Heading into its sophomore season on next-generation consoles, Madden 15 is like a player who showed promise in his rookie season and threw fans into a frenzy when considering what the future holds.
If the reviews that continue to roll in are any indication, there is no sophomore slump for the sports video game juggernaut.
Generally speaking, Madden and other sports franchises tend to hit a speed bump during the leap to new hardware, but EA Sports has dodged the proverbial bullet by zeroing in on where it matters most—the field itself.
Below, let's take a look at the release info, the all-important player ratings and some excerpts from various reviews to paint a portrait of what this year's iteration of the game has to offer fans.
Madden 15 Info
Release Date: Aug. 26 (North America) and Aug. 29 (Europe)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, XBox 360 and 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
It is plain as day from reviews that EA Sports spent its offseason on the hunt for a more balanced approach to gameplay.
Fans will recall that recent iterations of the franchise seemed to overly mimic the sport itself in that the passing game for each team was ridiculously potent no matter who lined up under center. Fans could make the New York Jets' Geno Smith—who completed 55.8 percent of his passes and threw nine more interceptions than touchdowns last year—look like Peyton Manning.
That does not appear to be the case anymore thanks to a performance improvement on the defensive side of the football. Brett Molina of USA Today elaborates:
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).
Obviously, right? Seattle's Richard Sherman is on the cover of the game, after all.
But the improvements to defense also come via some tweaks on offense. Will Brinson of CBS Sports notes that the Geno Smiths of the world will be just that on the virtual landscape:
"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.
To top it all off, the art of the tackle itself is now completely up to those who hold the controller, rather than a bevy of per-rendered animations after directing a virtual player to the ball-carrier—animations that diehard fans surely have down to memory at this point.
Instead, tackling itself is a strategic endeavor, as Alex Rubens of IGN.com illustrates:
Fighting your way through the offensive line with the mashing of the face buttons is an exciting charge.
Then, if you manage to break free, you actually get to control how your tackle attempt plays out. It isn’t just about running at players and hitting them. You can choose to tackle high or low, and even modify the intensity of your hit. It’s all contextual and built toward being more realistic. This is increasingly important as the wonky physics system introduced in Madden 13 is still present, though slightly more refined.
For those who would put a lot of stock into visuals and the overall presentation package, Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News provides some insight:
Combined with several new presentation features, the on-field Madden action is better than ever. Visually, the game takes a massive step forward in 2014, starting with more accurate player faces. A host of players – including Super Bowl MVP Russell Wilson – are stunningly recreated, something that the game highlights by using plenty of close-up camera angles as part of a more TV-like presentation.
Gameplay reigns supreme for aficionados of the sport, but casual fans and beyond can also appreciate an accurate recreation of various broadcasts of the real thing.
Thanks to the horsepower afforded by new consoles, EA Sports seems to have made the appropriate upgrades in this department, too.
To paint in broad strokes, the general consensus seems to be that EA Sports has done right by fans, especially when it comes to the on-field action.
More importantly, though, is that Madden 15 provides a nice foundation for future iterations to build on, as Molina muses:
However, Madden NFL 15 does lack that one significant feature that sets it apart. Instead, players get a series of smaller improvements to bolster the experience. But it seems EA is better suited to managing the growing pains that come with the shift to new hardware.
While some game modes seem to lack in the depth department, it is hard to argue with the approach EA Sports has taken to a new generation. The play itself matches the real thing first and foremost, so everything else can come in time.
Fans in search of a virtual representation that mirrors the real thing will enjoy this year's edition of the game.