It’s only been nine months since Madden NFL 25 was released for the PS4 and Xbox One. Although EA touted it being fully built for next-gen, it remained a small step forward from its previous generation counterpart. That being said, it was still a great game of football. Now closer (but still not a full year) to a normal development cycle we get the first full-fledged Madden game with Madden NFL 15.
One of the things I loved about Madden NFL 25 was how it started to focus on the game's presentation. Part of the appeal of football is the spectacle of the event, and Madden NFL 25 was the shot in the arm the series needed. Madden NFL 15 continues that trajectory. The game opens up with a fully cinematic preview of the 2015 NFC Championship Game, which EA expects to be between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. The game's first mistake, as we all know the 49ers will be there, but I digress! You take control of Cam Newton, ball in hand, with a minute left in the game to make the winning drive. It’s moments like this that are what I’ve always wanted from Madden. It’s beautifully captured and brings you into this year’s Madden game better than any before. I really think they should expand on this idea for future releases.
The good news is the presentation upgrades don’t stop after this short scripted experience. Everything in Madden NFL 15 from a presentation standpoint has gotten a huge makeover. Player models look outstanding with a ton of detail. They just look more lifelike then they have in the past. You’ve probably seen the screens of Kaepernick fully tattooed; it’s real and it looks spectacular. Development time was definitely given to the bigger names in the league but everyone looks a lot better than last year’s game. The real gem is the new camera that hugs closer to the QB. The game smartly brings you in before the snap, and pulls out wider after the snap. It looks a lot more like what you see on Sundays.
On the field it’s a hardcore football fan's dream. There are stats everywhere and it’s beautiful. Pull out to see the play and use the analog stick to see each individual match-up, the players fatigue level, and how he compares against his matchup. It’s almost information overload but there is just enough to see if there is a mismatch somewhere on the field to take advantage of. It might be odd but the best little touch I found is just throwing your current down and yardage on the field. It looks so much like what you see when you watch Sundays that a few times I caught myself forgetting I was playing a game.
One of the big changes in the gameplay department is the play calling system. Using the power of the cloud (or something like that) you can now see what plays other players are using and their success rate with it. I played the game pre-release so hard to know how it will work in practice, but right now the suggestions are great. Not only does it show the play success rate but it also shows average gain. The game also tracks the plays you use and your own success rate. I’ve always been a big fan of the HB Slip Screen and I could see that I averaged 8 yards and had a 90% success rate. The same can be said on the other side of the ball. It will give you defenses that are often selected given your current scenario. So it might say 80% of players choose this blitz on first down and only 40% use a cover 4 defense on that same scenario. There’s a ton of info at your fingertips and it’s glorious.
The big on-the-field change comes on the defensive side of the ball with an all-new tackling system. You’ve got two different types of tackles, X is a conservative tackle, while square is an aggressive tackle. The other big change is that you need to line up your hit. There is a cone around your defender that shows the sweet spot and a gradient showing your likelihood for success. I love the new tackling system but will say it takes some time to get used to. Doing an aggressive tackle is extremely reckless so you have to really time it and be careful when you use it. But nothing is more exciting than making a big hit that results in a loss or better yet, a turnover.
You also have more control over what happens at the line of scrimmage. After the ball is snapped you have to hit R2 right away to get a jump on the offensive line and then hit either X or Square to try to get past them. It gives you a ton more control over the battle in the trenches without feeling to “gamey.”
Madden has become so refined over the years that it's hard to point out any major glaring issues. However, there are some areas that still need work. I’m still not sold on Jim Nanntz and Phil Simms in the commentary booth. I enjoy them on Sundays, but they come off a little flat still in the game. Simms in particular has some lines that have stayed the same for many years now and can be pretty frustrating for hardcore fans. They're however vastly improved when it comes to breaking down the actual on-field action. Their comments seem more in line with what is actually happening. Its the pre-snap banter that comes off forced. There are all-new half-time, injury updates, and end of game wrap up segments which are far better then any previous game.
The one glaring weakness in Madden NFL 15 is the lack of updates to any of the major game modes. The skills trainer is still fantastic and has been expanded this year with more training sessions to go through. This might be the most fun training mode in a sports game. Its super addicting and the expansion is good but not revolutionary. There's a very close replica of last years connected franchise mode which allows you to play online or offline by taking the role of a player, coach, or GM. There are some slight tweaks but the overall package is almost the same. I've never been a big advocate for Ultimate Team so if that's something your into I can't give you an major feedback on how this one differs from years past.
This might be the best all-around Madden game in the last ten years. In past iterations we've had the development focus on presentation or gameplay, but Madden NFL 15 pushes the envelope in both categories. Visually Madden has never looked better and the focus on making the on-screen action feel more like what you see on Sundays is impressive. Combine that with the stellar upgrades to the defensive side of the ball and this is just a great game of football. And really isn't that all we really want? A great game of football.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.