Less than a week's time sits in the way before NFL fans everywhere can get their hands on Madden 15, the latest installment in EA Sports' annual franchise.
As is the case each year, this new edition comes packed with a host of new features and improved gameplay that promises to even better mirror the on-field product for fans who simply cannot get enough of the sport.
While much of the attention this year has been leveled at the player ratings, which we gloss over here for good measure, the real meat of the new Madden experience is the new features that make the game even better.
Below, let's take a look at the three most notable upgrades fans will want to key in on right after ripping the game from its case.
Madden 15 Info
Release Date: August 26 in North America and August 29 in Europe
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Madden 15 Top Player Ratings
|Peyton Manning, DEN||Denver Broncos||98|
|Aaron Rodgers, GB||Green Bay Packers||98|
|Drew Brees, NO||New Orleans Saints||96|
|Russell Wilson, SEA||Seattle Seahawks||93|
|John Kuhn, GB||Green Bay Packers||93|
|Mike Tolbert, CAR||Carolina Panthers||92|
|Marcel Reece, OAK||Oakland Raiders||92|
|Anthony Sherman, KC||Kansas City Chiefs||90|
|Top Running Backs||Team||Rating|
|Adrian Peterson, MIN||Minnesota Vikings||98|
|LeSean McCoy, PHI||Philadelphia Eagles||97|
|Jamaal Charles, KC||Kansas City Chiefs||97|
|Matt Forte, CHI||Chicago Bears||95|
|Top Tight Ends||Team||Rating|
|Jimmy Graham, NO||New Orleans Saints||97|
|Rob Gronkowski, NE||New England Patriots||96|
|Vernon Davis, SF||San Francisco 49ers||94|
|Jason Witten, DAL||Dallas Cowboys||93|
|Top Wide Receivers||Team||Rating|
|Calvin Johnson, DET||Detroit Lions||99|
|Brandon Marshall, CHI||Chicago Bears||96|
|Andre Johnson, HOU||Houston Texans||95|
|A.J. Green, CIN||Cincinnati Bengals||95|
|Top Offensive Linemen||Team||Rating|
|Joe Thomas, CLE||Cleveland Browns||98|
|Evan Mathis, PHI||Philadelphia Eagles||97|
|Josh Sitton, GB||Green Bay Packers||97|
|Trent Williams, WAS||San Francisco 49ers||95|
|Top Defensive Ends||Team||Rating|
|J.J. Watt, HOU||Houston Texans||99|
|Robert Quinn, STL||St. Louis Rams||97|
|Cameron Wake, MIA||Miami Dolphins||96|
|Calais Campbell, ARI||Arizona Cardinals||96|
|Top Defensive Tackles||Team||Rating|
|Ndamukong Suh, DET||Detroit Lions||97|
|Geno Atkins, CIN||Cincinnati Bengals||96|
|Gerald McCoy, TB||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||95|
|Kyle Williams, BUF||Buffalo Bills||95|
|Top Middle Linebackers||Team||Rating|
|Patrick Willis, SF||San Francisco 49ers||96|
|NaVorro Bowman, SF||San Francisco 49ers||96|
|Luke Kuechly, CAR||Carolina Panthers||94|
|Derrick Johnson, KC||Kansas City Chiefs||91|
|Top Outside Linebackers||Team||Rating|
|Von Miller, DEN||Denver Broncos||96|
|Aldon Smith, SF||San Francisco 49ers||96|
|Justin Houston, KC||Kansas City Chiefs||93|
|Lavonte David, TB||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||93|
|Richard Sherman, SEA||Seattle Seahawks||99|
|Darrelle Revis, NE||New England Patriots||97|
|Joe Haden, CLE||Cleveland Browns||95|
|Patrick Peterson, ARI||Arizona Cardinals||93|
|Top Free Safeties||Team||Rating|
|Jairus Byrd, NO||New Orleans Saints||96|
|Earl Thomas, SEA||Seattle Seahawks||95|
|Devin McCourty, NE||New England Patriots||94|
|Eric Weddle, SD||San Diego Chargers||94|
|Top Strong Safeties||Team||Rating|
|Kam Chancellor, SEA||Seattle Seahawks||93|
|Troy Polamalu, PIT||Pittsburgh Steelers||93|
|T.J. Ward, DEN||Denver Broncos||91|
|Eric Berry, KC||Kansas City Chiefs||90|
|Top Kickers and Punters||Team||Rating|
|Brandon Fields, MIA||Miami Dolphins||96|
|Matt Prater, DEN||Denver Broncos||95|
|Andy Lee, SF||San Francisco 49ers||95|
|Robbie Gould, CHI||Chicago Bears||93|
Note: All Madden 15 player ratings courtesy of EASports.com
Player Sense 2.0
This was long overdue, and the thing fans will notice most upon booting up the game.
Remember in the good old days when defensive backs would swat away passes users threw after accelerating on apparent ice skates—without ever turning their head around, no less?
Gone. Thanks to improvements afforded by ever-evolving technology, EA Sports has been able to ensure that virtual defensive backs react realistically, which in turn will create a better balance between run and pass as it becomes more difficult to take to the air.
It applies to the offensive side of the football, too, as EASports.com details:
"Thanks to Real AI 2.0, computer quarterbacks understand different passing concepts, and will read defenders before making correct throws. They'll also audible and call hot routes based on Real AI, and also have improved logic for handling pressure in the pocket."
No more games against the computer in which the quarterback checks down for a majority of his passes.
For a franchise that strives to be a realistic simulation, this is a major step in that pursuit—and one fans will appreciate right away.
Updates to Connected Franchise
The strive for realism extends to the mental side of football on an individual basis.
One of the major points to this year's game is the addition of a confidence rating, a numeral between one and 99 that fluctuates based on a bevy of factors, as EA Sports' Josh Looman explains:
Among the things that can change a player’s confidence are losses, poor performances, trades, etc. How much confidence fluctuates is determined by several different factors: whether the player is a starter or backup, their consistency rating, and how big the game was. Get blown out by a rival at home? Confidence drops more than a one-point road loss.
As if that is not enough, the addition of Game Prep—which allows players to train each member of a roster to gain confidence or experience points on a weekly basis—puts the game mode over the top.
It seems that now the challenge of taking a struggling franchise and building it into a juggernaut is all the more intimate, as players have new ratings to manage and more productive things to do during the week that leads up to a game.
Remember the quarterback vision cone from back in the day?
Defenders are people, too. Now each member of a defensive unit has a tackle cone to utilize with a range of options, from the famous Hit Stick right on down to a conservative tackle best utilized in space.
It is a new wrinkle to classic gameplay that clearly emulates the decisions defenders in real games must make at a moment's notice based on a variety of factors.
Now players in control of the virtual athletes will be tasked with doing the same. In other words, the excellent simulation just took another major step in the right direction.