Madden NFL 15 Review (Standard Edition) on PlayStation 4

Publisher Electronic Arts Inc. and developer EA Tiburon continue the grand tradition of this obsession called football (U.S. version) with another successful and comprehensive remediation of the NFL experience in Madden NFL 15. This 26th installment of the venerable sports simulation series succeeds especially with comprehensive game mode enhancements, noticeable defensive improvements, and improved graphics using the Ignite engine.

“[Madden NFL is] a way for people to learn the game [of football] and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level.” – John Madden, 2012

So true, John. So true. This year football fans can experience Madden NFL 15 in two different editions – Ultimate on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and Standard on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

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The Hype

Welcome to Madden Season. Madden NFL 15 delivers everything you need to own your rivals on both sides of the field, including the most immersive defensive gameplay in franchise history. With all-new player-lock camera angles, pass rush tools, open-field tackling mechanics and smarter AI, you’ve never been more armed to take control of the defense and challenge the best offenses in the game. Madden NFL 15 introduces a revolutionary crowd-sourced play-calling system with three distinct ways to run offense and defense: coach suggestions, Madden community picks and concept plays providing a strategic edge to take on all rivals. Dynamic pregame and halftime shows, in-depth player profiles, as well as enhanced on-field graphics deliver next-generation broadcast presentation.

The Reality

Game players can enjoy several experiences from player, coach, and owner perspectives, which greatly expand the activity and replay level in Madden NFL 15.

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With Richard Sherman on the cover, Madden NFL 15 provides plenty of pomp and circumstance in beginner, pro, all-pro and all-Madden skill levels (a.k.a. difficulty levels). Players can do much more themselves beyond simply acquiring the best players and simulating through games. The “super sim” option and second screen/remote play options on the PlayStation Vita are welcome enhancements.

The game begins with a replayable scenario flash forward to a closely scored finale in a fictional 2015 NFC Championship Game between the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks that’s playable while the game is downloading and installing on your PS4.

Madden NFL 15 makes the football world easy to explore and can easily get as involving as real life with constant updates, email, and entertaining activities. Practice always makes perfect. Players can improve through testing, practice and the skills builder modes that build experience and skill levels. The key is finding the best way to progress and unlock more challenges/gameplay while the career player, coach and owner modes exponentially increase the replay value.

The comprehensive game mode enhancements let player relive and replay legendary game scenarios, take on solo challenges (w/expanding categories including mystery and weekly), and even boss battles the gauntlet that teach skills, strategy, etc,

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Players scroll through scatter shot (and sometimes duplicated) game modes through a three-set panel layout.

Players don’t have to master the menus though; it’s the movements that demand attention. Players can control so many options in relatively little time during gameplay, so I highly recommend Prima’s Official Game Guide. The in-depth tutorials and Skills Trainer mode are outstanding, but sometimes you need quick reference visuals for the control scheme and more from this helpful, affordable guide.

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The Ultimate Team mode lets players shape their customized team, which stems from specially received card packs. Packs include players, stadiums and many other interesting items that can be traded with other players. As players advance, they can sell and buy items at auctions and complete seemingly ending activities/objectives to get more packs. The Legends player set (achieved after completing Otto Graham’s set) gives players an amazing array of elite players for a great mix of past and present.

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The binder organizes and sorts these items, contracts, points, coins and points in one convenient location saving considerable time managing teams. View, quicksell and mark/unmark items with ease. The Ultimate team mode works well so far with only rare outage instances.

Franchises expand team management and online gameplay. Detailed statistics that stand out in franchise play is the dynamic confidence level (ranging from 1 to 99; default at 50) and game preparation – confidence or player XP. Both add some nice strategy and statistics while foreshadowing endless individual player opportunities.

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Skills Trainer mode has a new Gauntlet mode and narration from Bill Courtney, high football coach featured in the Oscar®-winning documentary feature Undefeated. The Gauntlet ramps up the difficulty throughout 40 levels (and likely more) with exciting “boss stages” at every five along with five lives for each session. Carolina Panthers quarterback narrates the Gauntlet and offers helpful hints.

EA continues to improve this long-running series with improvements on both sides of the ball.

On the defensive side, new defensive cameras lets players see the game on the other side (in local multiplayer) plus there are new tackling mechanics, block steering (shifting weight), block shedding, pass rush moves and snap-jumping abilities (R1 then X to break).

