XXL’s Game Corner: Madden 15 Review: Fear The D

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Publisher: EA Sports

Developer: EA Tiburon

Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360

Release date: August 26th, 2014

 

It’s no secret that for years playing defense in Madden has been a chore no more so than in last year’s Madden 25. With the offense always seeming to have the upper hand most times you’d have to hope the opponent made a mistake rather than counting on your defense to make a sound football play.  Secondaries and linebackers suffered from unrealistically low football IQs, and it made exploiting helpless pass defenses easy. Well all that has finally changed with Madden NFL 15. As you would expect with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gracing the cover, a premium has been put on defense.

With Madden 15 I see quite a few parallels to Madden 2005. Back then you had a defensive player in his prime on the cover in the Ravens’ middle linebacker Ray Lewis. That was also the year defense became the focus and a lot of new defensive mechanics were rolled out. In Madden 15 there are new pass rush tools that have been introduced, along with a new emphasis on blocking, which all have made trying to get to the quarterback a much more satisfying experience. All the improvements can really be seen in zone coverage. Before, you’d have to hope for your safety or cornerbacks to turn around to make a play on the ball, but they’d simply allow it to hit them in the back. This year, the players play as if they’re aware they are on the football field. As a result of this defenders not under player control have improved intelligence, regardless of whether they play man-to-man or zone defense. You’ll still have to pay attention to matchups though as man defense still can be shredded. At the line of scrimmage, players receive cues just before the snap of the ball to gain an advantage over a blocker, using finesse moves to push through and make a big tackle or sack the quarterback. Overall, the changes have made defense easier to grasp and a bit more entertaining.

Another nice addition is the on the fly camera angles available. Players now have the option to cycle to new defensive cameras before the snap of the ball which rotates the camera so it sits behind the defense. Rather than attempting to read a play from the wrong side of the ball, this new viewpoint places the camera over the shoulder of the controlled defender. From this view, it is easier to see which way the offense is moving, where the blockers are going, where holes are forming and what route the running back may take through the line. During pass plays, the camera smartly pulls back while continuing to track the ball in flight, allowing for seamless switching to the nearest defender and minimal play disruption. Those who wish to focus on a specific player can also turn on a defensive player lock camera, keeping that individual centered onscreen for the duration of the play. It also should be noted that user control is probably the best it’s been in years.

While the defense has seen plenty of overdue attention, the offensive side of the ball also received a few tweaks. Plays can be sorted by personnel, scheme, even concept in the new play call screen. Players can also gain advice on what plays to run, based on the player’s history, as well as the opponent’s tendencies. It’s a solid option for novices, but most veterans will likely stick with the straightforward schemes and run their plays. I’m still on the fence about the new play calling system and most veteran gamers will probably struggle with it at first as it takes some getting used to. It would have been nice if there was an option to use the old traditional play call system. Players can also view individual offensive weapons and compare how they match up with their defender. Does it appear your slot receiver has a big speed advantage? Exploit it on the fly by calling an audible to send him on a deep route. It’s much easier to uncover mismatches. Also added this year is the ability to adjust your team’s offensive tempo. There are now new settings that let you tweak the pace of your games. Madden 15 features two tempo toggles–‘No Huddle’ and ‘Chew Clock.’

As it’s with Madden there are still those legacy issues that have been with this series for years. There are still very few penalties called and you can forget about seeing any pass interference penalties called.  Commentary needs a major overhaul and there are still occurrences of those wonky physics that was introduced in Madden 13.

The meat of Madden remains its Connected Franchise Mode, where you and your friends can be a player, coach, or owner. While little has changed at the high level from the past couple of seasons, there are dozens of nuanced modifications that longtime fans will notice. The most noticeable is the elimination of Practice in favor of a Game Plan, a feature that allows you to target various metrics such as Confidence to improve player attributes and increase XP. Its implementation is a bit clunky–the menus don’t make it readily apparent how influential your decisions are, and you’re never quite sure if you’ve completed your tasks for the week–and the overall results are difficult to measure. The only area that you had any control was doing the actual drills. Still after completing a drill you never get prompted on how much XP your player gained. While it was admirable that EA tried to spice up CFM, I’d like to see the amount of guess work you have to do eliminated and more control given to the user.

The XXL Endgame

This was definitely a step in the right direction for the franchise as Madden NFL 15 does a lot of things right. The overall presentation makes a nice leap from last year’s new-gen debut, and the skills trainer is really fun as well being useful in helping the player grasp all the nuances of the game. While some legacy issues persist in the game and the commentary is long overdue to see some attention, this is still one of the best Maddens in recent memory. —written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)

XXL Rating: L (Good)

Madden NFL 15 was reviewed on a retail copy provided by EA Sports