A gridiron sim fit for every given Sunday
Unlike the golden years of PES, it’s no longer enough for a sports game to get only the sim aspect right. Madden, like FIFA and NBA 2K, has played like the discipline it represents for a good few years, yet always lagged behind those contemporaries in terms of the matchday feel. Gatorade drenchings all round are due, then, for the guys at EA Tiburon, who’ve finally paid attention to the presentation aspects that make the NFL so damn watchable every Sunday on Sky Sports with strong-like-Rob-Gronkowski results.

Introductory videos before each match cover the main threats on each team, flashbacks retrace key moments, and cutaways showing coaches and players on the sidelines create the sensation that there’s more going on than what’s happening on the field. Plus, the half-time recap show is outstanding.

Larry Ridley’s voiceover seamlessly covers every major incident in the game, while highlight selections and angles are faultless. It means Madden finally feels like an Xbox One title, albeit a year late.

Block party

That’s not to say things have stagnated out on the virtual turf. Improved blocking provides precious additional seconds with which to consider your movements, and the ability to lock to a single player by pressing in the left stick transforms the defensive game. I always play as a deep safety, and in previous years that meant squinting at that top the screen in order to control my guy.

Now, the camera flips 180º so that all the action takes place in front of him. It’s a huge, and quite literal, turnaround.The one element holding Madden back remains Connected Careers. This mode enables you to play as an owner, coach or player, spending XP earned in matches on improving attributes. It’s fun for a season or two, but lacks the depth of great PC management sims. Case in point: approaching restricted free agents forms a big part of every real NFL team’s strategy but in Madden, the option simply doesn’t exist. On new-gen that isn’t acceptable.

And if Johnboy is going to once more earn Hall of Fame contention, it must be addressed long before the candles are blown out on Madden 16’s inevitably garish birthday cake.

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