Release Date: August 26, 2014 Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox 360, PS3 Developer: EA TiburonPublisher: EA Sports Genre: Sports
Ah, it’s that time of year again: the summer sun starts letting up, the kids get ready to head back to school, and football is in the air, bringing a new yearly installment of the Madden franchise with it. This year’s Madden NFL 15takes the series a step in the right direction, leaning closer to its roots with a more sim-like approach than Madden NFL 25. It’s generally a step forward for the franchise, but this year’s title brings with it a couple of headscratchers.
Let’s start with one of the biggest and most obvious changes from last year’s game: defense. Defense is the name of the game in Madden 15,and there are a lot of improvements on that side of the ball this year. For one, you’re now able to move the camera angle to view the play from the defense’s side, either locking you into controlling one player or allowing you to control whatever player you choose with a bird’s eye view. This new camera angle not only makes playing defense more immersive and enjoyable, it also makes it easier–I mean, shouldn’t you be playing from the perspective of the side you’re controlling? It’s mindboggling how it has taken EA Sports this long to add this camera angle. Along with the defensive camera angles are new offensive camera angles that help players see more of the field (or less if you so choose).
Another great addition is the ability to quit a career game at any point, but return to the game where you left off later. This new mechanic caters to the casual Madden player, allowing them to play Madden 15in short bursts. Developer EA Tiburon also added what they’re calling a “Coach Stick,” which allows you to see the strong and weak spots of your offense each play. I haven’t tested it enough to be sure, but it doesn’t appear to be accurate. Or, maybe I’m just bad–that’s likely the case.
Madden 15also fixes some of the issues in Madden 25.For example, players are no longer getting injured on every drive, like they were last year. And, in Madden 15,there aren’t nearly as many awkward cutscenes in between plays, like the one where a player would take a swig of water from a bottle that wasn’t even near his mouth. Running also feels more stiff than last year, and although that takes away from the ability to make big plays, it aligns the Madden franchise back to being a football simulation instead of an NFL Blitz.
But along with all the good changes this year’s Madden brings, there are still some headscratching decisions made by Tiburon. For some reason, there is no coin toss after you start a game. Instead, it was moved to a menu. No, just no. The coin toss is a part of football, and when the game is trying to be as close to a sim as possible, it belongs just where it was previously…in the opening of the game.
The depth charts aren’t properly configured to have the best-rated player as your starter. For example, when playing as the Miami Dolphins, you’ll notice that the game has put Lamar Miller as your starter (rated 78), and then Daniel Thomas (76), and then Gillislee (68), and then for some reason the best running back on the team, Knowshon Moreno (rated 84), is sitting as 4th string. By default, that means he’ll never likely touch the ball in a game. Obviously, that can be rectified easily enough, but the fact that Tiburon overlooked it is an annoyance. Another questionable decision is the fact that there is now a line that shows your kick’s trajectory, making field goals almost mindless. Kicking 58-yarders shouldn’t be that easy.
Graphically, though, Madden 15makes you forget the game’s very minor problems, as everything looks fantastic. For some reason, I feel like I can even taste the grass on the field. Player models are well detailed too, and you’ll all be happy to know that Colin Kaepernick has his tattoos back. There are a few occasions in which the frame rate will skip, but they are few and far between.
Although Madden 15has minor issues, they’re not gamebreaking like they were in last year’s iteration of the franchise. We’re waiting on a roster update after all of the preseason moves in the NFL, too. But putting the focus on defense is a big change and risk for Tiburon, given that most players are more offensive minded. But, the changes definitely bring more enjoyment to the franchise. Pair those changes with the graphical fidelity in the game, and it is safe to say that Madden 15 sets the Madden franchise back on the right track.