Sunday 25 March 2018

Madden NFL 15 Review: Slow build but great depth

Frank Whelan

Frank Whelan

Tis the season for EA Sports updates and first to the mark is Madden NFL 15, probably the most complex and ultimately rewarding of the upcoming titles.

8/10; PS3, PS4, Xbox360, XBO; EA

I generally consider myself "OK" when it comes to knowing the basics of American Football, but that notion always goes out the window when confronted with a new Madden. Traditionally a game that takes a few tries before it clicks, the latest Madden has even more gameplay depth and ultimately a greater reward.

Luckily, Madden NFL 15 boasts an extensive training camp feature. Never one for reading instruction booklets, I admittedly tried a few matches before boot camp. My enjoyment was mediocre. After learning some of the gameplay nuances, I found myself deeply engrossed.

The offensive play has been tweaked, but is recognisable to anyone who has picked up a Madden game over the last few years.

Defense is a whole new world. In previous versions, it was usually a case of guessing the offensive play and hoping the AI did its job. It effectively felt a lot like waiting for your turn. The new defense system gives the user full control over players, even granting the ability to lock-in on a player for the duration of a play. Once locked in, the camera will follow the chosen player throughout.

The snap is now exciting regardless of possession. In the defensive line there's a beautiful sense of anticipation, followed by some well-timed button mashing. Defense goes beyond a one button operation though, with the ability to angle the offensive linesman before hopefully peeling off and sacking the Quarter Back. With a choice of tackling options more split second decisions are required. A power tackle fully commits to a dive, a conservative tackle may not have a hard enough hit and an attempt rip the ball has a low success rate but can result in a turnover. Different players hit harder and can burst through tackles easier, so it's another level of depth to consider.

These changes suddenly elevate the personal investment in each play. There's something beautiful about sacking the quarterback before he can pass. I'll admit, I did find myself shouting put-downs at the screen in an American accent, and that was in single-player.

Online multiplayer seems to spawn nothing but instant grudge matches. Again, with the addition of the defense improvements, every moment is head-to-head. There are few things finer than faking a punt and robbing a few yards with a cheeky run.

As you'd hope with a next-gen offering, the graphics are superb. The build-up and commentary for each match feels worthy of a sports network and even comes with the realistic addition of sponsored sections you can't skip.

Player movements are superb and natural, with very few moments where you're aware it's a pre-programmed celebration.

So why not a perfect score? If Madden NFL 15 has a failing compared to predecessors, it's in the game modes.

You can play through the main game as a few different entities, such as manager or player. It's a great way to enjoy a campaign involving only the parts of the game you enjoy.

Ultimate Team strikes me as a bit of a gimmick. It's a feature EA seem to be rolling out for most of their games, probably on the back of their successful mobile franchise outings, but it feels too much of a cash grab. I love the idea of assembling a legendary team, but once spending real money enters the equation, in addition to meaningless randomly generated tokens to collect, the whole thing starts to stink.

If Ultimate Team was just an add-on, I could grudgingly ignore it, I'm sure it appeals to a lot of massive real world NFL fans, but its comes with the exclusion of the create-your-own-team mode.

There will be no Dublin Destroyers winning the superbowl, nor is there an option for NCAA fans to recreate there favourite college teams. It seems an odd decision to remove a mode that only has the affect of allowing an extra level of personal investment.

Madden NFL 15 is a must-have for American Football fans and extremely enjoyable for the rest of us, once you're prepared for the initially steep learning curve.

(Version Reviewed: PS4)

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