Title: Madden NFL 15
Format: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
The Grade: A
What is it? The 26th edition of one of gaming’s most popular sports franchises. That’s right; Madden football titles have been around for 26 seasons. 26! Of course, there’s a reason for that. This series has been one of the most consistent and reliable in video game history and as long time Madden fans would expect, this latest edition is full of upgrades and new features.
A focus on defense. Over its last few iterations, playing defense has become more work than play in Madden, with gamers just waiting for their turn to play offense. Looking to make playing as a linebacker as much fun as playing as a running back, EA has made some sweeping changes to make tackling, covering wide receivers and bulldozing through blockers more fun.
A new set of pass rush tools allows gamers to steer offensive lineman, shed blocks, jump the snap and beat blockers to get to the backfield. Defensive players can now choose to make aggressive or conservative tackles in the open field. Aggressive tackles can lead to big plays and fumbles, but conservative tackles are more effective and won’t give up extra yards. My favorite defensive addition is the new Point of View camera angles. Players can lock in on a single defender to try and make big plays and see the action from that player’s perspective.
Skill Trainer expansion. I’ve always been a fan of Madden’s Skill Trainer mode, where players can perform in a practice-like setting. This mode has been greatly expanded with 50 new tutorials and drills that teach not only gameplay skills but strategy and football concepts as well. That’s right, Skill Trainer can help gamers learn how to read zone defenses and when to hot route a receiver not just in a video game, but on Sundays in real games as well. Once players have mastered the basics, you can enter The Gauntlet where skills are put to the test through challenges and extreme boss battles.
Attention to detail: From the new in-game play suggestions (which recommends plays based on down and distance) to the all-new broadcast presentation featuring Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, to the vastly enhanced graphics, it’s clear developer EA Tiburon put a ton of work into this title. With so many enhancements and improvements, including a long overdue overhaul of the kicking game, “Madden NFL 15,” is the most authentic Madden to date.
Richard Sherman? Seriously? “Madden 15” follows up last year’s successful title with yet another gem so it’s pretty hard to find many flaws with this game. Unfortunately for Broncos fans however, the cover for this year’s Madden is sure to be a bit of a distraction. All-Pro cornerback and trash talker Richard Sherman, a Seattle Seahawk defender, is this year’s Madden cover athlete. There he stands, right hand up as if saying, “It’s not enough for my team to have thumped you in the Super Bowl but now you have to endure looking at me in your homes as well. Don’t like it? Talk to the hand.” Seeing Sherman makes me long for the day when EA gives gamers the option of printing out their own cover but I guess we’ll have to wait for that.
The verdict: You don’t make it through 26 seasons of a video game series by pure luck. Engaging and enjoyable gameplay are a requirement for that kind of longevity and this latest title continues to demonstrate both in spades. With “Madden 15,” EA once again shows that they have their NFL football formula down to a science, with gamers benefitting from their continued fine-tuning.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.