Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Review Context: I am a yearly Madden player, which means that I am usually disappointed when EA does not follow through with all of the changes they hype up year after year, but Madden NFL 16 manages to not only follow through with new changes that help the game, but they also deliver a new game mode that I cannot stop playing.
Date of Playthrough: 25 August 2015
This year, Madden NFL 16 makes a major change to gameplay with the new system to catch and defend the pass. Now as a receiver, you can choose how you want to play the ball in the air. You can RAC catch it, which will set the receiver up to catch the ball in stride and not lose a step so he can keep his speed to gain yards, play the ball aggressively and try to high point it in the air by out jumping the defender, or you could also just possession catch the ball to ensure your receiver pulls the ball in and makes the catch. But if there is a new way to catch the ball there has to be a new way to defend the pass, and there is; you can now either choose to play the ball or play the wide receiver. If you play the ball, you are obviously looking for the interception or deflection, but you risk giving up a play if you cannot touch the ball. I was worried about how easy it would be for the offense to use this to just out jump the cornerbacks all day, but it is actually balanced really well. The game does make you plan around a star or tall wide receiver. If you choose to play a star, or a tall wide receiver with a weak cornerback and don’t have the safety playing over the top, be prepared to be destroyed all game long.
Other than the new catching system, the controls are what you would expect from Madden. One new change that I am using more than I would is the ability to press R1 and make yourself as skinny as you can when running through the offensive line. It does seem like EA is moving away from the hit stick though; now if you press square it’s the same thing as the hit stick, just much easier and you rarely miss the tackle.
Visually the game is great; the details on the jerseys and helmets still blow me away. If you get a zoomed in view of a player on the field you can see the lines on the jersey. After time each player’s helmets get beat up and it’s cool to see at the end on the game how unique each players uniform looks and remembering when they got that dirty. The presentation also helps make it feel like you’re watching a game on television; from constant pop-ups to remind you how good or bad your players are doing, down to the commentary. The commentary could still use a lot of work. Some of the lines are way too long, for example, I have had multiple times where the line from the last play played on so long that the announcers didn’t even say anything about the next play. Its little things like this where Madden NFL 16 shoots itself in the foot. Another instance of Madden NFL 16 hurting itself is the return of the random encroachment penalty. Every now and then when the defense breaks huddle one of the players will uncontrollably run into the offensive line.
Easily my favorite addition to Madden NFL 16 is the new game mode called “Draft Champions.” Draft Champions borrows Hearthstone’s arena and makes it work for football. You first have to pick a coach out of three randomly chosen players. It seems like a small decision, but it is actually the most important decision because you use that coach’s playbook, offensive, and defensive style. From there you are given a base team, which is a 70 overall. You then get fifteen rounds and have to pick your key playmakers from there. The twist on it all is the fifteenth and final round is a legend round, which gives you three random legends to choose from. From there you either play the computer, or take your newly built team online and see if you can run the table. I am a huge fan of this mode because unlike Ultimate Team, where you go against nothing but players with beyond stacked teams, you can really find the holes on your opponent’s team and game plan for it. You either run the table in Draft Champions or lose, but either way, you are rewarded with cards for Ultimate Team, and I have actually pulled a few great cards from Draft Champions rewards. Speaking of Ultimate Team, it is back and comes stacked with a lot more solo challenges than last year’s installation. Ultimate Team is the mode EA seems to be really pushing this year, even with Draft Champions. Realistically, Draft Champions is a mode that is designed to help bring players into Ultimate Team. The great thing about that is that it seems every card that is made for Ultimate Team will be available in Draft Champions. So even if you don’t want to play Ultimate Team, there is a chance you can still use all the best players from there in Draft Champions.
The online gameplay is what you would expect if you’ve ever played Madden online. The games have had a great connection for me so far and we are a week post launch. Now the online games can be really frustrating though. The Madden online community is not filled with the fairest of players. You can easily find yourself in a game where your opponent is running the same play over and over because it is hard to stop. This is not something wrong with the game, but it is a major turn off to me for playing online. I play online to test my game against other players, but I don’t want that test to be if I can defend the same play over and over. I will still play Madden NFL 16 online because when you are in a match when both players are actually playing right, the game is great. Sure it can be frustrating when you make horrible decisions in the game, but it is always fun.
The best way I can describe Madden NFL 16 is that it is the closest simulation to watching football on Sunday. Everything you see on the field during the game is something you could see on Sunday. I was so surprised when I saw a wide receiver and cornerback jawing and shoving each other. It’s those little details that make it feel like you are watching a professional game. A thought I keep coming back to is that this is easily the best Madden game I have played in the last five years of the franchise. My hopes were not the highest for Madden NFL 16, but I am beyond surprised with the game, and I am very anxious and excited for Madden NFL 17 next year.
Similar Games Liked:
Madden 2005 (Xbox)
Similar Games Disliked:
Madden 25 (PS4)