The Madden video game franchise has dominated the market over the past decade. As a result, the game hit a bit of a lull in recent years with a lack of groundbreaking features to intrigue gamers. EA Sports hopes Madden NFL 15 can reinvigorate interest.
Even though the franchise had upgrades each year, they weren't game-changing developments, especially for those used to buying the game every year. Having a full year to work with the new consoles should lead to improved results this time around, though.
With that in mind, let's check out all of the important information with the game set to be released in both North America and Europe over the next week. The details are followed by some points of interest from different reviews of the latest edition.
Key Game Details
Release Date: Aug. 26 (North America) and Aug. 29 (Europe)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, XBox 360 and XBox One
The transition to a new generation of consoles is always difficult for a long-running franchise. That was obvious last year as EA Sports basically had to create the game on the fly, with Playstation 4 and XBox One being released after the game went out on the older systems.
In turn, there were some relatively minor issues with the gameplay and the overall presentation wasn't as smooth as usually associated with the franchise on the other consoles. With another year of development, most of those problems should be in the past.
So the focus turns to the upgrades.
Brett Molina of USA Today notes many of the improvements come on the defensive side of the ball. Perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise with cornerback Richard Sherman of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on the cover.
Defenders not under player control have improved intelligence, regardless of whether they play man-to-man or zone defense. The best defensive players in the NFL shine more brightly—such as Sherman, who is very tough to pass against (unless you have difficulty settings dialed down).
That shows notable progress. Getting the defense to work as more of a cohesive unit has been an ongoing effort in Madden for quite some time. And while top edge-rushers have often shined in the game, getting big names at the other levels to produce like stars is a major positive.
Another highlight on the defensive side of the ball involves tackling. Anthony Taormina of Game Rant points out gamers will now get to choose the type of tackle they want to perform, which leads to a decision between risk and reward:
With the new conservative and aggressive tackling system, players can decide how much risk they want to involve in bringing down a runner, rather than letting the game make the decision for them. As a result, defense as a whole becomes a more competent component of the Madden puzzle, not the lull between offensive downs.
One other change that's likely to have a noticeable impact on the defense, even though it's an offensive alteration, relates to passing accuracy. It's been a point of contention in the past because even quarterbacks with lower ratings delivered pinpoint passes on a pretty regular basis.
Will Brinson of CBS Sports finally sees change in that area. He states there's a now clear difference based on the signal-caller running the offense:
"Pass inaccuracy" might sound like a bug but it's now a feature: the idea being the less accurate a quarterback is in real life, the less accurate they should be in virtual life. Jake Locker is going to miss on short passes more often than Russell Wilson in real life and that's now reflected in the game, no matter how good a player you might be.
That should help not only to separate the great quarterbacks from the average ones but also in terms of the overall realism factor of the gameplay.
Another upgrade on the offensive side of the ball involves the pre-snap reads. Bleacher Report's Brian Mazique puts the spotlight on a gamer's ability to get a clear look at where their advantages are on the field before snapping the ball:
At the line of scrimmage, you can cycle through the matchups between halfbacks, tight ends, fullbacks and wide receivers. A graphic appears on the screen that shows whether your player has an edge in several key categories such as speed, height, etc.
It's pretty slick.
In terms of areas of concern, the main issues outside of gameplay tweaks involve the overall depth of certain game modes. Matthew Kato of Game Informer still sees plenty of room for improvement when it comes to Connected Franchise mode:
I'm disappointed in the areas that haven't been addressed—not just for this year, but for multiple iterations running. The contract negotiations in Connected Franchise mode are limited, whether that's a lack of contract options during free agency or the fact that this portion of the offseason is still missing elements such as restricted free agents. An updated interface actually surfaces free agents' wishes more, but I still feel free agency and the offseason lacks drama and is too simplified (no practice squads).
While those things may not seem like a big deal, they are actually quite essential when it comes to playing that mode for an extended period of time. That said, given the switch to new consoles, it's not a major surprise there wasn't an overhaul of the mode this year.
Hopefully, once EA Sports is fully comfortable with the consoles, it will be able to go back into the specific modes and create a little more depth.
All told, it sounds like this year's version of the game makes some clear strides over its sometimes clunky counterpart from last fall. That was always going to be the most important thing after what amounted to a transition game.
Furthermore, although the gameplay changes aren't drastic, it appears there's an uptick in realism to go with the improved graphics. Only after a couple of months of intense play will EA Sports know if that was enough to satisfy longtime Madden players.