It’s late August and you know what that means, it’s Madden season! It’s that time of year when EA Sports unleashes on us their yearly rendition of Madden NFL football. One of the benefits of being an EA Access member is that I have had the pleasure of playing Madden 16 five days earlier.
This year’s edition has some new features added in to try and entice football fans to throw down their sixty dollars for the umpteenth year in a row.
EA is banking on their new fight for the ball system will get those who already have Madden 15 to pick up this year’s edition. When you power up the game you’re greeted for the second year in a row an imaginative scenario that the folks at EA think might happen.
Last year we took control of Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks, this season we’re in control of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl 50. Now I may not be on ESPN but I know enough football to know that there is no way in hell either of those two teams are going to be in the Super Bowl. Both have legit shots at the playoffs but will both be bounced in the Wild Card round. So scenarios aside this is a nice tactic for new comers to Madden to learn the new systems but as someone who’s been playing Madden for 23 years now I just want to get to game and not mess around with this forced training.
It’s cool enough but more or less a waste of time. Also while I was playing this scenario there were several moments of lag and freezing. It wasn’t much but did take you out of the “dramatic” moments of this staged training.
Once I got through the training I was greeted by Jim Nantz as the data from my copy Madden 15 was copied over. The game already knew my favorite team and the difficulty I had on last year, which I might add was pretty nice and a somewhat time saver, though the time saving is eliminated by all the loading this game does.
After all of that is loaded up it was time to try out the Gatorade Skills Training and it is a bore. I did several rounds of this in order to give you a thorough review and I feel you owe me a “thank you”. This simulation just has you run several 3 on 3 and 4 on 4 drills, drills that are vital to an actual team’s success, but for a video game I see little use for it.
After I finished the Skills Training I tried out the new mode Draft Champions. I wasn’t sure how I would like this mode, but honestly it quickly became my favorite part of the game. Basically you’re given a basic team filled with mostly players rated in the 70s. Then you’re given three choices of coaches presented on football cards and you can pick which ones you want based on your style of play.
After your coach is chosen you’re treated to 15 rounds of three random player cards being presented to you. From what I can tell these player cards are generated at random and you’re not given three players of the same position. I makes for great decision making. You can be given a player with the rating somewhere in the mid 80s and you think, “great, I’ll take him,” but only a few rounds later be given the choice of a better player in that position and you have to decide do you want to fill another need a take one of the other two players you’ve been given or that really good player to replace the position you’ve already filled with someone not quite as good.
For instance in an early round I was able to draft Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. A few rounds later I was presented with Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers whose rating was about four points higher than Stafford. But in that same round with Rodgers I was given the choice of a really good offensive lineman or Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, a highly rated cornerback. That round was tough, but I went with Sherman instead of Rodgers.
Once you’ve drafted your team you play in a three game tournament with each quarter in the game only being three minutes. This mode is quick and a lot of fun and I found myself playing this mode a lot more than the others.
Franchise mode is the same as it ever was. You take over your favorite team and do your best to lead them to the Super Bowl. Honestly I didn’t notice any major differences between this years and last years. The only real difference between 15 and 16 are that in 15 your players would have weekly goals and the closer you got to meeting those goals the more XP your players would get that you could use to up their skills. 16 continues the weekly goals for your player (a nice added bonus is that it updates you on how close you are to obtaining that goal) but also gives your players goals on each drive of the game that will give them XP and gives them a confidence boast. It’s a pretty nifty feature but kind of distracting since I found myself trying to complete those goals even to the detriment of my current drive. For instance on one drive I had to settle for a field goal because my drive goal was to throw a touchdown pass. I probably could have run the ball in but I was too focused on that drive goal and it cost me.
Now this is Madden and it’s a very competitive game online and with your friends. Unfortunately for me none of my friends have the early access so I was forced to go online and play someone I didn’t know in a ranked match. A lot of people love doing this but not me. Like any online video game experience you find a lot of just terrible people online and frankly I’m not a fan of it anymore. However, again, I did this for you dear reader. I can report that online play is extremely smooth with hardly any lag. It seems EA has gotten better and better each year with that. However, I must note that when I played there were only around 3000 people online so that could account for how smoothly my online experience was, so when you get the game on Tuesday it may differ.
Back this year as well is Madden Ultimate Team. This is a mode frankly that I find is just filler. It does add value to the game with unlocking cards and such to add new players to your team. In this mode this season you can relive moments from last season and can be entertaining. Side not the first scenario is the infamous 2nd and goal play in the Super Bowl where the Seahawks threw the ball instead of running it with Lynch. Well in Ultimate Team I didn’t have Lynch, or Russel Wilson, I had a bunch of scrubs rated somewhere in the 60s (because I hadn’t earned anyone of note yet) so without Beast Mode I too chose to throw the ball with the exact same results. However dear reader on second and ten for the Pats my DT burst through the line and got the safety. I was still down but was getting the ball with about 20 seconds to go. After a decent return and a twenty yard pass I was in field goal range with 3 seconds on the clock and redemption on the line. A fifty yard kick was up and it was good and I rewrote history.
Now Ultimate Team isn’t without its fun but after a few scenarios I never felt compelled to go back to it. I enjoyed Franchise and the Draft challenge that much more. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who love Ultimate Team but I don’t think this is going to push anyone to buy the game if they were on the fence.
Some pluses for this game:
- Improved graphics
- Fight for the ball system works well adds depth for it.
- Draft Champion is a lot of fun
- Online play is smooth with little to no lag.
- Player goals are updated to not just weekly goals but also drive goals.
- Loading is horrendous. Every time the game has to load it takes a minute or two.
- Ultimate Team feels like filler.
- It feels too much like Madden 15
Madden is Madden and you know what you’re going to get with it. The new features like fighting for possession are pretty cool but if you already have Madden 15 they’re not going to make rush out to the store if you weren’t going to get it anyways. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Madden in the last couple of years then I’ll give this year’s a rating of Buy it, but if you have last year’s copy (or a member of EA Access where you can download it for free) then I’d say it’s a Rent it or Borrow it There just isn’t enough “new” here to warrant picking it up if you have last year’s copy.