Tomorrow will mark one week since Madden 16 released and I’m about 25 games deep into my exploration. There’s a lot to love about Madden 16 but there’s also a lot to hate about it as well. This version has probably been one of the more polarizing editions than I can remember. Some are going to rave about it and others are going to furiously bitch about it. If you love passing and offense then you’re the former, if you’re looking for a more sim type of game then prepare to be disappointed. For my money I enjoyed last year’s version more but that’s no knock because I thought Madden 15 was the best version in a decade. My one liner for this entire article would be: the playmaker addition is great, and provides for amazing highlights, but it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the game.
The cover athlete is Odell Beckham Jr. and given his natural set of abilities it makes sense why Madden 16 would focus on the playmaker. Focus is probably the wrong word, focus implies being the center point the proper phrase should be all-encompassing. Everything new about this game that I can tell revolves around the receiver. Amazing and spectacular catches are an every game occurrence. One handed grabs are routine. 3rd and long are no problem. It’s like Nerf football at the park. Playing pass defense has never been harder in the Madden series except for Madden 2004.
In my trials and tribulations I’ve found Man Defense to be slightly more effective than Zone Defense. If you drop back into a zone a quarterback is going to pick you apart. The gaps between the defenders are magnified with the “Playmaker” ability to catch on the run or make an aggressive catch in a difficult spot. At least in man to man you have a fighter’s chance to make a deflection or interception. But Man Defense is by no means a safe bet either. A handful of times I’ve been burned on a slant for a catch and run touchdown. I think Amari Cooper took me to the house for 80 yards in my first online MUT game. I’ve been beaten over the middle with tight ends when I’m running the Cover 2 so no defense is 100% fail proof. It’s going to take a while to find your groove on defense and the best recommendation I can give is get pressure on the quarterback early and often. Oh and don’t worry about getting a pass interference penalty I have yet to be called for or be the recipient of one in any game I’ve played thus far. NFL Blitz is smiling somewhere.
Aside from the favoritism towards passing there really isn’t a lot about the game I don’t enjoy. The visual graphics are obviously stunning, the running game seems precise and tackling is stable and authentic. The majority of my time has been spent on Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) solo challenges and the new Draft Challenge mode. The Draft Challenge mode is a load fun and has a slight edge over FUT Draft solely for the fact that the cost to enter is free. I’ve been able to test out a few different players which has helped me carve out my path for my regular MUT Team.
The first edition team I drafted consisted of Cam Newton, Dermontti Dawson, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Ladarius Webb and Marcell Dareus. I decided to focus on offense and that paid off winning all three games and claiming the title. My second edition team I thought was better but I ended up getting smoked in the finale because the computer team was absolutely stacked. My squad was Drew Brees, Brian Finneran, Jimmy Graham and Shady McCoy. The key to success is having an athletic tight end who can run. (Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski are all game changers in every sense of the word.) The CPU rolled out Matt Ryan, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, TY Hilton and that was just the offense. It’s an extremely fun mode and you learn a lot about which positions are more valuable than others and how important chemistry can be over rating. On my second team where I was blown out in the last game I ran with a team that I patched together with “big name” players instead of improving on my Man Defense chemistry which was severely lacking.
Switching over to Madden Ultimate Team, all you need to know is nothing has changed from last year. I suppose that’s another reason why I enjoyed Madden 15 more because MUT had a newness to me and that has wore off. It’s the same game and the same grind with challenges, collections and hoping to strike gold in packs. I haven’t spent a dime of my winnings so I’m sitting on 21,000 coin and pondering my strategy. In my pre-order packs I managed to pull Tony Romo, Mark Ingram, Martellus Bennett, Lance Briggs, Rolando McClain and Morgan Burnett. My temporary playmaker card is Odell Beckham Jr. so I can enjoy him for a few more weeks until he turns into a pumpkin on September 25th.
When it comes to sports video games Madden has never been and will never be my favorite. FIFA is at the top, MLB the Show is next followed by NBA 2K. Madden comes in fourth and nothing is going to change that. I loved NCAA Football more for the ambiance, the uniqueness of rivalry trophies/conferences and the presentation of college football. NCAA Football felt a bit looser, there was multiple styles of offenses and every year just felt fresh. Madden just doesn’t do it for me.
The game is well built, it’s a solid buy every single year. I just will never become a die hard. I don’t enjoy it enough to buy a guide, learn the playbook and religiously study defenses, formations and player statistics. All of that effort is reserved for FIFA with me. But for those of you bashing Madden because you didn’t like the commercial (I didn’t either I thought it was dumb) you need to calm down. Their marketing money is different than development money. They don’t go hand in hand. It’s their job to hype the game not necessarily inform you of the new features and nuances of what changed. Madden is a machine and the machine will keep rolling with or without you.