From the outside looking in, it may be hard to determine how meaningful the changes are to a yearly franchise, especially those in the sports genre. But the folks at EA Tiburon are always hard at work to improve the game of American football. This year’s focus on receiving and even the versatility of a quarterback’s throw, makes Madden NFL 16 another fantastic entry that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a flagship series that doesn’t allow itself to get stale from year to year, and Madden NFL 16 is no exception.
Before you even see a menu, there’s the preview, or prediction of Super Bowl 50 taking place between the Arizona Cardinals vs Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a mini-story that has branching paths that teach you the game. And replaying that is worthwhile to see each of the different ways to see it. It is kind of funny, but completely understanding why the game doesn’t replicate Super Bowl 49, however.
Starting Madden NFL 16 requires a bit of loading up front, but moving mode to mode, or game to game is really quick. The menu is not sluggish or in any way hindering the experience. While in menus or in-game, the ticker from NFL.com helps it all feel connected. This year marks the return of EA Trax makes it feel like a complete broadcast, hearing the music swell and deflate as plays begin and end. This was a welcome return for me, as it really enhanced the arena experience, and less like an NFL film come to life. Madden NFL 16 also brings in changes from the real sport. For instance, when you’re going for a Point After Touchdown (PAT), the commentary will do a bit of subtle teaching the first time, that now this attempt must be done from the 15-yard line.
Madden NFL 16 as a game, is making changes where you don’t expect them to, but the gameplay is improved as a result. This year’s focus is on Receiver catch types: possessive, aggressive, run after catch (RAC). A possessive catch will allow the receiver to take possession of the ball and fall with it, if on the sidelines or about to be tackled. An aggressive catch makes the receiver vulnerable to tackles and potentially fumbling. And a run-after-catch allows for more fluidity to not only do what it says.
The Defensive camera, for some reason locks you to a player once selected, is different for this year. I can’t quite say I like it, I would like to be able to continue to switch players from this alternate view. While defending, and not receiving you can press triangle to follow the ball and not the player to either intercept, or deflect. When on offense, I feel like I have way more control in what’s going on. As a quarterback, I can now do modified throws, such as high or low throws to my receivers for a more coordinated and accurate pass. Those old habits die hard when trying to remember the new pass mechanics, but they are really helpful, and you’re hindering yourself when not using them.
The Connected Franchise Mode is wonderful. Madden Ultimate Team (MUT for short) returns, and is as strong as ever. Playing off the Fantasy Football craze is Draft Champions. While it isn’t quite Hearthstone, it’s relationship with MUT is a welcome one. You can play with legend and current players, and access all of your cards from MUT as well. You’ll unlock and unwrap card packs, and each card has play styles. Those play styles contribute to overall scores. As someone who knows next to nothing about Fantasy Football, I found this to be a nice visual experience and seeing those decisions have impacts in-game. Out of 15 rounds of drafting, there’s some tough choices to be made. But those choices can help form a “dream team”, if you’re lucky. You then take your team against the CPU or other human-created teams and see how they fare. This event series has challenges to overcome, especially that of not losing. Once a loss occurs, it is game over and you’re off to start all over again. It’s all about picking and choosing the right players at the right time to secure a solid team.
The presentation of Madden NFL 16 is almost better than TV, in almost every way. In what EA is calling “Organic Gang Tackles”, where after one player tackles, others from the defense join in. This allows for either some great or goofy looking animations. In my experience, the game often settles on the great side of things. The way the bodies interact with each other produces no clipping, but hard friction of bodies making vicious contact and the physics that result of such collisions. Though, some of the commentary can lag behind the action. This isn’t the fault of the audio, but rather the action can often move faster than the commentary will allow for. That is the only major flaw that the game has, everything is quite outstanding otherwise.
It may still be the only game in town, but Madden NFL 16 proves why it is still the best. Madden NFL 16 is built on its successes and victories of Madden NFL 15. The inclusion of Draft Champions is a no-brainer for anyone involved in fantasy drafts, and feels the most connected to the real sport in years.
A PlayStation 4 copy of the game was provided by EA for review purposes