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Madden 16

Developed by: EA
Publisher: EA
Xbox One
Good enough to play this year until the next one comes out.

Every year it’s tradition to pick it up and go through the new rosters and the new features and see what’s to be had with a game that’s become a national pastime in itself. This year, Madden 16 comes to consoles with some serious upgrades in the gameplay while trimming some fat in outside areas.

Gameplay with Madden is pretty exceptional. The defensive improvements of last year carry over, but the focus on improvement was shifted to the offensive side of the ball. A whole new passing system has been implemented and it makes the in-game action outstanding. When you drop back to pass, you can do a touch pass by double clicking the button for your desired receiver or you can throw the ball high or low with the aid of the bumpers. When the ball is in the air, you can decide how the receiver attacks it. You can go up for an aggressive catch if it’s a ball that the defensive back is going to contest heavily. You can choose a RAC catch (Run After Catch) if you have a little space from the defender and can pick up some yards right after you catch it. Or you can choose to go for a possession catch if its 3rd or 4th down and you want to play it safe. On the opposite side of that, when you’re the defender and the quarterback is throwing it your way you can choose how you want to play the ball too. You can play the ball and try and break up the pass and go for the pick or you can play the receiver and keep him from picking up any extra yards after he catches the ball. With the NFL more of a passing league now than it’s ever been, it’s cool to see Madden take the focus on that side of the ball.

If the gameplay is improved, the in-game audio and presentation has only been slightly upgraded. Jim Nantz and Phil Sims are back reusing a ton of their commentary from the last couple of years and Phil Sims is still as annoying now as he was a year ago. The introduction to the games and the graphics have remained basically unchanged too. There are some cool on-screen/in-game graphics that are incorporated nicely with stats and other assets, but nothing to make the in-game presentation notable.

Outside of the gameplay, this year’s user interface looks and feels vastly different. EA used a block style to present everything and it’s a little easier to navigate everything once you get used to it. The connected franchise’s UI takes a vastly different turn however, the fake tweets and fake news article headlines based on what’s going on in your franchise are there, but harder to find. It’s good, because whoever wants to see Skip Bayless’s name on anything. It’s bad because it’s hard to follow the ins and outs outside of your team in franchise without putting forth the effort to find it.

Franchise is huge for fans of single player action, but Ultimate Team is more for the Xbox Live crowd and it doesn’t really let those fans down any year. EA does a good job with updating different cards and players and they come up with some good ideas to earn more coins and buy more packs. I wish there wasn’t such a huge focus on purchasing in-game currency for the game mode, but it is what it is.

If you casually like Ultimate Team but you don’t have that much time to invest in playing full time, they’ve introduced a new game mode this year called Draft Champions. You go through 12 rounds of a three option draft and field a team that you can play with online or play with against the computer by yourself. It’s a fun feature and something that you’ll come back to when you fire up the title outside of the franchise mode.

The new Madden has some nice gameplay improvements but nothing to speak of in other areas outside of Draft Champions. It’s still good enough to play this year until the next one comes out.

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