Beauty and the Beast Mode.
Each year the fall gaming season starts off with the release of the new Madden game. Being a huge fan of the sport, this is a trend I highly approve of. It is the first game I sink double-digit hours into before the bevy of sequels and new IPs flood my consoles. This year is different though. This Madden is built from the ground up for the new consoles, which means a new visual overhaul, and of course plenty of new bullet points to stick on the back of the box. Madden NFL 15 is probably the best upgrade to the series since 2010, and easily a game I will once again be playing well into January.
Speaking of the visual overhaul, let’s start there. With the recent generation of consoles running nearly a decade, the Madden engine was slowly starting to show its age. Sure it had some tweaks, but there was only so much that could be done on those machines. With PS4 and XB1 things have changed. This new engine is stunning at first glance. Player likeness is at an all-time high, and the new set of animations, such as various catch and tackle types, really make this game feel like a broadcast presentation. Stadiums look fantastic, and the lighting as the game progresses finally feels right.
The presentation also gets a huge thumbs up from me. The commentary is no longer repeating lines before the end of the first game. The halftime show, while not perfect, is definitely a step up from past offerings. The overlays and stats are fantastic. My only gripe is that the ticker during Connected Franchise is still absent; I would love to know what is going on around the league while playing my current game.
Game play also received a ton of refinements, most of them on the defensive side of the ball. Defense is finally fun to play again. With the tap of a button, defenders can get a jump off the ball during the snap. Time it right and I had a better chance of juking past the offensive lineman. The new tackle vision cone also helps make tackling more precise. Hitting the X button when in range will execute a safe tackle, while the square button or right stick will instigate a more aggressive tackle that could force a fumble. I love playing defense now.
Passing has also seen a significant upgrade. Quarterbacks now feel more like their real-life counterparts when it comes to accuracy and throwing on-the-run. Combined with the new receiver catch animations, the passing game feels even more authentic. Defensive backs also don’t fall for the curl route over and over again like in past games. Mistakes when throwing now feel like I made a bad decision, which is how it should be.
Madden NFL 15 also allowed me to control the tempo of the game, which is a huge upgrade. I was able to select No Huddle from the play calling menu, which speeds up the pace. I also loved the new community features for plays. When selecting a play a series of stats pops up in the window letting me know how many yards this play gains on average against the same defensive formation. It also gave me stats on how successful I was at running said play. I love that. Detailed analytics about how I have performed is incredible.
While there are certainly plenty of upgrades, this meant some areas were definitely left untouched. Most of the modes in Madden 25 return and almost all of them are unchanged. Ultimate Team feels strikingly familiar and training modes return with pseudo boss battles, but that is about it. Connected Franchise is still my bread and butter, but even that feels the same as last year’s offering. This isn’t unexpected from a game focusing on new technology and mechanics, but it would have been nice to see at least a few new options.
The one new piece the developers did add is called First Interactive Experience, which loosely translates to, “Installation Progress Diversion”. This mode tosses players into a fictional 2015 NFC Championship game between the Panthers and the Seahawks. The Seahawks cough up the ball with a small lead in the waning minutes of the game. I was given control of Cam Newton and a short clock to try to make it to the Super Bowl. Sure it is a neat way to start the game, but it is no different than any of the other Madden Moments found in the game.
I could spend pages talking about all of the refinements to this year’s game, but the bottom line is that this is the best Madden in years. From the presentation to the tweaks in game play, this is the version not to be missed. New modes and other features will come in time, but the most important parts of Madden 15 are fixing the mistakes made by past iterations, and this year’s game does that. Football fans need not worry, it is time once again for the NFL season to begin. Madden NFL 15 will easily keep you engaged for months to come.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.