02:00 AM - August 21, 2014 by MMChrisS
I have spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of days playing the retail release of Madden NFL 15, which is set to release in a limited format to EA Access customers later today. To put it simply, this is probably the best Madden ever from a technical perspective and may be some of the most fun I’ve had with the franchise in years.
Here are my pros and cons after about ten full games:
• Defense is fun again — There are multiple mini games you can now effectively partake in on each play on defense. Beating the OL is a timing mini-game of sorts which requires you to jump the snap and then make an effectively timed and directionally smart move to get to the QB. You can tell when you are facing an elite OT, because he will feel like a brick wall on many/most plays.
• Quarterbacks feel different — I don’t have enough info to safely say the pass accuracy is fixed, but playing Peyton Manning feels like you are playing a more elite level QB versus, say a Matt Cassel. Defensively, I found that it was even more of a rush to get to the QB when he was better, because you knew he was going to make decisions faster.
• Good news, the tackle cone doesn’t suck — From my initial play-sessions with Madden, it appears the tackle cone is not a major in your face type of addition many feared. The new tackling system adds a risk/reward setup to what used to be a very boring aspect of the game.
• Defenders are smarter — Zone defenders are much smarter this year, with players reacting to the ball much faster resulting in much narrower throwing lanes. This is going to make a lot of people used to soft zones very angry initially.
• The New Connected Franchise Options Are Great — Setting up a weekly gameplan or repairing your team’s busted up confidence is such a great series of decisions to have to make each week. Alex Smith had a horrible game against the Broncos and his confidence sank, so I had to spend valuable preparation points to raise his confidence back up. These are the things you don’t see in the NFL, but things coaches have to do to ensure players are at the top of their game.
• Community Playcalling is surprisingly good — The playcalling feature which I thought was nothing more than a gimmick actually seems to be pretty good at both conveying information that you would find relevant in both how users and how you use it. It makes the whole experience feel more connected.
• Thank goodness for the new cameras — Seriously, the new cameras and how they've been implemented (fast switching) is something which should be universal in sports games. It's that good -- it doesn't hurt the camera angles themselves are quite good, including the new over the shoulder defensive angle you can switch to on defense. Major kudos EA.
• The graphics, audio, and in-game broadcast presentation have arrived — It has long been a dream to have Madden look and feel like the rest of the major sports games in our genre, it always lagged behind. This year, at least to me, I feel like the presentation and graphics are both up there with anything you can find on store shelves today. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely gotten to a point where it’s clearly quite good.
• The playcalling menus really need to quit defaulting to the community playcall screen — I swear the amount of manpower and hours I’m going to spend backing up one menu layer to get to my preferred playcalling screen is going to make me sad. Bonus points for the playcalling menus not having that weird lag where I literally miss my option a lot.
• QBs may still be too accurate out of the box — I need to run more tests, but I’m pretty sure QBs may be more accurate out of the box than realism would suggest is possible. The good news is, slider combinations are going to fix this largely.
• The game’s first boot takes too long to get to action you care about — We can do without this nonsense.
• The new kick meter is hit or miss — At first, I actually missed a couple of field goals, but now I seem to be automatic again. I need to test this out more.
Thus far, Madden NFL 15 is really shaping up great. I still have a lot to check out within the game before I end up posting my final review. However, my initial thoughts are pretty strongly in favor of this year’s Madden. This is still Madden football, just a better and more true to life version of it. It’s too early whether to say Madden belongs amongst the discussion with the traditional great games in our genre, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tempting to suggest its possible at this point.
Look for my full review in a day or two here on OS. Madden NFL 15 releases later today (noon) for EA Access users in a limited six-hour demo, and will be out next Tuesday in stores.