Madden 15 First Impressions

     Madden 15 came out on August 26, officially beginning Madden Season.  I was able to pick up the game this on Saturday, so now that I’ve had a little while to play the game, I thought I’d give my first impressions.  I haven’t gotten into every mode yet, and I’ve only played about five games total, but I think a lot was revealed in those games, and I have a good idea of what Madden 15 is like.
     The main focus this year seemed to be in the gameplay, more specifically on defense.  Defense really does feel more engaging in this year’s game, and while it will never be as fun to play as offense, there is a lot more excitement in playing D this year.  The ability to time snap counts and more actively rush the quarterback are welcome additions.
     One of my main gripes with Madden 25 was the fact that when you were attempting a tackle or an interception, if you were too far away to make the play, you didn’t get an animation, making you feel helpless on defense.  This year, for any move you make there will be an animation, leaving it really up to you to plan out your tackles, ballhawks, and when to try to cause fumbles.  No longer can you simply hold down the Y button on Xbox or its Playstation counterpart to pick off any passes in your general area.  Everything takes proper timing.
    Normally in Madden offense is way overpowered in comparison to defense, leading to shootout 49-45 games frequently online.  This has changed as well, and scores are more realistic.  My three online ranked games so far have been a 21-10 win, a 31-28 loss, and a 33-21 win.  I think this has a lot to do with how defenses have become stronger.  Defenses now seem to read and react and won’t get caught by the same money play all game long.  You need to switch it up.  Outside running and many of the common money plays have been nerfed this year, but feel realistic.  Out routes work pretty good against man coverage, just like in real life, but shouldn’t be taken as a 100% first down play like in previous years.  Offense this year will be more based on playing possession football and picking up first downs rather than trying to go 80 yards on two plays.  This is great news to me.
     To sum up the gameplay aspect, I think it’s great.  People will always find blitzes and money plays that are more effective than they should be, but I don’t think there will be near as many this year.  The goal was realistic gameplay, and they achieved it.  The great players this year will be ones who can react to their opponents and make adjustments, just the way Madden should be.
     Okay, I guess that was a lot of gameplay impressions, but to me gameplay is the most important aspect of Madden, especially as someone who spends 75% of their Madden time participating in online ranked matches.
     The presentation this year is top notch as well, and overall very visually appealing.  I would say this is the best looking sports game on the market.  The next-gen consoles really make everything look polished.  Player faces are only improving, and while they aren’t great, the ones with the most work put into them are the best players in the league.  Stadiums are now unique as well with team-specific jumbo-trons that highlight important events on the field.  There are also many new animations, that I’ve especially noticed in block shedding, spectacular catches, and tackles.  These are a nice addition, and add to the variety that can be seen on the field.
     There’s a new play calling system that looks very nice in this year’s game, however is not as smooth as in the previous years.  The traditional horizontal box play calling has been replaced with a vertical system.  My biggest issue is that it’s a little confusing as to what button corresponds with which play.  I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now I’m calling the wrong play a little more than I would like to.  Also new is the ability to pick a play by concept, in addition to the traditional choosing of a play type as well as coach’s suggestion.
     Back in the commentary booth again are both Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, supposedly with 80 hours of new dialogue in this game.  Overall the commentary does sound a lit bit smoother, and I have heard some of the new lines in the game.  Something I really like is that now instead saying “that linebacker made a good play on that interception” the duo will say something like “Patrick Willis will ask coach to play tight end after making that catch!”  Adding in these lines really helps the game and removes a lot of the poor, generic commentary that Madden is known for.
     Another new feature is the halftime show.  Again, aesthetically this looks nice, but in reality it’s nothing too special and something 95% of players will just skip through.  It’s going to take a lot more to make a pleasing halftime show, but it’s an okay start.
     That’s enough about the in-game.  Outside of the game, the set up is basically the same.  Again, it looks a little nicer and that’s great.  Every mode that was there last year is back again, and it’s all in the same places.  The online hub looks the exact same as still functions nicely.  Ultimate team and connected franchise mode are both back, and fundamentally the same, but with nice touches here and there that serious players will notice and appreciate, such as the weekly practice hours feature in connected franchise.
     Cam Newton (aka Ace Boog1e) will guide you through the new skills trainer mode, in a role similar to John Madden himself and Trey Wingo have done in previous years.  New to this is a football concepts section that deals with the fundamentals of the game.  I haven’t delved into this yet, but as always the practice modes are good for testing things out and refining your game.
     So overall, my experience with Madden 15 has been a very strong one.  The game has improved a lot, mostly in the gameplay in an effort to make the game more about playing smart football than anything else.  Madden 25 last year was a bit of a disappointment for me, so I’m pleased to announce that Madden 15 could be the best Madden I’ve ever played, and certainly the best since Madden 12, three years ago.  If you are a football fan and have a Xbox or Playstation, current-gen or next-gen, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Madden 15.  I know I’ll be playing it.

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