As of Monday, there are exactly 15 days until Madden 15 releases on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
All of the player ratings have been released, and the key features for all of the franchise's modes have been unveiled. Most recently, we learned about the new wrinkles in the Connected Franchise mode. You can read the entire story on the mode here.
For those who are unaware, CF blends the conventional concepts of a franchise mode with online play and the single player control themes popularized by My Player in the NBA 2K series.
Ideally, it could be the best of all worlds. Here's how it breaks down this year.
Game Prep and Confidence
There's almost always a new concept introduced to the Connected Franchise module. This year, it's the implementation of Game Prep and Confidence.
Essentially, these new additions make it possible for players within your CF to have hot and cold streaks as well as simulate the preparation players and coaches must perform to ready themselves for every game.
Any options that bring gamers closer to a real NFL experience is a good idea.
How does it work?
Each player on every roster has a confidence rating ranging from 1 to 99. The number can change based on a variety of factors.
Losing games, playing poorly and trades can bring a player's confidence rating down. Winning and playing well will have the opposite effect. Some situations carry more weight than others. Losing at home and to rivals will have a bigger impact on players' confidence.
After every game, gamers will see a screen that shows the impact the last game had on each player's confidence rating.
This is an outstanding new concept, but it's important that the impact be significant in the game. The worst thing that can happen with this is for gamers to ignore it without consequence.
Gamers who initially disregard their teams' confidence ratings should get a wake-up call when their players underperform. If that doesn't happen, the confidence rating will become an empty feature.
Practice and game planning is a major part of an NFL week. The practice mode was supposed to bring a bit of that feel in previous Maddens, but it never seemed necessary or compelling.
In this year's Madden, game prep almost sounds like the recruiting engine used in NCAA Football.
Each week, players are given a set amount of time to prep. Gamers can decide how those virtual hours are spent for each player. Since every player is different in regards to skill, experience and awareness, ideal game prep can vary from player to player.
When a team has a Monday night game after a traditional Sunday contest, it'll have more prep time than normal. When a Sunday game follows a Monday game, the team will have less prep time.
The game prep options will impact a player's XP (experience points) or his confidence. The XP-related activities help to build the player's attributes. The activities that boost confidence ensure that the player plays to his current capabilities.
Gamers have to decide which is the best approach for their team.
Conceptually, this is fantastic. However, just like the overall confidence rating, the consequences for ignoring game prep need to be felt in the game. If not, it'll be just another aspect of the game that'll be skipped by gamers who just want to get on the virtual field.
If you're like me, the offseason is just as fun to go through in a sports video game as the regular season. The free-agent dealing, drafting and trading allows gamers to channel their inner Phil Emery and Jerry Jones.
Here are the new wrinkles being added to the team management portion of CF.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
This year, free agents will have other factors beyond money to consider. Team needs, the scheme and the coach's abilities will all play a role in a free agent's decision to sign with a team.
What does that mean? Essentially, a linebacker who is used to playing in a 3-4 scheme will be more apt to sign with a team that plays his preferred style.
This is very realistic and something that probably should have been included years ago. Nonetheless, it's good to see it added this year.
The New Guys
With no NCAA Football, the business of injecting rookies into CF has gotten a little complicated. This year, random draft classes will be created at the end of every season. Why is this important? Because a lot of guys who play CF online have also played offline.
If a gamer has progressed through four seasons or so offline, he or she would have a preview of the draft class, which could give him or her a leg up on other owners in his or her CF.
With randomized draft classes, this won't be an issue.
This approach is good, and it ties in with the random branching storylines. Now the identities of these fictional players will have even more possibilities.
There is something still missing from this aspect of the game, though. Gamers still will not be able to edit draft classes. This is probably EA Sports' way of cautiously approaching the touchy subject concerning collegiate athlete likenesses.
That's understandable, but taking the ability to customize rookies hurts the quality of the offseason experience.
In Madden 25, relocating a franchise was possible, but the process wasn't as expansive as it should have been.
There appears to be more customization on the way on this front. More uniform options and logo creation will be available. That should allow gamers to put more creativity into their relocated franchises.
A create-a-team or even expansion option would be an ideal extension. Having the ability to do either or both of these things would allow gamers to better craft their own NFL experience.
In the end, that's what a franchise mode is supposed to be about. Stay tuned for a larger preview and subsequent review closer to release.
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