It’s Madden season!
Madden NFL 16 is EA Sports’ second game released for the 2016 season, following the Frostbite Engine-driven Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. For this year’s Madden we are back with EA’s proprietary game engine, Ignite, for what is the best-looking sports game I’ve ever played. If the visuals in Madden are anything to go by sports fans have a lot to look forward to with this year’s FIFA, NHL and NBA Live games.
Whilst we would all like to see the release of a decent rugby game, let’s face it, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. In the meantime the Madden NFL series is the closest that you are going to get.
I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a fan of American Football, but this is my third year reviewing Madden, and it’s become a game that I always look forward to playing. For such a complex game, as in previous years, Madden NFL 16 does a great job of introducing new players to the game.
From the moment you fire up the game it’s trying it’s best to accommodate new players. As with most new-gen sports games, whilst the game is installing you are treated to an introductory game. Players are ushered into the proceedings with a cinematic Super Bowl contest between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gamers control the action on the field with the help of some handy prompts. A cinematic plot unfolds based on the gamer’s results. It’s pretty cool and different every time.
Like its real-life counterpart, Madden NFL 16 isn’t the easiest game to master. Also like its real-life counterpart, you don’t need to be a master of the game to enjoy playing it. The basics are easy to understand- get the ball to the other side of the field and score a touchdown.
The game is played as a series of plays. A play starts with a snap, whereby the ball is passed to the quarterback who, depending on the rearranged play, will either run with it or pass it to a teammate. The defending team needs to down the player with the ball as soon as possible, preferably before he scores a touchdown.
It’s all about throwing and running, punctuated by a tackle. As a game, it doesn’t flow like FIFA, but each down is intense, testing your play against that of your opponent like a chess game played with man-mountains as game pieces.
Whilst the game is immediately accessible, as in the past, Madden NFL 16 comes with a full suite of tutorial and drills to bring new players up so speed and introduce veterans to the new game mechanics.
The Gatorade skills trainer is like a built-it training camp and essential if you want to get you head around the crazy combinations of button presses you all the throws, catches and tackles. After the trainer has taught you the basics, it actually goes on to explain the actual strategies employed to choose the tactics that give you a statistical advantage over your opponents.
As with these iterative sports titles, we get the usual yearly roster updates and a graphical polish. But as EA Sport’s get to grips with their Ignite Engine and the new-gen consoles, the gameplay has seen some interesting improvements.
Top on my list are the new catch types. You can now choose from three ways to receive the quarterback’s throw, resulting in some really dynamic action.
An aggressive catch allows the player to fight for the ball including leaping for it- a dangerous move that’ll leave him exposed to a pounding and little chance of gaining a few more yards. Looks good if you pull it off, though.
Run after catch (RUC) is a smooth reception that allows the player to continue to run up the field gaining yard and perhaps even a touchdown. The downside is that it’s easy to fumble the ball and leaving the throw incomplete.
The safest way of receiving the ball is with the possession catch which give the receive a better chance of catching and retaining the ball my pulling it down, but at the expense of not gain any extra yards.
There’s some improvements in the defensive game as well with the new coverage mechanics and quarterback now have an extra arsenal of throws to unleash.
As THE game representing the USA’s national sport, absolutely no expense is spared on presentation. For a sport that is all about plays and analysing player’s form, the player and ball physics have to be without fault.
Putting all this together with the power of today’s consoles and you get in-game visuals that are practically photo-real. It’s when viewing the replays that you really get to appreciate the graphical fidelity of the game. Players shove, step over and fall onto each other in such a realistic way you really could be excused for thinking that you are watching a game on TV.
The commentary is absolutely amazing adding to the TV feel. CBS commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are back on board giving a good run down of the action during play and hardly miss a beat. The way the conversations flow between them so well is a pretty impressive feat, considering how fast the game is from the snap to the end of the play.
Being an EA Sports game, Madden NFL 16 is chock full of play options. Of course, you can jump in and just play a game with your favourite teams, but Franchise mode allows you to invest in your team and take them to right up to Super Bowl glory.
EA’s popular Ultimate Team is also present, as you’d expect. For followers of NFL, this is likely to be the mode that gets the most play as gamers build a team from their greatest football heroes.
New for this year is Draft Champions, which is a fantasy football mode with a difference. Player must create a winning team using current and legendary football stars. Fan have 15 rounds to build a team from scratch, upgrading with one of three available player each round. Like Ultimate Team, Draft Champions requires a more intimate knowledge of NFL to really get the most out of it.
Madden NFL 16 takes the series firmly into next-gen territory with beautifully realistic graphics, a slick presentation, nail-biting action, intuitive controls and intense strategy. I think veterans will be pleased with the additions, but if you’ve never played Madden before now’s the time to give it a go.