I’ll come right out and say it: EA’s Madden NFL 15 is simply the best Madden has been in years, and is easily the most distinctive American football game since 2K’s NFL 2K5. That’s an awfully big claim to make, I know, but with Madden’s unrelenting attention to detail finally making it’s way to the other side of the line of scrimmage and a presentation that only gets better with each passing year, it’s a claim I can stand behind.
EA made a huge statement this year when they announced the Seattle Seahawks’ flamboyant best-in-the-league cornerback, Richard Sherman, as the cover athlete. The shift from the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs is this year’s biggest change, with little else seeing such drastic enhancements. Sure, one big change might not seem like much, but it’s something that affects every aspect of the game.
Gamers now have way more control over their defensive players and have many more opportunities to get the upper hand on the ball carrier. The most important change to the defensive game comes right at the snap. If the player is able to pull the right-trigger at just the right moment – when the ball is snapped – the selected player gets a small boost which gets the defense off the line quicker and the backs aware almost immediately. If you’re in a battle against a blocker or offensive lineman, press the A or X-button when prompted and your avoidance moves (swim moves, etc.) are far more effective and allow you to get that all-important sack or tackle. Even tackling gets a face-lift. When your player gets close to an opponent, a cone will appear in front of you, giving you an idea of where your player’s tackling ability will be most effective. Tap the X-button for a harder tackle that might knock the ball loose (but is much more likely to miss) or the A-button for safer tackle (which probably won’t result in a fumble).
Nearly everything about defense is changed, and that’s a very good thing. It allows for more depth and strategy. It keeps the game feeling fresh the entire way through, and being down by a touchdown or a field goal is no where near the death sentence it was in previous iterations. In fact, the defensive game is so good now, players will likely feel more inclined to play defense than offense, even if most of the scoring is still done on offense.
That isn’t to say that Madden NFL 15‘s offensive game is dull. It hasn’t really had too many issues in the past, but thanks to a new excellent tutorial (called the Skills Trainer and The Gauntlet), players new and old alike will find new tips and tricks that they may not have been using in the past.
EA’s Ignite engine is on full display in Madden NFL 15, which, as should be expected, is the most photo-realistic NFL game to date. This should go without saying (tech gets better over time), but from a presentation standpoint, EA’s really pushed themselves to bring the televised experience to Madden NFL 15. Before you ever even see the start screen, you’re thrown right into the action in a Seattle versus Carolina match up that’s most of the way played through. The transition from an NFL Films-quality cut scene to actual gameplay is incredibly seamless and keeps the gameplay flowing naturally. It feels like you’re watching, and then playing a part in, something produced for ESPN. Each individual game receives a similarly incredible presentation that seemingly rips off the pillars of a broadcast game, including replays of prior games and live-action clips from the player’s past. It’s truly great, if not completely expected, and keeps the game in contest with the NBA 2K series as having one of the best sports presentations around.
The game isn’t perfect – no game is! In my time online I ran into my fair-share of laggy games. And there has been more than a few viral videos springing up online of various hilarious technical – though not game breaking – glitches. Working with the game’s play calling menu can initially be frustrating, even if the community feedback of each play is pretty intriguing (for example, “62% of the time, this play held the offense for 6 yards”). Further integration of NFL.com’s Fantasy Football would’ve been an absolute delight, but, alas, it’s just not there.
I could be nit-picky about lots of things in Madden NFL 15, but why should I when the overall package is just so good? All of the series’ fan-favorite modes return including Madden Ultimate Team and Connected Franchise, and the huge bump to the defensive side of the game makes Madden NFL 15 the ultimate professional football video game (dare I say, surpassing NFL 2K5? Yes. I dare.).