Madden NFL 2015 was a big wake up call for EA Sports. As the developer appears hell bent on realistically simulating the sport, Madden 15 amped up the expectations of players by playing fast and loose with authenticity. It gave defensive players more control and agency; and the publishers definitely risked spoiling the appeal of broadcast-style football with additional gauges, meters, and indicators that are only found in video games. It traded its signature “Sunday football watching” experience to improve on the gameplay.
The expectations of high-resolution game fields were met with Madden NFL 2016, a game overflowing with fantastic moments and equally big issues.
As soon as the game begins, you are thrown into a slightly preposterous and excessively cinematic prediction of the 50th Super Bowl. We were forced to play the game as Pittsburgh Steelers against Arizona Cardinals. However, let us make it clear that it isn’t just meant to make fans angry, but to give a tutorial on the new defending/passing mechanics, especially on how you catch and throw the football.
The biggest improvement is that you can now catch the ball whatever way you want instead of hoping that the AI figures it out. You can now use three buttons to trigger specific catching styles, each style suited to a specific circumstance.
If a defender is guarding and contesting for the ball from a receiver, the player can use the “Aggressive Catch” to jump up into the air and grab the ball with both of his hands above his head. If your man is left open, you can choose to go for the “Run After Catch” option to catch the ball in stride, and gain extra yards. A button prompt flashes over the head of the receiver in case you are not sure as to which option is more useful. However, even with features like Aggressive Catch, it is important not to overuse it as the receiver will be left more susceptible to injuries and big hits. Although, the possession catch seems like the best option, the chances of cutting off the ball and making an interception is better.
Apart from the receivers, the quarterbacks have also been given new artillery.
By double tapping the icon of the receiver, the quarterback can now attempt a touch pass. It is great if you want to get the ball over the linebacker’s head, but not nearly enough to where the safety can get to it.
Some new mechanics are not as useful as the others. On the PS4 you have to hold L1 for high throws and L2 for low throws as you press the icon of the receiver. Although this sounds good in theory, it is just too difficult to do in the middle of the game and is a big detractor from the smoothness of the experience. You have very little time from the snap to making the actual throw. You need to keep track of the pocket and ensure that you don’t get sacked, keep an eye on the receivers to see when they are open, and work out as to how hard you are going to actually throw the ball. The new low/high throw buttons are too much. It would be easier, for instance, if you can determine the height of the pass with the analogue stick.
The defensive backs also have new tools. They can now toggle between the receiver or playing the ball. There is an advantage and disadvantage to it. While playing the ball, it provides the ideal path to break up the pass. However, if your defender is out of position, you will miss the chance to make a tackle. You have the exact opposite effect on playing the receiver. The defender will ignore the ball completely instead of trying to intercept it. Although there are lesser chances for a big play, we are virtually guaranteed that the tackle will be made.
Whatever the drawbacks when it comes to the gameplay or the limited number of options available in the Franchise mode, visually the game looks uncannily real. After the likeness patch was introduced, most of the athletes get an HD scan, rendering their skin structure in remarkable high detail. It looks gorgeous, with on field popups and 3D structures feeding the game stats of players at key moments during the game. EA still hasn’t lost its touch when it comes to delivering a broadcast-style package, seamlessly blending the on-field activity with very high-quality camera angles to juice the viewing experience.
EA Trax came back to Madden 16, offering a good soundtrack to the menu section.
It almost rivals the tune selection of the FIFA series. However, the commentary of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz is subpar. Their lines grow tiresome and stop just short of ruining the fun.
Although the gameplay has been advanced and more realistic as well as fluid, you are still taught to play the game. It may feel like cattle being herded towards the goal. Not being to make individual assignments and inability to create our own plays was a big drawback for us. The defensive assignment, which let you pit the best defensive player against the best offensive player is no longer available.
EA is known for releasing a game riddled with balance issues and bugs, which are corrected in further updates. Needless to say, it happens here too. There are countless videos of invisible cornerbacks who intercept passes. The career mode is also locked up in the mid-game menus and does not display the stats for some athletes. The new mechanics and the benefits of the new aspects of the on-field play surely do not overcome the shortcomings of the game. Madden 2016 is a good provisional entry with great new features that are either bogged down by bugs or incomplete entirely. Despite this Madden NFL 16 is still fun to play and EA’s development of the franchise over the years still means that continues to be rated as good.
• New passing mechanics
• Fun Draft Champions mode
• Newcomer friendly
• EA Trax returns
• Out of place comments
• Bugs and Glitches