Last year’s Madden 25 was another disappointing game in the storied sports franchise. The last truly great iteration (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) was Madden ‘05 and the only one since then that had come close was Madden ‘11. However, this is a new year and a new Madden built for current gen consoles, but does it put forward an MVP performance?
From a gameplay perspective, it shines. Last year’s Madden had several problems including receivers dropping way too many passes, cornerbacks turning into The Flash when jumping routes to intercept the ball and a general floatiness to the ballhandler controls. All of that has been fixed. Receivers have decided that catching the ball is more productive than dropping it, cornerbacks are mere mortals again and juking and spinning feels more effective.
There is a new defensive line mechanic making the player press RT or R2 right when the ball is snapped to get a jump on the offensive lineman. From that point the player can try to pull the O-lineman one way or another or use a power or finesse move depending on that particular defensive lineman’s area of expertise. The camera angle is diagonally behind you on defense now by default which does a great job in immersing you within the game. However, I quickly found myself switching to the old camera because once the ball is passed, switching players is disorienting. Luckily you can switch between multiple angles on the fly using up and down on the D-pad.
There is also a new tackling mechanic as well. Instead of there being one button for tackling, there are two. When near a player with the ball, pressing A (on the Xbox One) or X (on the PS4) will show a small green cone on the field in front of your defensive player. If you can get close enough to the ballcarrier to the point where they are inside that cone, release the button and you will perform a conservative tackle. These have a higher success rate and are good to use if you are the last one between an offensive player and a big gain. The traditional tackle button, X or Square, now functions the same way as the hit stick (which is still there if you prefer) which I like seeing as how you don’t have to take your thumb off of the face buttons now to deliver a massive hit.
Madden 15 has also been touting how the accuracy of the quarterbacks in game is closer to their real life counterparts resulting in inaccurate throws playing as Geno Smith compared to Peyton Manning for example. In my experience with the game, I have not seen as major of a difference as advertised. E.J. Manuel is as accurate as Alex Smith which isn’t quite true to real life. However, the final new addition to gameplay I want to cover is playcalling. When selecting a play, Madden will give you feedback about it. For example when I was on defense, the coach suggested a Cover 6 Press because, “It’s effective 52% of the time and holds opponents to 6.7 avg yds in 2nd & Long.” It also gives you average yardage of plays based off of everyone in the community which is a really cool feature.
However, for players to win, they should at least dabble in the Skills Trainer new players and veterans alike. It does a great job not only at teaching you about the new mechanics in the game but also goes in depth about how to read whether a defense is running Cover 2 or Cover 4 and where to throw in those situations for example. It is something that I go back to to try and improve my game if I’m in a slump.
From a modes perspective, it is what you have come to expect from Madden. There are online and offline Connected Franchises, (including player, coach and owner) online Head to Head and Ultimate Team. Nothing has changed in any of them drastically with most menus being the same as well. The biggest addition comes in Connected Franchise where there is now Game Prep that you can perform during the game to increase a player or position’s confidence (short term benefits) or experience points to upgrade the players (long term benefits). It is mostly menu based with one of the drills actually taking you into a practice scenario. After the first couple of times, I found myself delegating it to my assistant coach.
In terms of overall of presentation, Madden 15 is hit or miss. The new graphics and lighting look great and more realistic than ever with EA Tiburon taking advantage of the graphical capabilities that the PS4 and Xbox One are capable of. Players footsteps remain after a play in the snow and the reflections bounce off of players’ helmets realistically and in real time. However, there are some major detractors to the presentation as well. For one the EA Ignite engine in place still has some pretty bad physics when it comes to the players. A QB sneak saw my quarterback diving with his back at a 90 degree angle when he hit the player in front of him. Things like this happen after almost every play and pulls you out of the experience.
Second are the highlight packages and halftime reports. If you are playing multiplayer, dealing with these is a non-issue but, if not, they take far too long to skip. Some of the highlight packages of what a player has done in game actually can’t be skipped and will show up in the middle of the game after a random play. Not being able to skip these presentation flourishes are very irritating after playing the game for awhile. Lastly I have a nitpick about the menus; they are too slow. Going back and forth between menu options resulted in me leaving one menu, the next one showing up, me selecting something and the game not registering it because I did not wait an extra second. This is a small gripe, but it is there nonetheless.
However, overall this is the best Madden game since the glory days in Madden ‘04 and ‘05. Gameplay feels tighter, the graphics look great and it is flatout fun to play. The presentation issues are a hindrance but, if cleaned up for next year, we could have an incredible Madden. Until then, we’ll have to settle for very good. I’ll end this by saying that this is the first Madden in a long time where I have continually wanted to go back and play it consistently a week after release which I can’t say for the past several years.