide nice diversions from the “main course.” Madden Ultimate Team allows players to take their fantasy football squads on the virtual gridiron, while The Gauntlet is just a fun mini-game diversion with increasingly unorthodox boss battles. But it’s a lot of fun. And finally, online play returns with little lag, making for the best online experience possible. Online play remains the high point for the series.
GRAPHICS & PRESENTATION
Madden 15’s presentation takes an important leap forward this year. Most notable is the continued transition from pre-rendered cutscenes to real time presentation. Real time wipes and stat banners, along with seamless in-game camera cuts help fashion a more realistic broadcast style presentation. The camera angles help drive the presentation; story elements are visualized between plays and breaks in the actions, immersing the gamer within its NFL-esque presentation. Other improvements include greater graphical fidelity, a much smarter and more engaging crowd, and a brand new, if somewhat convoluted play calling screen.
Unfortunately, the commentary is dreadful. Not only is the dialogue not always context appropriate, but as is the same every year, the engine doesn’t allow for branching dialogue or interruptible commentary. The virtual Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are essentially lifeless, uninformed, and lack the ability to string successive observations together. The commentary in no way complements the broadcast presentation and is leagues behind other major sports titles.
With a renewed emphasis on defensive controls, defensive mechanics, along with multiple enhancements and fine-tunings to the way your CPU-controlled defenders behave in various situations, Madden NFL 15 yields the most realistic on-field results of any football game ever created. For the first time since the series inception, Madden has been tailored/tuned to generate numbers that more closely mirror the per minute stats of an NFL game; previous iterations have been balanced so as to replicate an entire NFL game’s statistics within five minute quarters. Prior years’ results, as one would imagine, featured high-scoring affairs with little to no defense. This year, when playing five minute quarters, expect a final stat line that approximates a third of the numbers generated from an actual NFL game. Through a myriad of features including a small tackle cone that provides a greater visual cue regarding one’s proximity to the ball-carrier, general improvements to man and zone coverage, and the aforementioned improvements to the control scheme for defensive linemen, defense has been given the appropriate reinforcements needed to combat prior iterations of unstoppable offenses.
It’s not all defense though. Important changes have been made to the passing game. Passing accuracy has been reduced across the board to more accurately reflect the skills of an NFL quarterback. In previous Maddens, balls were either perfectly thrown or wildly overthrown; the game used a dice roll to determine if the ball would be a perfectly thrown completion rather than calculating the degree of inaccuracy of any given pass. With this new passing system, throws can now be overthrown or under thrown with varying degrees of accuracy, allowing for an increased number of outcomes when passing. The throw accuracy stat has also been tuned to allow for greater differentiation amongst virtual quarterbacks; stars will typically have higher completion percentages and less “off the mark” passes than average ones.
The changes in gameplay found in this year’s Madden undoubtedly reflect the development team’s goal of creating a virtual simulation that is tailored to produce realistic outcomes. And on that front, Madden NFL 15 succeeds admirably. End of game statistics in Madden 15 often match the per minute stats of an NFL game. It’s a real accomplishment. However, its realistic outcomes are sometimes derived from unrealistic mechanics. The realistic outcomes of particular plays often stem from artificial gameplay tuning designed to shape specific outcomes rather than supplying the AI with the proper tools needed to exhibit genuine football fundamentals.
For example, while outside running plays are now less exploitable, their reduced effectiveness is solely a product of equipping defensive lineman with a greater ability to disengage from blocks. Defensive ends rarely seal the edge unless a particular animation dictates a specific behavior that resembles “setting the edge.” Defenses still don’t look to force ball carriers inside or bounce them wide, and defensive lineman still exhibit no gap responsibility when attacking the line of scrimmage. Yet, plays so often end with realistic results. It’s just that the means whereby these realistic outcomes occur are inorganically manufactured through gameplay tuning. Of course, there are more “natural” improvements alongside the trenches that are founded on physics or football principles; defensive lineman occasionally engage in animations that allow for independent movement, and in general, animations aren’t as scripted.
