Another summer has gone by, autumn wind in the air, and Madden on store shelves. Like clockwork, Madden NFL 15 has been released amid high anticipation and cautious optimism. Did EA finally deliver a game worthy of the Legendary namesake, or did we get another ho-hum experience with baby-step progression? Madden is back with a vengeance on current-gen hardware, and EA is looking for redemption with this year's version. With not much changing in terms of game modes and variety, one key area that has been added has been the skills challenge. Finally, we have a true mode that helps hone your stick skills as well as learn concepts of the game of football. Read on with our in-depth Madden NFL 15 Review.
Madden NFL 15 - Gameplay
Madden has always been finicky when it comes to gameplay. For every good-looking animation, there are always 2-3 terrible-looking, wtf moments. In Madden NFL 15, though, the developers have done a solid job trying to emulate (as much as a video game allows) what we see on Sundays. Players seem to have some weight to them, minimizing the "on skates" type of movements. Pockets develop realistically, pass rushes seem to be solid, and the running game is very smooth.
One big area in need of change was on the defensive side of the ball. EA has managed to make playing D fun again. D-line moves are now simpler but require strategy and precision to pull off effectively. Timing is critical, as well as how highly rated the player you're controlling is. Line play finally feels more balanced and lifelike than ever before.
EA has also touted its new programming with CPU quarterbacks as well. Before, QBs seemed to have this uncanny ability to feel any and all pressure, as well as making a correct read about 99.99% of the time. Then their passing accuracy was Dan Marino-like. Now, there's a bit more variety with passes and accuracy, still not on par with real life but light years better than previous Maddens. Overall, I am thoroughly impressed with the direction the gameplay is going, and I'm finally relieved that EA is giving us a true next-gen experience. The bar has been set!
Madden NFL 15 - Game Modes
Madden game modes haven't really changed over the years, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We still have our Connected Franchise Mode (CFM), a revamped and upgraded Madden Ultimate Team Mode (MUT), your standard head-2-head (H2H) Online mode, and something brand-spankin' new, Skills Trainer.
CFM is the bread and butter of Madden. The mode itself is by far the most popular but also the most criticized mode of the entire series. CFM has had its bumps in the road, but for the most part, is still a solid experience, especially when played with friends online. The downside to CFM is the lack of upgrades and changes to the mode itself. For the better part of 3 years, the mode has virtually been the same. You can take control of a team by either being an owner or coach. If controlling the entire team isn't your style, you can also choose a specific player and control that player for his entire career. Even with the lack of attention over the years, CFM is still a fun experience and can be enjoyed by everyone.
A few issues need to be resolved, though. When being an owner, there's a major disadvantage when it comes to smaller market teams compared to larger market teams and the amount of money you make per season. This lack of funds can directly impact who you sign and can cripple your franchise from not having enough money to field a team. The other issue is for the diehard simulation types. The game's simulation engine doesn't exactly simulate games properly and spits out very weird statistics. For example, you may see QBs throw the ball 60 times a game. You may even see running backs only run 12 times a game. This unbalanced approach can directly impact the progression of players as you go multiple years into CFM, causing them to regress faster than they typically should.
Madden NFL 15 - MUT
MUT is back and looks to have received a slight makeover in the process. You have over 300 challenges at your disposal, earning you coins and cards along the way of building up your ultimate team. You can play CPU opponents as well as go online against your friends or a random online user. For those who love fantasy football, this is the mode for you. EA has mastered the art of teasing you with these short challenges and rewards that keep you coming back for one more game.
The new Skills Trainer may be one of the best modes added to a sports game that I can remember in a long time. It makes you wonder how we've gone this far without having something similar to it?! The entire goal of Skills Trainer is to teach you about the game of football. You learn offensive and defensive concepts and advanced offensive and defensive skills like hot routing, coverages, and terminology. This is Football 101, and it is fantastic! After going through all the training modules, which are about 30 in total, you now head to the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is a test of skill that takes all of the challenges you've completed and randomizes them for you to complete. You get 5 total lives to complete as many challenges as you can. Every 5th challenge is considered a Boss Challenge. These Boss Challenges are wild and crazy, like kicking a field goal in hurricane-force winds. It adds some fun moments but works great as a tutorial on the game and truly can make you better.
Madden NFL 15 - Graphics/Audio
the first thing that jumps out is the visuals. Simply put, Madden NFL 15 looks absolutely stunning. The stadiums, player models, and overall quality of the visuals are definitely next-gen worthy. Madden 25 was a small step compared to its little brother on the 360/PS3, but that's not the case this year. The players on the sidelines look better but still don't compare to the players on the field though. This is hands down, the best-looking game that EA Sports has ever produced on home consoles.
On the audio side, things are a mixed bag. The 5.1 soundtrack is solid, with tons of detail and oomph that does sound like a true NFL game. The flip side to that is the downright awful commentary. Madden does a great job with a tv style presentation, but the commentary by Phil Simms and Jim Nantz makes you want to throw your controller at their virtual faces! The only thing consistent about their dialogue is how repetitive and misplaced it is. It's mind-boggling that this area wasn't touched upon after the same complaints as last year's game.
Madden NFL 15 - Online Play
For the most part, the online experience has been steady and solid. I didn't experience much lag or choppiness when playing head-to-head games via the online lobby. Games were smooth, and connection time was rather quick from the team selection screen until the opening kickoff. I played online in CFM, MUT, as well as head-2-head from the lobby, and all 3 seemed to work well. The only issues I experienced were occasionally, and the game wouldn't allow me to pick a defensive play and would automatically choose one for me, even though the offense wasn't in a no-huddle. Very odd as it seems to happen randomly without any rhyme or reason. In one game, it only happened once; in another, it happened 3 times in one drive. Other than that, online play was solid and enjoyable.
Overall, I think Madden NFL 15 is a solid offering from EA and perhaps one of the best versions of Madden since the PS2/Xbox days. The revamped gameplay is a breath of fresh air with the feeling of "FINALLY!" The Madden diehards have been waiting for this type of Madden since Madden 05. With the botched early versions on last-gen consoles, it's relieving to see EA come out the gate on the current-gen with such a high-quality release. There are still the typical early bugs and glitches that need to be worked out via patch, but other than that, Madden has a great foundation for the future and really sets the bar a few notches higher than what I had anticipated.
TechRaptor reviewed Madden NFL 15 on Xbox 360. It is also available on Xbox One, PS3, and PS4. This review was originally published on 09-04-2014. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions and for historical context.