No Deflated Balls Here | Madden 16 Review
NFL’s regular season starts today and that means you’ve probably wondered if you should buy the next Madden or wait until it goes on sale. Usually, I’m in that same boat! I wait until there’s at least a $25-$30 price drop, but this year’s offering is different. The Madden franchise often gets criticized for being a roster update, and rightfully so. Pumping out a game a year doesn’t leave for much time to reinvent the wheel, or in the case of the franchise any meaningful changes at all. But, Madden 2016 is different. Sure there are still some major annoyances that haven’t been hammered out in, well, forever. But, the positives of Madden 2016 far outweigh the negatives. Madden is a very cyclical game. Every handful of years, there are always some nice changes, but for those in-between years, things become quite stale. Madden 2016 is definitely an up-year and is definitely the most fun I’ve had in years with the franchise.
PR points that have been hammered away up until its release are new passing and catching mechanics. Do you want to throw a back shoulder fade in the endzone? You can do that. What about catching an out route in stride and turning up field? Or even sneaking the ball over the linebacker, but in front of the DB? Yes, you can finally do that. The guess work has been taken out; you no longer have to hope you pressed the button perfectly long enough to sit the ball in between the two. Even more exciting, though, is the interaction between the defender and receiver. Aside from a wonky clipping issue for a split second that occurs here and there, the two genuinely look to be fighting for the ball in the air.
It finally feels like the AI is intelligently competing. In the ground game, the hits seem more physics based than ever before. Diving at an opponent’s legs will have them twirl through the air and satisfyingly smash into the turf. Do you have a tall receiver, and you want to use his height to your advantage? This year you can more accurately do so by hitting the aggressive catch button, and the receiver will high-point the ball and lead the way to paydirt. While the offense got a nice upgrade from years past, the defensive side of the ball also received its fair share of attention.
In years past the defense felt a bit clumsy, but this year you can hit a certain button, triangle to play the ball or X to play the receiver, to either intercept or break-up the pass respectively. It did take a little getting used to, but once you master these skills, the defensive side of the ball becomes much more enjoyable. With the introduction of “organic gang tackles,” the physics behind each tackle make sense, most of the time anyway. There are a few shaky animations, but for the most part, multiple guys can come together and take down the opponent.
The modes from previous years make a return, but one got a nice shot in the arm (connected franchise) while another is making its debut. The connected franchise’s new feature is in-game goals. These goals are basic things such as, throw a TD pass on this drive to gain confidence/xp or register a sack with a certain player to gain confidence/xp. They are so effective that I saw myself veer off the gameplan and began forcing the ball to my receiver to hit the goal. Of course, this worked somewhat, until I got intercepted. It’s a neat reward system that encourages you to play differently than you normally would. The only shame is sometimes it will give a goal to a player that’s not even on the field; although, this only happens occasionally. As for the new mode, which appears to be coming to the other EA Franchises in some sort of fashion as well, is Draft champions.
Draft Champions is the perfect amalgamation for those that want to do a fantasy-type draft, but don’t necessarily want the commitment or grind of the typical Madden Ultimate Team. You are given a base squad, but then there are 15 rounds where you get to choose between 3 randomly selected players. They range from decent starters to legendary cards. The trick is, however, if you fill your need of wideouts, you may miss out on Randy Moss in the next round. You have the choice of playing against the CPU, 3-game challenge, or against other players in a 4-game series. The stakes are high, since you are eliminated after one loss. But, the more wins you earn, the better rewards you will receive. This mode is right up my alley as it allows for quick accessible fun in a fantasy football type environment. This is a game-changer when you need that quick Madden fix.
With all the core elements out of the way, it’d be remiss not to talk about the presentation. Oddly enough, the first game you play is the hypothetical Super Bowl 50 matchup featuring the Cardinals and Steelers, and the game runs pretty poorly in this segment. The showcase opener should show you the buttery smoothness of which you do encounter later in the game, but it is quite choppy. I feared the rest of the title would play out the same, but I’ve not had as much as a hiccup after completing an entire season from preseason to Super Bowl and playing some of the various other modes. Having said that, the new camera angles are nice, and while they seem way too close at first, they allow for a fun up-close more entertainment type of feel. Surely no pro gaming Madden players will use it, but it’s nice for us who aren’t on that competitive of a level. The visual flair of overlaying stat bars as our players are on the field is a nice touch; although, I feel they need a little work to fit more properly on the screen. As for overall visuals, they are decent. Similar to just about any sports title, it does look better than the previous year but not astoundingly so.
Madden 16 is available on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC