We are the Draft Champions.
Each year Madden signifies two of my favorite events, the Fall game rush and football season. Things change for me when this event occurs. I spend my Sundays glued to a TV set, and my weeks playing all the latest games. It is a glorious occasion. Madden continues to be a tradition, and each year I spend close to 100 hours digging into the game and playing out my fantasy season (the one where my Raiders win back-to-back Super Bowls). Madden NFL 16 delivers once again, but not in the normal way. New modes are not the focus this year, instead the on-the-field action takes precedence, thus creating the best playing Madden in ages.
The first thing I want to address is the game play. Lots of changes have been made on both sides of the ball this year, and almost all of them fantastic. On defense we still have the jump snap on the left trigger, as well as strafing to keep the runner in front. Tackles have changed just slightly though. The hit stick is still present, but now playing the ball results in more accurate tackles. The right bumper once again lets me attempt to pop the ball out, with a risk/reward of whiffing a tackle.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PS3, 360
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Multiplayer: Online franchise and head-to-head
Coverage has also taken an overhaul. Players can opt to be aggressive and go for the ball, or play it safe and cover the receiver. This leads to some excellent scenarios. Playing the ball can sometimes lead to missing the tackle and giving up big gains, and all of it is based around position, just like in the NFL. If your corner is inside the route, it is easier to get a jump on the ball, but if their position is off, then the receiver has the advantage. It is a great game of chess, and makes playing coverage even more fun.
The receiver/corner dynamic is the same on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterbacks now have several pass types to choose from. Pressing the button hard is still a bullet pass, and double-tapping is a lob to let your receiver fight for the ball, but new options have also been added. By holding the left bumper I could now throw a high pass over defenders, and likewise by holding the left trigger throw a low pass where only the receiver can catch it. I could still direct passes with the analog stick to lead receivers as well. It is all overwhelming at first, but after I got the hang of it, the passing game took on a whole new meaning.
The running game has also received some much needed tweaks. By holding the left trigger, runners now move realistically depending on the lanes they are going through. Following blockers is more dynamic, and stats actually matter on All-Pro. Depending on what kind of runner is carrying the ball, now dictates what kind of runs are more successful. Again it is a small change, but one that long-time Madden players will certainly notice.
Game play may be the focus, but there are other additions to the core package as well. The biggest bullet point is Draft Champions mode. Think of this as a twitch fantasy draft, players are randomized, and I was able to choose several each round. Then the game challenges players to complete objectives with that team, which can be tough depending on how I drafted. It is an addictive mode that also ties into the real meat of the Madden series, Ultimate Team.
Both Ultimate Team and Connected Franchise mode upgrades are mostly focused around how they relay information, and how things are prepared for each week. For example, in Connected Franchise Mode upgrading players is more streamlined and makes sense. Players also now have goals, along with their coaches. For example, weekly goals for my team included throwing a TD pass with Derek Carr, or rushing for 150 yards total as a team. Team goals boost the experience of every player, while player goals increase the confidence meter. It is almost like an RPG at times, as after plays I see +1 popping up above my player’s heads.
Franchise mode can once again be done online with friends, and now even creates a session automatically that can be set to public or private. Online returns in general with the second year omission of online co-op. I really enjoyed playing with friends on the same team online, and once again it is only head-to-head. This is a real missed opportunity for me, as it was one of my favorite features introduced in Madden 25.
Presentation-wise Madden 16 has added some new features, but nothing revolutionary. More dynamic camera angles are available, as well as new stat tracking during the game. Seeing averages and totals rack up is great, but a ticker of other games around the league during franchise mode is still sorely missed. Commentary feels about the same and even worse at times, especially when injured players come back into the game. Jim Nantz seems to want to make a big deal during every snap when the quarterback returns after being taken out. We get it Jim, it is great he is back.
Madden NFL 16 makes a lot of great progression in a year without a ton of new features have been added. I really enjoy the new passing mechanic on both sides of the ball, and the new tweaks make it just feel more like real football. Again I will likely sink close to a hundred hours in my play of Madden this year – the new game play features are some of the best in years, and I can’t wait to see them fleshed out over time. Once again Madden comes highly recommended for fans of the pigskin, and as always, kicks off the best time of year to be a gamer.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.