Madden NFL 15 Review (iOS)
The mobile game market seems to be suffering from a great divide: either you pay an upfront premium for a high-quality experience, or you get a “free” title that encourages money to trickle from your wallet over the long term.
Unfortunately, it seems that major sports titles are falling on the “freemium” side of that line. And, as is the case with all things, you often get what you pay for.
That’s true for this year’s version of iOS Madden 15, a decent playing game that’s been watered down due to the use of pay-to-play tactics and artificial limitations.
If we focus our look at gameplay to include only the action between the lines, Madden 15 is not a terrible mobile game. I think the players are decently animated, and move with a nice feel of weightiness. Running the ball is especially fun, with jukes controlled with a swipe of the finger.
Passing is simple enough—you touch the receiver you want to target. You can hold for a bullet throw, or tap for a lob, just like the console versions. Moving in the pocket is also easy, though I’ve found no way to scramble.
Defense is less enjoyable, as the small screen size and jumble of players makes it hard to see what’s going on in the trenches. The game also awkwardly requires you to use two fingers to auto-select the nearest player. Defending the pass is easier, since a simple swipe up at the right time will potentially cause an interception.
Overall, the gameplay reminds me a bit of early Maddens on the Gamecube or XBOX, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, the game is so easy that you won’t want to play for long.
Even though the game limits you to 1 minute quarters, you will probably have no trouble scoring in the 30s with regularity. I was able to return many kicks; most interceptions have the potential to go to the house. I’m not sure if it’s that players control too tightly for the AI or if the game is tuned to be this easy; either way, it’s not much fun after the first game or two.
Madden 15 on the iPhone/iPad is based, to some degree, on the Madden Ultimate Team mode found in the console game. So it’s expected that microtransactions are part of the game. While not explicitly needed, spending money will help you make a better team, though one is hardly needed to beat the CPU.
On top of the auctions, packs and sets to buy and collect, the game limits your time through “endurance,” which is spent by participating in games and short events. To be fair, this gets “regenerated” fairly often early on, but I imagine at some point you’ll need to spend some kind of currency to be able to play as often as you want.
You can play through short “live” events that change often, or you can play through your favorite team’s schedule. Keep in mind, you aren’t using your team’s players, but your collected squad.
You can also play head-to-head, but it is asynchronous—you run a drive against the opponents AI controlled offense, switch, and repeat. It’s not timed (not even 1:00 quarters), so a large portion of the strategy is removed.
One other thing worth noting: you aren’t given many plays initially. You need to earn more by leveling up or completing certain achievements. This would have been much more interesting if it worked like a true trading card game, where you collect and trade for the plays that best fit your team. Unfortunately, unlocking the full play book is just another reason to sink more time (or money) into this game.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good. The UI is slick, the players animate well enough, and the stadiums are nice. For some reason, there are a lot of shirtless guys in the crowd…more than you’d expect (or want). There are some nice camera effects, like a thunderous shake on sacks and quick cuts during touchdowns.
On the audio side of things, there’s no commentary at all. The crowd gets loud at appropriate times, though it sometimes sounds like squawking seagulls.
I remember playing one of the first Maddens released on the iPhone, and while it wasn’t great, it did feature a few innovative elements. I remember being able to physically draw hot routes on the screen, which seemed to take advantage of the platform’s strengths.
Now that game seems to only take advantage of the dreadful “free-to-play” model, which must work based on the number of titles that fit this description. It’s a disservice to Madden and football fans, even though the technology is there to make a truly stellar mobile football game. You can see sparks of it in this game’s presentation and how the players handle, but the rest is buried behind easy AI, limited gameplay, and a watered-down football experience.
Again, you get what you pay for.
Score: 3 (Subpar)