Madden NFL 16 Review


  • Madden NFL 16 Review


    When people look at a yearly franchise like Madden NFL, they think that it’s merely a $60 roster update layered on top of the same, old game. While this really hasn’t held true now for the past few years, people will still hop on social media or forums and shout that cliché until they’re blue in the face. That or they’ll smugly entertain themselves by saying how “NFL 2K5 is still the best football game ever made!” Unfortunately for all of those people, Madden NFL 16 is not merely just some roster update thanks to some needed and very worthwhile updates to the core gameplay mechanics. Fun and interesting new changes to the passing and receiving game have been included in Madden NFL 16 that easily make it one of the best football games in years.

    Last year, Madden NFL 15 introduced significant improvements to the defensive end of the gameplay spectrum, so it only seems natural that the offense receives similar levels of tender, loving, care. Fortunately, the team at EA did just that and introduced new means for the receiver to catch the ball exactly how you, the player, want them to. In the real sport, different situations call for different catch styles. If your receiver is tightly covered, an “aggressive catch” will push your receiver to attempt a high risk, high reward style catch to get the edge over the defender. On the flip side of the coin, if your receiver is wide open, opting to select the “run after catch” receiving style will allow your receiver to catch the ball while running and continue forward to gain some extra yards. Finally, a “possession catch” tells your receiver to play it safe and secure the catch, forgoing attempts at extra yards. This catch is most useful for throws near the sidelines or when a big hit is expected.

    Each of these new catch styles has its own set of risks involved. Aggressive catches will often leave your receiver open for punishing hits from a defender. These can lead to dropped passes, fumbles, or even injuries if you aren’t careful. If you try to perform a run after catch grab, your receiver may run out of bounds because of their route or run smack into a defender that could knock the ball loose. Possession catches obviously mean that there will be no real attempts at gaining extra yards once the catch is complete. These types of catch attempts also make it easier for aggressive defenders to get ahead of the receiver and attempt an interception.

    The quarterback position also received a nice gameplay feature this year. Now, you can attempt to have your QB throw a touch pass by double tapping a receiver’s button. This pass is described best as a “medium” loft pass that is higher and slower than a bullet pass, but lower and faster than a lob. This pass is especially useful if you want to get the ball over a linebacker but don’t want to risk the safety snagging it. QBs can also specify if they are going to throw a pass higher than normal with L1 or lower than normal with L2. Throw a pass higher than normal if your receiver has a height advantage over his defender, or pass it low to quickly snag the ball and get to the ground before being hit.

    Learning these mechanics are a breeze but actually making use of them during a game is another matter entirely. All of the new mechanics are laid out in a series of drills and tutorials that make the concepts easy to understand. However, during an actual game scenario, there are just so many things going on at once that I simply haven’t yet gotten used to all of these new mechanics just yet. This really is no fault of Madden NFL 16, but a fault of my own. Younger fans and seasoned Madden veterans will undoubtedly pick up and utilize these new gameplay mechanics in no time. I still need a number of additional games before I will feel completely comfortable with them. I will say that Madden does a great job at nudging the player in the right direction when it comes to what reception type to make with a button prompt flashing above the intended receiver’s head. If you are fast enough, you can take the game’s advice on the reception type that best fits the particular scenario playing out before your eyes. That said, once it starts to click and you perform a thrilling catch that would have otherwise been impossible in previous Madden titles, it is extremely satisfying.

    Players who enjoy the defensive side of the game should be happy to hear that Madden NFL 16 does include a couple of new features for you too. New in Madden NFL 16 is the ability to have a player play the ball or the receiver. Playing the ball will place the defender on a path that tries to intercept the pass or break up the pass. Of course, aggressively playing the ball means that the defender will probably be out of position to make a tackle if the catch is completed. Likewise, if you choose to play the receiver, the player will attempt to dislodge the ball while a catch is happening. Those playing the receiver probably won’t nab too many interceptions, but they also make sure that they are in a good spot to make a tackle if the pass is completed.

    Returning in Madden NFL 16 is the ever-popular Connected Franchise game mode. It remains almost completely unchanged from previous years, which should make most fans happy. There is one very notable change, however, and that is the addition of dynamic goals. This new addition will task players with some bonus challenges to earn some extra experience during a game. Includes are scenarios like earning two first downs on your first drive, or completing a series of passes, or preventing the offense from gaining a specified number of yards. These goals are not mandatory but they do provide small XP and confidence boosts if they are completed.

    Draft Champions is the big new mode addition in Madden NFL 16. Fans who enjoy a good fantasy league or just the fantasy draft will appreciate this game mode the most. You are tasked with building the best team possible over the course of 15 rounds. Each round, you will be presented with three players but only one can be selected each round. A number of factors are at play here such as which position needs improving the most or how well your potential athlete meshes with your coach or playbook. Once the 15 rounds are up and your team is built, you can either take on the CPU or go head-to-head against other players in a single elimination tournament. This mode feels right at home with the rest of the game and may prove to be a bit more accessible to newcomers who want a taste of Madden Ultimate Team but are too timid to dive straight in.

    Speaking of which, Madden Ultimate Team is very much alive and well in Madden NFL 16. The mode is also still ripe with microtransaction opportunities. As with previous years, these microtransactions are not mandatory but I have no doubt the more hardcore fans will be all over them. Fret not hopeful MUT player, because you can still earn plenty of in-game coins to purchase plenty of card packs just from playing the game as normal. New “ultimate moments” are easily accessible challenges that can be played for some quick cards and coins. Madden Ultimate Team still feels like it’s “the” main mode to play in Madden NFL 16 but I feel as though Draft Champions could give it a run for its money amongst newcomers to the franchise.

    Perhaps the only major weak spot in Madden NFL 16 is with the actual in-game presentation. Most of the presentation seems to be carry over from last year’s iteration. Don’t get me wrong here, last year’s presentation seemed decent enough. EA did add some flashy on-field overlays that provide stats on players and drives in between each play, but it really just feels like slapping a second coat of paint on a wall that was painted just hours before. These overlays happen quite frequently and will often delay the ability to call your next play, eating up precious gameplay time and sometimes even clock time. Toning down how frequently these stats are shown during a game would be really appreciated.

    Similarly, the commentary falls well short of the mark. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms once again provide the main commentary throughout each game but a lot of it feels flat and sometimes doesn’t exactly match up with the actual action going on in the game. At the very least, Nantz and Simms provide far more engaging and informative commentary than Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth ever did during their time with the Madden franchise. Truth be told here, I haven’t really been too enthused by the commentary in a Madden game since the glory days where John Madden himself made off the wall quips and zany remarks. What can I say? The man had a way with words, even if those words made little to no sense when used in a sentence together.

    Even with the few, and consequently minor, shortcomings in Madden NFL 16, it is by far the best football game in years. The new additions to the passing and receiving game alone are more than worth the purchase price. These new game mechanics, coupled with the new defensive additions and refinements, bring the game to a level of realism that has never before been reached by the Madden franchise. On top of all of that, Draft Champions looks to be one of the best new game modes added to a sports game in recent years.

    Related Information
    Title: Madden NFL 16
    Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Full Disclosure: Madden NFL 16 was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes from EA.
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