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Madden NFL 15 Review

by Dean James

There are a number of annual franchises out there in the gaming industry, but one of the most popular is easily the Madden series. Dating way back to 1988 when the game was known as just John Madden Football, the series has seen a release every single year and shows no signs of stopping at any point in the near future. After the 25th anniversary edition with Madden NFL 25 last year, we now return to the normally named Madden NFL 15 from EA Sports.

Last year’s version released on both last generation (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) consoles and the now current generation (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) consoles, but were spread apart by a few months due to the latter systems not releasing until November. However, this year is a whole new ballgame with the simultaneous release on both consoles and an emphasis being able to be put on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game this time around.

Madden NFL 15 Video Review

When first firing up the game, you will be met almost instantly with a cutscene showing the 2015 NFC Championship game between the defending champ Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers. Right after this, the Seahawks commit a costly turnover, with just enough time for the Panthers to attempt a comeback to advance to Super Bowl XLIX. At this point, you get to take over and actually orchestrate this comeback attempt yourself.

This whole experience may just seem random as a way to start a game like Madden, but the main reason for this is so that the game itself can be installed on the HDD from the disc. The game installed extremely fast on the PlayStation 4, but this was a great way to spend the time, rather than just staring at an install screen as per usual. As a Carolina Panthers fan myself, this was an excellent surprise to find as soon as I started the game.

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While the offense has taken center stage in the past, defense is the name of the game in Madden NFL 15. After watching cover athlete Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom dominate last season on their way to a Super Bowl championship for the Seattle Seahawks, EA Sports knew that gamers would want to emulate that type of performance in Madden. As a result, the defensive side of the ball has received almost a complete overhaul of what we knew it to be in the past. The defensive basics are still there, to where you can technically play as you may have in the past, but you are truly missing out if you do not take advantage of the new additions to the defensive game.

Longtime Madden fans may have some bad memories of the infamous QB passing cone of years past, but this time it has been brought to the defensive side of the ball to much better effect. When controlling a defender that is about to make a tackle, you will see a cone in front of you showing his tackling range and how in position he is to make the actual tackle.

The game also implements a risk vs. reward tackling system, by allowing you to go with a more conservative tackle by pressing X or a more aggressive tackle with either the square button or the hit stick. Doing the latter increases the chance of jarring the ball loose or the prevention of giving up extra yardage, but also is not as effective as bringing the ballcarrier down.

Probably my favorite new defensive mechanic is the ability to shed blocks as a lineman or linebacker and being able to rush into the backfield to disrupt the action. In the past, I’ve almost always played as a defensive end or defensive tackle, but rarely was able to get around the offensive lineman, even if much higher rated. Luckily, now you will have a better chance at this by timing your jump just right and hitting either square or X, depending on the situation. This makes playing a defense a lot more fun to even the most casual of fans.

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While the defensive side of the ball has been completely reshaped, the offensive side hasn’t been changed too much. Lower accuracy passes have been introduced, which require more effort from the wide receivers and lead to crazy catches in the field. This is a lot more realistic than the either perfect or terrible passes of the past, with little in-between.

Truly the only new addition that I wasn’t a huge fan of was the new play call screen. I’m still much more partial to the one we’ve seen in the NCAA Football series for years. The addition of sorting by concept was the one thing I did love, but the rest of it still seemed too complicated and required sorting through too many menus just to find the play you wanted.

In this day and age of sports, presentation is nearly everything whether the game is being broadcast on CBS, ESPN, or another network. As a result, EA Sports has worked very hard to ensure that standard was carried over to Madden NFL 15. The pre-game presentation is phenomenal, as you feel like you are watching an actual game live on TV, rather than merely a video game. Having a former NFL Films cinematographer in charge certainly didn’t hurt this aspect of the game at all, with brand new camera angles that showcase this to great extent. Even when starting the first drive of the game, you will get glimpses of real life clips of your starting QB in action.

the defensive side of the ball has received almost a complete overhaul of what we knew it to be in the past

The pre-game is hosted by sports broadcaster Larry Ridley, who also plays a major part in one of the game’s best additions, a true halftime show. This is one aspect that has been missing from the franchise and thanks to dynamic updates and commentary, the game feels more alive than ever.

As only the second iteration of Madden on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, one of the major discussion points obviously has to be the in-game graphics, and luckily they do not disappoint. While we still have yet to see anything near the early teasers for Madden NFL 25 last year, the graphical upgrades this year are a major step-up from the past.

Perhaps the most impressive element is the character models themselves, thanks to a large majority of the players in the league being head-scanned this year. The level of detail on each player is absolutely superb, with that detail extending to their uniform and equipment as well. You can tell that the EA Sports crew spent a lot of time ensuring that Madden NFL 15 was the most accurate football game to date, from the players, to the stadiums, and even the turf.

Connected Franchise returns once again this year and is mostly what you would expect, with one key new element. Confidence plays a major role in football and that has been introduced perfectly in Connected Franchise. Whether you choose to go with a player, coach, or owner, your players will be affected by their confidence ratings, which you can work on boosting, thanks to the new game prep features.

The fan favorite Ultimate Team also returns, but disappointingly there is not too much new this time. The binder section streamlines the experience by making it much easier to set lineups and look at your full set of player cards. However, other than that, the mode is the same it has been in the past for the most part.

While a good majority of gamers that pick up Madden each year have been playing the series for a long time and have no need for training, Madden NFL 15 features one of the best tutorials modes in all of sports gaming. The Skills Trainer is split up into a number of different categories, such as the basic offense and defense, plus much more in-depth scenarios involving concepts such as the Cover 2 defense. With the abundance of new defensive features this year, as aforementioned, I highly recommend checking them out. In fact, if you plan on playing Ultimate Team mode, you can gain some extra booster packs of cards by completing full sets within the Skills Trainer.

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One of the best features of the Skills Trainer is the Gauntlet. Within this mode, a randomized barrage of skills tests will be thrown at you one by one, with only five lives to spare. These will mostly be the training activities that you come across in the regular Skills Trainer, but there are also the very difficult boss battles that may keep you stumped. Most training modes in sports games are pretty monotonous and repetitive, but The Gauntlet is certainly one not to miss out on while playing.

Madden NFL 15 takes what was great about the last few iterations of Madden and improves it even further. The offense is mostly what you would expect, but the typically underrated defensive side of the ball gets a huge boost with the ability to tackle in different ways and shed blocks more precisely. Connected Franchise sees a little boost while Ultimate Team continues to be a blast to play, albeit with few additions this year.

The presentation, in-game graphics, and the IGNITE engine shine through with the most realistic NFL gaming experience to date, which serves as an excellent precursor to the season that is about to start. As the first truly next-gen Madden game to get the full focus from EA Sports and a complete lack of NCAA Football this year, Madden NFL 15 is one that fans of football will certainly not want to miss.

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Madden NFL 15

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
  • Published By: Electronic Arts
  • Developed By: EA Tiburon
  • Genre: Sports
  • US Release Date: August 29th, 2014
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
  • Quote: "Madden NFL 15 improves even further on last year’s game and truly proves that defense wins championships."
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