Madden NFL 15 Review (Xbox 360)
A popular internet axiom states that “what has been seen cannot be unseen.” And so it is with Madden. If you’ve been following the media for Madden 15, you may have set some pretty high expectations. If you’ve played Madden 15 on either the PS4 or Xbox One, you may find that many of those expectations are (finally) met this year, as you can read in our official review.
So to step back and objectively look at Madden 15 on “last-gen” consoles can be tough. For whatever reasons, this version of the game lacks many of the new, innovative and fun additions touted all summer. Things that I consider literally game-changing -- like the ability to switch between cameras on the fly -- are nowhere to be found on older consoles.
If you only own a 360 or PS3, this may come as a disappointment. However, instead of bemoaning these features’ absences, let's look at what the game actually does on its own. Then you can decide if it warrants a purchase, or if you are safe simply upgrading Madden 25’s roster.
If you played a lot of Madden 25 on the 360 or PS3, Madden 15 -- at least in game -- will seem pretty familiar. Player movement, interaction and animations will seem nearly identical to last years version of the game, with only a few exceptions.
First, running is slighlty more difficult. I found it hard to consistently find holes after escaping the first level of the defense; sometimes those weren’t even open long enough to exploit. I’m guessing that this is an intentional move on EA’s part, as it was evident in the next gen iteration as well. I’m not sure if the defensive players were tuned up or offensive line made weaker, but it will take patience execution and ability to adjust. It does, however, make the running game feel more rewarding when you do hit the holes correctly.
Next, the tackling cone has been added when controlling a defensive player. I like the addition, as it gives you a graphical indication of where the tackle will land and helps “aim” your player into proper position. The cone system also provides a level of risk/reward, mirroring the hit stick on a button and offering another control for conservative tackles. Hard hits produce fumbles (not overdone, in my opinion), but have a far greater chance of missing. This risk is amplified when using a poor tackler against a shifty running back.
More reliable is the conservative tackle, which often causes a wrap-up style tackle. Using the conservative tackle, I didn’t see quite so many “dive” tackles--though this could be a visual illusion caused by the cone’s extended “range.” Regardless, tackling feels good this year, even if the only change was the addition of the tackling cone.
The defensive line controls have changed a bit, moving from the stick to the buttons. Similar to the tackling controls, there is a button for finesse moves and one for power moves. You can also push a lineman without disengaging.
Beyond these noticeable changes, the gameplay overall seems just a bit more polished. Receivers appear to take better routes, screen plays work more consistently, and the option doesn’t feel as overpowered. I didn’t see as many strange animations as I have in the past. After a play, I saw two players become stuck to one another while trying to get up. Humorous, but it definitely ruins immersion.
Also continuing to ruin immersion are legacy issues which have appeared in past versions of Madden. Crossing routes, curls and out-routes are still a little too easy to complete. I’ve seen some magical interceptions. Penalties are way too infrequent -- which will appear worse if the NFL continues to call them at alarming rates.
Perhaps the worst issue, from a gameplay standpoint, is the near flawless play of even the most average quarterbacks. In preseason games, the CPU backup QB typically finished with a 80-90% accuracy rating. Andrew Luck didn’t throw an incompletion against me for an entire half. While this issue may be fixed by sliders, it’s too bad it isn’t correct out of the box.
Presentation and Graphics
Beyond some cosmetic changes, the visual broadcast presentation is effectively the same as last year. Menus get a slight update, and the halftime show is a series of (un narrated) replays. Facial models seem a bit more realistic, especially on coaches and the broadcasters, though not necessary more accurate -- some players are simply unrecognizable. I was also getting a lot of stuttering cutscenes though -- nothing terrible, just moments of “hitchiness.”
Speaking of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, the commentary is still as hit-or-miss as ever. Generally, play-by-play is OK; there are some repetitive comments and obvious sound edits. However, it is the color commentary that produces the most embarrassing results: mistimed, inaccurate, or simply goofy dialogues. For instance, I hit a 51-yard field goal with 15 seconds left, and Simms and Nantz enter a routine about how it was a chip shot. At first, I thought they were being sarcastic.
The playcalling menus are also similar to last year, including the option to turn on GameFlow. There is an option to run at a chew-clock pace, but if you want to run a high octane offense you’ll have to manually no-huddle after each play.
While camera switching isn’t in, I do love the All-22 camera which mimics coach’s film. It is sometimes impractical to use, but looks great in passing situations.
Kickers and punters now have access to a single kicking trajectory that indicates where the ball will go on an ideal kick. This is helpful, but also feels a bit gimmicky -- punts especially become too easy.
Connected Franchise, Ultimate Team, Online, and Skills Trainer/Gauntlet are in/back and on par with the PS4/Xbox One editions. We are running distinct articles on each of these, so I encourage you to check these out over the few days.
However, I’ll point out some notable items within these modes:
- I love the Gauntlet mode, and how it tests what you’ve learned through the Skills Trainer.
- The game planning phase of CFM is welcome, though a little too abstracted. Where are they getting the hours number from? What are the other 50 or so guys doing while you train a wide receiver? It’s a start, but not perfect.
- Ultimate Team Mode has been streamlined, and for the better. Many more single player options than before. Still feels like a cash grab, though.
- There’s a lot of CFM glitch discussion going on in the forums. It’s worth noting that some users are seeing disappearing players, relocated teams with old endzones, etc.
So, is Madden 15 worth the upgrade? I’d say if you are happy with how Madden 25 plays, you may be disappointed with the lack of true innovation in Madden 15. However, there are a lot of little things to appreciate this year (tackle cone, The Gauntlet, better running,etc), and we’ve certainly seen worse year-to-year development in the past.
But, as I said, it’s hard to look objectively at Madden 15 on the older consoles after playing on the new ones. So much is missing, it doesn’t compare graphically, it “feels” old, etc.
But if you look at it another way, Madden 15 represents the best Madden has been on this generation of console. Gameplay between running/passing and offense/defense has never been more balanced. Graphically, it represents a slight upgrade over Madden 25. And with the addition of Skill Trainer and the Gauntlet, there are enough modes and hours of gameplay to last you until next football season.
Learning Curve: Will definitely feel familiar, but the outstanding Skills Trainer will teach you what you need to know
Control Scheme: Small additions, like the Tackling Cone and the kick trajectory help refine the overall controls. Others, like the defensive line changes, are a sideways move.
Visuals: Slightly better than last year, especially with faces. Lighting may be a bit better as well, but I saw some pretty ugly and flat skies.
Audio: Commentary stinks, at least in comparison to what is being done in other games.
Score: 7.5 (Good)