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Madden NFL 15

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4 (2 Online)
Genre: Sports (Football)/ Arcade/ Simulation


Graphics & Sound:

It has been a long time coming, but the first full release of Madden specifically designed for next-gen looks gorgeous. From the moment you first pop the game in, you are thrown into action immediately with the hopes of re-writing history as you take control of the offense against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. As you take the field for the first time, it is evident that a lot of visual and auditory fidelity went into the making of Madden NFL 15.

Starting with the overall look, the developers over at EA Tiburon truly nailed the TV-style presentation, mainly due to camera choices, but also combined with the commentary and animations. Many recent versions of Madden have approached elegance, but Madden NFL 15 finally delivers a top-notch performance that sets a new standard in sports entertainment.


Gameplay:

Madden NFL 15 has taken up residency on Xbox One and it will take more than a court order to get an eviction. It has been a long time coming, but Madden 15 thrives in its new digs due to its extremely smooth and balanced gameplay on both sides of the ball.

For the first time in a long time (if not ever!), defense is fun. Defensive A.I. and stopping an offense has always been one of the downfalls of the franchise, but with Madden 15, I actually felt in control. The new zoom camera control that allows you to get behind the defense is way overdue, but makes all the difference in the world. One of the most underappreciated positions, playing the snap as a defensive lineman, gives you the ability to manhandle the O-line and stop the rush for a loss or even obtain a coveted sack with just the right amount of control to make it feel like an achievement when downing the play caller. Combine that with quick pre-snap controls (or even voice audibles via Kinect), the ability to swat and strip the ball, and the zoom camera, and it makes for an enjoyable experience all around.

Offensively, the ability to finally run the ball with control makes play calling a blast. Gameplay becomes a chess match where the defense has to consider the run as well as the pass, unlike previous incarnations where it felt like rushing was an afterthought and only used to pick up a couple of tight yards. When airing it out, reading the defense becomes key as they will have many opportunities to pick you off and the players are very much aware of the action on the field.

Once again, Madden NFL 15ís core is built around two main modes of play, Ultimate Team and Connected Careers (Franchise Mode). Online or offline, these gameplay modes offer the most with Ultimate Team focused on building your team around a fantasy-style hodgepodge of players. The ultimate goal is to build up your team with top talent and take on the world, earning street cred as you go. Online Connected Careers also allow up to 32 teams to compete in full seasons, based on real-world stats, rosters, and rankings.


Difficulty:

Unchanged from previous versions, Madden NFL 15 offers four difficulty levels to choose from. For as long as I can remember, I have generally played as "Pro," which is the second-highest. Sticking with that streak, most of my play testing was done at this difficulty and as mentioned before, the balance is outstanding.

On defense, you can of course allow the computer to take control for the most part, with the ability to switch between players at any time. This has been the case forever, but this year, you have even more control of player movements, yet it doesnít feel overwhelming. The added abilities to swat at a ball, for example, are just a quick tap of the button and if you choose to take the snap on the line, you will be prompted with button presses to help get past the offensive line.

On the flip side, running the ball feels much improved and thus easier to manage. Really, it comes down to play calling and the ability to read blocks. Creative use of the easy to navigate play calling screen also allows for passing opportunities that can build off your running game, or vice versa. Reading the defense becomes essential when throwing, and because of the improved A.I., it can be easy to make mistakes. All of this combined makes for much improved, very well-balanced gameplay.


Game Mechanics:

Letís not forget that Madden has always taken advantage of every button possible, which can be overwhelming for newcomers, but offers a grand amount of control for those willing to learn. At its base, Madden NFL 15 is no different but the balanced gameplay somehow makes things feel better as a whole. The tutorials/challenges offered with the game will help catch you up to any new controls as well and are great fun to play.

When it comes right down to it though, Madden NFL 15 plays better than any of its predecessors. Without hesitation, veterans will be able to pick up the controls and get right into it. The game relies heavily on play calling now due to a more balanced A.I. system and animations and physics that have helped accelerate the franchise forward, so even more passive gamers may enjoy taking the helm as a coach rather than actively playing each and every snap.

Sure, there will inevitably be exploits that pop up and the game isnít without some flaws, but for the moment, I can think of no less of a word than "brilliant" to describe Madden NFL 15ís gameplay. It may be a strong word that should be taken somewhat loosely since, as with any game, there are minor things that could be improved upon. However Madden NFL 15 deserves its day in the sun and may just be the best Madden ever.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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