For the first time in a long time, EA Sports’ newest gameplay mechanic makes the game feel as real as it’s ever been.

(Game was reviewed on a Playstation 4 console)

By Jeff Weisinger

In Madden NFL 15, the part I hated the most was trying to throw the deep ball to a receiver in one-on-one coverage only to have him overrun the ball and the corner or safety get the easy interception. At the same time, my quarterback couldn’t throw the ball with any touch and it began to feel more and more like just another Madden NFL title.

You know, like the ones before.

Madden NFL 16 isn’t perfect by any means. Most notably, when you first turn the game on, it pits you in a Super Bowl 50 scenario between Pittsburgh and Arizona, using the opening scene to introduce you to the new mechanics.

While the idea is cool and easily begins to show the player the new features, the script is cheesy, way too ‘PG’ for the NFL and way too friendly. On the other hand, the cinematics during the opening sequence and how smoothly it switches to live gameplay is near seamless and easily draws you into the scenario.

But Pittsburgh and Arizona though? Really EA? Would have been better with the Giants and the Patriots if you want to re-create a Super Bowl — given the fact that, you know, Odell Beckham Jr. is on the cover and all. Just sayin’!

Yet, for the first time since the days of Madden 05 and NFL 2K5, both of which easily the best football games of the 2000’s, Madden 16 feels like real football.

Let’s start with the basics.

Once again, Madden 16 is graphically stunning. EA’s partnership with NFL Films to bring realistic camera views like we see on television worked perfectly. The crowd comes more to life in the cut scenes between plays and audibly, booing and cheering for big plays and touchdowns. The details on the players are the best they’ve ever been. The jerseys look great and the helmets look so clear that you can see the metallic flakes shine when the light hits it. Camera crews and fans are fitted with authentic NFL gear and, of course once again, the grass looks great as well.

Physically, the players run and cut like actual players, which makes movement more strategic in a sense, but also will frustrate those “elite” Madden players who are used to fast, quick and unrealistic movements. The physics engine is improved from last year’s edition, however there were moments when the infamous “rocket catch” popped up and when players would just freeze on the ground after getting tackled. So far, the quarterback has always gone straight to the center, unlike last year when sometimes he would take snaps in gap between the center and the guard.

Defensively, tackling feels real as does gang-tackling with prescription tackles now being a thing of the past. Defensive players are prone to more penalties with the new mechanics, adding to a more real experience.

Yes folks, that means that defenders are now actually called for holding penalties.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms takeover the audio commentary once again and while they aren’t as spectacular as the announcers from 2K Sports, they are a little better this time around, talking more in depth about the game being played than in year’s past. It isn’t amazing, but it works for the most part.

However, it would be great to have a new set of announcers or multiple announcing teams available for the local or national broadcasts, much like how FIFA does for the club and international teams.

The game’s menu is more streamlined than before, putting all of the game modes in front of you from the very beginning instead of going into several sub-menus to get into one of the game’s modes.

The best part, presentation-wise, is the return of EA Trax. For the first time in years, Madden has a unique soundtrack outside of the instrumental, NFL Films Orchestra — a refreshing sound that puts Madden back in the game with the other sports titles.

Gameplay-wise, Madden feels like real football for the first time.

There aren’t any particular key plays that players could use, nor can you easily win with any one team. Finally, big, scoring plays and wins are earned.

The biggest addition to Madden 16 is probably the biggest addition to the series since the hit stick was introduced nearly 11 years ago.

The new catching feature in Madden 16 allows users to catch the ball in one of three ways: aggressively, to run after the catch, or to purely focus on the catch.  The best part is that there’s no dominant catching option.

Each of the three choices has its pros and cons.

For example, if you choose to focus on possession, you have a higher chance to make the catch, however the defender could also jump the pass and either make the interception or knock it down.

The aggressive catch option helps in deep ball scenarios for highlight reel plays, however it leaves your receiver open to big hits and a possible pick off of the dropped or tipped ball.

The new catching features don’t give the offense any ultimate advantage. The defense also got a boost with the new features as the defender can now play the ball or the receiver on passing plays.

The new catching mode creates a risk and reward aspect that the Madden franchise hasn’t seen since the hit stick in Madden 05.

Also new to Madden 16 are dynamic and drive goals.

Players can now choose to go after specific objectives per drive and game that will give their team a slight increase in confidence and (in connected franchise mode) extra experience points. It’s very reminiscent of the momentum feature in the late NCAA Football series.

The next newest feature is Madden newest game mode Draft Champions.

Draft Champions takes the idea of the infamous Madden Ultimate team and the concept of short-term fantasy football to create a quick, single elimination tournament with your drafted team. You are given a base roster and 15 rounds to create a dominant team that could win the tournament. To add to the experience, you play the games in the new, neutral Draft Champions arena.

Online play is back and with the new game mechanics and improved physics, players have to actually “play football” in order to win. The servers are smooth, and there hasn’t been much of a lag-time online.

Verdict:

For the first time in a long time, the latest Madden actually looks and feels like a legitimate football sim. The days of players using just one particular player or team to win easily are gone. Replacing the “higher overall” advantage is the ability in-game to make the big catch or big play defensively to win the game or start a comeback.

The new catching features completes the football trifecta of having to be able to successfully pass, run and catch the ball on offense. Also, the catching feature perfectly supplements the hit stick that debuted 11 years ago. It allows defensive players to either go after the big interception on the ball, or the big hit on the player hoping the ball pops loose. It makes games that more competitive, and not redundant. All while creating a sense of accomplishment when you do score or make the big play.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms do their usual thing, but the much anticipated return EA Trax makes it worth keeping the music on for the first time in a while.

The game isn’t perfect. There are already a few glitches and the repeated graphic overlay and game introduction shows that EA was content with the mediocre scoreboard graphics and game introduction that made Madden 15 seem casual.

However the game does cater to the football fan, specifically those who have actually played or really know the sport. It’s a football sim for football people… and it’s about time.

Score: 8.7/10

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Jeff Weisinger
Featured Columnist for FanSided and Beat-Writer for New York City FC. My #LifeAfterQB is incredibly #blessed.

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