Now let’s go back to zone coverage. In previous years, to ensure that specific routes couldn’t be abused, the speed to backpedaling and sidestepping animations were increased in order to limit the separation wide receivers got from defenders. But this year, defenders look to anticipate receiver movements and attack the ball more aggressively, and you’ll even see zone defenders switch assignments as the play unfolds. It’s this sort of “real football” AI that I hope is extended to line play in future years.
Lastly, other improvements/changes to gameplay include a new, but still easy-to-master kick meter, the seemingly iterative refinements to the physics engine, and an increased number of catching animations. Major oversights include limited receiver/cornerback interactions, a still unsightly locomotion engine, and special teams play that once again resembles something from the dinosaur era.
This year EA focused on simplifying the game a bit and a new kick meter and tackle cone join the ball hawk and tackle tracking to make gameplay fun and easy for new players. Eliminating the coin toss animation and instead letting you make your choice in the pre game menu is also a welcome addition following a “less is more” concept. Online play was bumpy when the game first launched due to a desync issue caused by the camera toggle but was ultimately fixed with a patch. EA has always been known to have some of the strongest servers and online play in the industry and this year is no different, making Online matches as smooth and enjoyable as ever. New game modes such as the Gauntlet, a practice style mode, allow you to test your skills in a fun and unique way, while also giving you the ability to compete with your friends to see who can get the highest score. Team Play was removed in this years game, upsetting fans of the mode. It was perennially one of the more casual games within the game, in which you could start or join a community and play in a fun environment with your friends. A lot went into making Madden 15 a more “user friendly” game but I feel they didn’t introduce enough new modes to keep long time fans of the franchise engaged. Connected Franchise and the ability to create a player was almost a mirror image of last years iteration and and didn’t add much new content. With that being said, Madden is still one of the ONLY games currently on the market that has a working and enjoyable franchise mode, although it’s somewhat flawed confidence system falls flat. Overall Madden 15 was a very fun game but lacked enough new game modes to really give it a top rating.
Both online modes in Madden 15, Ultimate team and Connected Franchise, help the game when it comes to longevity. Madden Ultimate Team is a beast of its own, a game within the game, and can give people the opportunity to put countless hours of time into the game. MUT has this amazing ability to keep people coming back even when the football season is over and it has become the number one game mode and revenue stream for EA They release new cards every week with increased stats and attributes that give MUT players the motivation to keep earning coins. Connected Franchise also helps prevent Madden from getting dull. Also the patches released have resolved many of the issues that launched with the game. CFM’s ability to join and compete with friends in a league is still best in class, which allows you to build your team up, compete for the Super Bowl and grow your team in the offseason through the Draft and Free Agency. With weekly roster updates EA gives their fans something to look forward to and keeps their favorite players matched up to what they see on Sundays. Madden has always had the ability to hold their fans attention throughout the whole year and didn’t disappoint in Madden 15.
Madden NFL 15 is the most well balanced game in the franchise. It produces realistic on-field results, albeit at the mercy of incorporating some artificial gameplay tuning to compensate for the lack of football assignments along the line of scrimmage. But that will only be noticed by the truly hardcore Madden gamers. Ultimately though, defense is back, it’s fun, and better than ever. The offense has been given some much needed nerfs to allow for such a well balanced game. Still, with a greater emphasis on gameplay tuning rather than investing further in technological advancements, Madden 15 does not take a great leap forward. It may not be the most authentic football simulation, but it’s certainly getting there… and with an abundance of game modes to amplify your on-the-field experience, you’ll have fun all the way until next year’s game.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10
Hopefully you enjoyed our Madden 15 Review, which took an updated look at this years game. Let us know in the comments below and on social media. Check in daily as we will continue this series of taking a second look at currently released sports games.