The new assisting “cone” visual appears on your defensive player to decrease missed tackles when the offensive ballcarrier is within range. This cone is optional (toggle it on/off) and provides indicators for the two main play styles – aggressive (square button) and conservative. Take a risk for the big play or play the safe route to avoid embarrassment. The right stick (a.k.a. “hit stick”) are still a great option and L2 “squares up” for open field tackles that can stop power runners in their tracks.

Video clipping is a noticeable issue occasionally (e.g. running backs going through quarterback in above video), but could decrease as developers possibly update this game. The cornerbacks’ “ball hawk” mechanic requires players hit circle to get to closest receiver then triangle when passed ball at its highest point.

On the offensive side, quarterbacks definitely feel the pressure and defensive movement in the new accuracy element. QBs tap the appropriate button for lobs, but hold for fast, “bullet-type” passes, which goes against my usual instinct when getting rid of the ball quickly. Passing strategy plays a bigger part this year and the receiver indicator icons helps players know when receivers are open.

Players can allow the CPU to do the action, but it’s often better take over control and just to run straight ahead for the big gain in vital yardage situations. Best to choose one direction and stick with it.

Wide receivers still have an exciting “whoa” factor during bobble catches, but don’t fight for possession as much as they should. Acceleration bursts (R2 button) are nice, but there is a slight delay when a player “gathers” for the run.

Spins, hurdles, jukes and the highlight stick make great evasion tactics while the always effective hit stick always makes a great defensive weapon.

Special teams and scoring kicks add a nice slope graphic. These more detailed functions expand the strategy like making it easier to punt close to the sideline so players cannot stay in bounds very well if they return it (best for the returning team to “let it go” in this situation).

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Improvements continue with the coach stick that puts strategy right on the field by assessing key matches and lets players exploit mismatches more easily. Developers even include a transparent line on the field to connect these match-ups.

Overall playcalling includes suggested plays based on strategy, favorites, and community that are taken from the millions of Madden NFL online games played. Coin tosses occur at the start of overtime and marquee games.

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Making players is creative, but a bit limiting since you cannot use a created player in franchise (player) mode. Other minor issues included no lowercase type for creating a team name in the creation center.

The sharp presentation elements include new pre-game and halftime shows complete with studio commentary, game changers, and big play highlights. Players can skip these feature if they like.

Larry Ridley, sports director and anchor of WESH-TV in Orlando, FL, hosts the halftime show and pre-game commentary while Danielle Bellini handles the sideline reporter with Phil Simms and Jim Nantz in the booth.

The improved graphics using the Ignite engine also include new catch animations, news ticker (updated live) and hints in the upper left corner. The sideline and stadium environments need improvement with textures (objects and environments are often too pixellated) and shadowing/lighting. This area can only improve as the technology advances. In-game advertising ranging from food to vehicles adds some realism to the festivities.

This NFL Films-inspired presentation features six gameplay cameras. Camera angles are more varied and allow players to follow the ball much more including the zoomed-out, “All 22” camera shot (my personal favorite) that shows the entire offense and defense.

Besides the aforementioned clipping issues, the only noticeable graphic snafus are the occasional odd mouth animations. Successful mouth animations enhance the game and are wide-spread even on players, so players can finally see the smack talking now.

A highly enjoyable football experience that strives to improve player performance (if they choose to put in the effort) and pack enough entertainment to get even the most casual fan hyped up for this NFL season and beyond.

Overall, this title amazes, especially with the on-field sound, in-depth enhancements and unique team playbook. Players can’t get enough of this football standard, which brings the A-game every time…no exception this year. Players can also look forward to new updates and enhancements through this NFL season and beyond. Essential for fans and highly recommended for all ages and the best time ever for newbies to the sports series.

The highly recommended Madden NFL 15 is also available in standard edition on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One and ultimate edition on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Madden NFL 15

MSRP: $59.99 (Amazon, Best Buy and other stores)

What I Like: amazingly high replay value, graphics in the Ignite engine, play calling, defensive improvements, physical movements, improvements in all game modes, player/coach/owner careers, expanded camera angles, ultimate editions bonuses, ultimate team mode enhancements, sound, simplified playbooks, panel art style, easy navigation, tutorials/skill builder, live updates from news ticker, overall assistance for new players, promising future updates/enhancements

What Needs Improvement: commentary, offensive receivers don’t fight enough for ball possession, occasional odd physics, mouth animations and clipping

Source: Reviewer copy provided by publisher

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