Madden NFL 15 was released on Tuesday in North America, and the video game has been met with positive reviews. The general consensus is that this year's annual edition of Madden is not a letdown, carried forward primarily by the improvements made to the gameplay on defense.
Whether it's the more realistic tackling techniques and the variety of animations contained therein, the increased pre-snap control or any other number of fresh features, that side of the ball helps this simulation stand out.
In honor of the game hitting stores, the official NFL on ESPN account tweeted a tribute to all the past releases, including the most recent one:
Let's take a look at some reviews from several prominent publications, along with the scores and overall assessments on the popular Madden franchise's latest effort.
Ben Silverman, Yahoo Sports
One remark Silverman makes is how fitting Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is as this year's lucky player to grace the Madden cover. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl 43-8, shutting down the Denver Broncos' record-breaking, Peyton Manning-led offense.
That caters to the theme of improved Madden defense, which has added a dynamic new dimension to defensive line play. Much like it is on a real NFL field, the men in the trenches have to time up their rush to win the leverage battle and blow up plays before they develop.
Silverman goes into detail about this concept and the controls utilized to execute the actions:
Defense has been improved at the line of scrimmage as well. Pressing a trigger right at the snap gives your player a boost; tap the correct button and you’ll glide past blockers with a clear path to the QB. While vets might find it all a little overbearing, the empowering of defensive lineman gives what’s traditionally been a stagnant part of the gameplay a much-needed burst of energy.
An even more in-depth explanation is provided by the game's creative director, Rex Dickson, in the video below, where he describes the buttons for PS4:
The commentary by the CBS team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms has drawn criticism from just about every corner for its lack of originality, including from this review.
"Maybe bring back Big John himself? I’d rather watch his Tinactin commercials than listen to these two blandly banter," writes Silverman.
However, it is hard to account for every scenario involving so many teams, so perhaps that can be a focus for the creative Madden minds for next year.
Alex Gelhar, NFL.com: "A hard-hitting success"
Although no specific score was given, it's evident that Gelhar is digging the new Madden. A lot of similar sentiments were expressed as in Silverman's review, namely regarding the defensive upgrades.
To summarize his thoughts, Gelhar had a "Conclusion" section, an excerpt of which follows:
So far, this is the most fun I've had playing a "Madden" game in awhile, and that doesn't figure to change. I just scratched the surface of all "Madden NFL 15" had to offer in time for this review, and the new defensive gameplay gives this edition endless replay-ability. It's refreshing to see the franchise taking a big step forward after listening to the fans, and hopefully this step forward is on a new path to continuous improvement.
Part of what has made the defense more formidable is the perpetually increasing difficulty Madden is setting up with regard to passing. This creates an interesting dynamic between how the league tilts the rules today and how important quarterback play is.
While NFL rules allow passing offenses to thrive at an unprecedented rate, only a truly elite quarterback can capitalize on that. Madden rewards the game's premier passers with a noticeable leg up in terms of accuracy, as the raw throwers will find it difficult to complete even routine balls.
Top-tier QBs can also manage the chess match that often transpires at the line of scrimmage. Gelhar praises the revamped play-calling feature as another strength of the new game—and rightfully so.
Studying offensive and defensive tendencies to infer the proper play to call is a great way to engage gamers in a simulation that transcends virtual reality in some ways, and to also convert Madden newcomers.
Terry Terrones, The Gazette
The first part of the review drives home the point about how this is the 26th game to be produced in the Madden franchise, which is a crowning achievement in and of itself.
That there was still room for further innovation amid a tricky conversion to next-gen consoles makes Madden NFL 15 an even more impressive product. As for the specifics of what Terrones liked, he opted to focus on the expanded Skills Trainer feature.
EA Sports refers to this as The Gauntlet, a practice setting that affords gamers the opportunity to improve their football IQ, scout out a prospective opponent and compete in an alternative setting to a standard game:
Terrones refers to the inevitable enhancement to the graphics, which comes almost by default, with the territory of the next-gen transition.
One critique that yours truly hasn't seen in other reviews is of the cover, where Terrones loathes the fact that Sherman graces the cover. It is evident that Terrones has a distaste for Sherman's antics—even though the superstar backed them up with brilliant individual play and helped the Seahawks hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Sherman's outspoken, extroverted attitude, his savvy football instincts and defensive prowess in many ways make him the perfect cover athlete, though. Seattle proved that defense can still win championships, while Madden is proving that defense can win the hearts of the video game's skeptics.
As the wait begins for next year's game, there is plenty to keep gamers satisfied in the interim. The graphics are likely to be mind-blowing as ever with the next release. The hope is that the same level of improvements in both tactics and visual display can be achieved too, as has been the case with Madden NFL 15.