When I reviewed Madden 25 for the Xbox 360 last year, I was disappointed. As my wife kindly reminded me, I logged in an excessive amount of hours playing in a few 360 Madden leagues, so it’s not like I hated it. I just felt the development team didn’t do enough to push the franchise forward. Between the freezing issues, overpowered run game and coaches looking like juiced up outside linebackers I was done with last-gen Madden by time the next-gen versions touched down. Madden 25 was a different story all together. It was tight and a marked improvement over last year’s entry into the series. Visuals and gameplay both received significant enhancements making for a fantastic next-gen NFL launch game. Was it perfect? Not even close; but it pushed the franchise forward a nice debut for Madden on next gen platforms.
Over the past week I put EA Sports latest installment in the Madden franchise through the gridiron gauntlet. Much like Madden 25, Madden NFL 15 isn’t virtual NFL perfection either but sweet geezus this is about as close to perfection I have seen from any football game, EVER and that says something. Okay settle down Madden keyboard warriors; yes there remains plenty of room for improvement but make no bones about it this is the best we have seen from the franchise to date.
Hardcore and casual Madden fans will notice a few sizable improvements right away. The first thing that jumps off the screen when you load up the game is the graphics. It is quite easily the best an NFL game has looked on any console. It’s sharp and impressive looking and it’s obvious the player models received the bulk of the visual upgrades. Secondly, the interactive experience you find yourself in when you first boot up Madden 15 places you in a fictional 2015 NFC Championship game between Carolina and Seattle and is something I have never experienced before. It was simply fantastic with only one major gripe… I wanted more. Finally, the last major enhancement this year comes on the defensive side of the ball, mainly the defensive lineman. New mechanics for the d-lineman make the game a little more true to life in that you feel like you have some control even after a blocker has engaged you.
There are certainly many, and I mean MANY, more changes that all lean towards a game that helps push the franchise forward but the visuals, interactive experience and d-line mechanics are just three of the more significant ones that I noticed right away. Other perhaps less noticeable upgrades can be seen in the Skills Trainer mode that teaches you some basic concepts in addition to in-game stick skills. The Gauntlet mode alone is a great way to learn what passing plays work versus certain defences. I highly recommend everyone spend some time in there. Another change is seen in the Connected Franchise mode which revamped the way your players earn XP; and Madden Ultimate Team is now a little more inviting to those who haven’t taken the plunge yet.
Despite all the upgrades, Madden 15 still plays, and feels largely the same. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach was taken yet again. Besides learning to navigate the new play calling screen, learning the new tackling mechanics and getting used to the new camera angles, Madden fans should be able to pick up where they left off and compete from the get go. I still have some difficulty learning some of the new ways to make pre-play adjustments and I am still getting used to the tighter defensive AI; otherwise, I am not having any issues playing the game. This is without question a no frills, no gimmicks Madden as there are no new modes to choose from. It remains clear the development team wanted to focus all their energy with modes that remain perennial fan favorites; those being Connected Franchise, and Madden Ultimate Team.
Exploits, glitches and nano blitzes have always been the dark cloud hanging over the franchise. This year an improved AI has proven (so far) able to stop some of those exploits that plagued Madden 25. For instance, the run game does not seem as dominant as it was last year. Last year I felt unstoppable running stretch runs, power runs and essentially running anything out the Pistol formation. This year the defensive AI adapts, and adapts quickly. I attempted the same stretch running play multiple times in a game. The first time I ran the play I had some significant success but repeat attempts were largely stopped. So much like a real game of pigskin, you need to mix up the plays.
Likewise, I ran some of my Madden 25 money passing plays against this new AI. What impressed me the most was the responsiveness of the defensive secondary. I ran a couple of hot routed curl routes which I completed 90% of the time in man coverage in Madden 25. I had nowhere near the same success in Madden 15. The defensive secondary play smarter and react so much faster. At least some of the stronger ones do as I was picked off a few times attempting to complete some of those unstoppable curl routes I had so much success with last year. Again, you need to mix up your plays just like they do in the NFL, and that’s a good thing, right?
Another noticeable change has to do with QB accuracy. Last year it would not be uncommon for a rookie QB to have a perfect passer rating in a game. I don’t see that happening with the same kind of consistency in Madden 15. Quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers remain deadly accurate but QB’s like Geno Smith, Terrell Pryor and Johnny Football don’t have the pinpoint accuracy they perhaps would have had in last year’s game (if you played Connected Franchise last year Manziel was a draftable player). This will frustrate some but in a game that is attempting to become more true to life, the lower tier QB’s should have less accurate throwing and well studs should play like studs.
Otherwise the rest of the gameplay mechanics remain unchanged. As far as the passing mechanics are concerned, I didn’t notice much of a difference. ‘Total Control Passing’ is back and you can lead your receivers in any direction. That said you can’t lead them as much as you could back in Madden 13 (two Madden’s ago). The run game isn’t exactly toned down but the improved defensive AI makes those power and stretch runs a little tougher. There is just more emphasis on following your blocks. On defence, the zone coverage is improved and players react quicker but mechanically it’s nearly identical.
I mentioned at the outset how impressed I was with the visuals and presentation in Madden 15. While not much has been done with the fans and stadiums (not necessarily a bad thing given how good they look) the players received major enhancements. The attention to detail is stunning and its eye popping from the moment the team’s lineup for opening kick-off. While not all players in the NFL have had their face scanned into the game, most of the star players have and the results is impressive. One look at Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick and you will see how far along this Madden game has come in the visuals department.
My only disappointment with the games presentation rests with some of the similarities between Madden 25 and Madden 15 in terms of the layout and menus. The windows-like panel menu system is back. It is easy to navigate and loads up quickly. Sure it looks nice but resembles a little too much like Madden 25’s layout. Likewise, the look of the Connected Franchise menus is nearly identical to last year’s game. Those paying full pop for a brand new Madden experience may be slightly annoyed by this. I certainly was but by no means is it a deal breaker for me as I recognize the development team made it up in spades in other areas.
Another disappointment has to be with the games soundtrack. To put it bluntly it’s kind of lame and mostly forgettable. Frankly I haven’t enjoyed a Madden soundtrack since Madden NFL 12. The fans sound has improved mind you. Likewise Jim Nantz and Phil Simms provide a few more one-liners but otherwise it still sounds like more of the same old. This is not to say that it sounds bad but I feel more could have been done is all.
I like what EA Sports has managed to accomplish with Madden NFL 15. Improved player models, upgrades in the defensive game and enhancements to the fan favorite Connected Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team modes makes for a game NFL fans can get excited for all over again. There is no question the franchise has taken a significant leap this year moving closer to a more authentic, true to life game. There remains room for improvement and I certainly experienced a few let-downs with Madden 15; however, this is hands down the best Madden game to date. And let’s just say the future remains bright for the franchise.