Game Review: Madden NFL 15

Kick off this year’s NFL season with the latest version of the greatest video game ever made.

Every year EA Sports walks a razor edge when they release a new Madden game. They have a fervent, dedicated fan base of players who demand innovation, but who also want the best version of the game they already know. Sometimes those two things are at odds but, in this year’s Madden, they harmonize like a barber shop quartet.

Madden 15 draws the bulk of its core gameplay upgrades from a rethinking of the defensive side of the game. Most notable is the new option to swing the camera around behind the linebackers, putting an emphasis on recognizing offensive formations and responding in fashion. Reacting is more satisfying than ever, because of a heightened level of control over defensive players. Strafing and tackling options make playing D feel more like a fighting game than the always-intercepting cakewalk of yesteryear. Madden 15 has finally become a game of inches. Good luck busting out a 60+ yard run when a user-controlled safety is shadowing you from the word hike…you gotta earn every yard this year.

Offensively, the game feels mostly identical to its predecessor. A new, streamlined playbook can definitely cause some growing pains while you run the clock out searching for your go-to 3rd-and-long play, but it’s quickly overcome by the benefits of the newly categorized playbook. Combine that with Madden 15’s Coachglass companion app (accessed via the Xbox’s Smartglass) that pumps real-time stats directly to your second screen of choice. Suggested plays be damned; we know our team better than John Madden ever could. (We’re confident we’ll be offered an offensive coordinator position in the NFL any day now.)

Major mode upgrades are present and accounted for, a standard addition year over year, and we’ve been digging the punched out Connected Franchise—an easy fix for NFL cravings while your fantasy league waits for the season to start. We also have high hopes for the GMC-sponsored Never Say Never challenges. Busting our ass to pull out wins in the Best-of-2013 scenarios was fun, but we can’t wait to see new scenarios arise during the 2014 season.

Easily the most noticeable (and most noteworthy) new aspect of the game is that Madden 15 looks...real. Last year’s Madden 25 was in the unenviable position of straddling the old and new consoles. This year, EA Sports has firmly planted their feet in the latest consoles, and the payoff is huge. Cinematic camera angles, broadcast-quality replays, and evolved on-field animations all come together to create the hands-down best-looking version of the NFL we’ve ever seen on a console. What can we say? Punishing an opponent on the gridiron in such a good-looking game is well worth the price of admission. Any satisfaction beyond that is just gravy in our book.

Madden 15 is available now for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, and PS3. You can also check out the Xbox One Madden bundle if you’re looking to get your next-gen upgrade and Madden purchase in one fell swoop.