Madden NFL 15 PS4 Review: Open Season on Quarterbacks

EA Sports has moved past the freshman outing of Madden football on PS4 and Xbox One so excuses relating to poor performance or tight production schedules leaving important features by the wayside are no longer tolerable. Expectations are purposefully raised with Madden NFL 15, and EA Sports has taken moderate steps toward building stable footing on modern consoles while giving select areas a boost through incremental improvements.

Yes, Madden NFL 15 bests its predecessor in a head-to-head comparison, but it’s not the Hail Mary completion veteran players unwisely hold out hope for year after year.

The onus has been on EA Sports to provide a purpose to playing the defensive line other than blindly mashing buttons while chasing the quarterback for many moons. Rather than focus on more ways to share content online or connect socially, something EA Sports has already exploited well enough in recent past Madden games, Madden NFL 15 gives the defensive line its long-awaited due.

This revisionist approach to scrumming in the trenches starts at the snap where a well-timed shoulder button press will determine how quickly the defender gets off the line. Once engaged with an offensive lineman, another button press will determine whether to make an aggressive move to get around him or not.

The reward is obvious; a potential shot at leveling the quarterback and a little celebration dance. If the wrong button is pushed or the timing is off, the risk is that the defender will effectively become glued to the lineman until the play is blown dead. The harshness of this sentence makes one think twice before taking the shot.

Madden NFL 15 screenshot

Risk/reward is also offered on open field tackling with any of the 11 defenders on the field with two tackling button options and a proximity cone to indicate the effectiveness of each. A riskier tackle raises the potential for a fumble, but it could also mean a missed tackle. Conservative tackling is less like to see the ball pop loose, but it’s also more likely to follow through and result in the ball carrier on the turf or pushed out of bounds. Simply offering a conservative versus aggressive choice for defense adds to the game’s realism, gameplay complexity, and better balances opportunities for executing or blowing big plays on both sides of the ball.

Offensive improvements are aligned with those precious seconds during pre-snap decision making. Playmaker versus defender match ups by position are identified by a simple color system where green means the offensive player has the advantage and red the other way around. Paying attention to this will rearrange the order in which receivers are looked at post-snap or help narrow down play-calling decisions. While useful and welcome, it does not guarantee that a lone player lit up green on any given play is the best option on that particular snap.

Madden NFL 15 screenshot

An additional play-calling option reaches beyond typical Madden statistical analysis and calls upon the Madden community to offer up the suggestion based on what play other players have favored the most in a particular situation. Manual and coach recommendations are still present, but this new option offers an interesting wrinkle to the formula and opens the door for additional community involvement in the core game moving forward.

All the plays, audibles and defensive enhancements can’t improve upon the sometimes wacky algorithms at work that determine whether a defender will bounce off a ball carrier like a rubber ball or take him out like a mack truck. As with past Madden games this inconsistent favoritism tilts heavily toward the computer on the harder difficulties and continues to draw into question the game’s fairness.

Defending or trying to catch balls thrown down the field remains looser than it should be as overrunning the ball or taking oneself completely out of the play with a tiny analog stick movement still occurs. It’s also far too easy to step out of bounds by accident, and some of the turning animations take players on far too wide a predetermined loop, also taking them out of plays.

Madden NFL 15 screenshot

Being the best player one can be despite the quirks is more fun than ever in Madden NFL 15 thanks to the extensive returning Skill Trailer mode and new complimentary Gauntlet test. The latter offers up a series of challenges with five retries that ramp up in difficulty, serving out a “boss” challenge every fifth turn. This fun distraction hones skills as well as the Skill Trainer, though it can get repetitive having to navigate the easy challenges over and over only to get hammered on the same latter ones.

Madden NFL 15 brings back the best components of Madden NFL 25 such as Ultimate Madden Team and offline as well as online league play as a player, coach or owner. EA Sports is recognizing what works best and sticking with it, a welcome trend that needs to continue as additional installments are introduced on new-gen consoles in the coming years.

Jim Nantz and Phil Sims return to provide a serviceable commentary that at times is spot on and other times stiff as a board. Ultimately the game presentation is what matters and EA Sports has put forward a smooth operator whose only hiccups only surface when performing online-related tasks such as managing an Ultimate  Madden Team. Gameplay and menus are sleek on PS4 as the gap between network television and Madden’s presentation continues to narrow.

Madden NFL 15 screenshot

Load times were an issue in Madden NFL 25 and they remain so in Madden NFL 15. It can take anywhere up to a minute or more to get a game going once that option is chosen. To help mask the load, EA Sports has added partially skippable player profile videos that at least offer something slightly interesting versus the still imagery of last year. There must be a faster way to get a game booted up and hopefully EA Sports can continue to familiarize themselves with PS4 and Xbox One to figure out what it is.

The Madden franchise took a graphical leap forward last year but left numerous holes in other areas. Madden NFL 15 takes a step forward toward the complete and well-rounded Madden experience gamers have been clamoring for since the franchise went mostly stagnant several years ago. Greatness has not yet been achieved, but EA Sports has the ball and they’re showing signs of putting together a game-winning drive.

Shop for Madden NFL 15 standard or Ultimate editions at

Madden NFL 15 was reviewed on PS4 and provided by EA Sports for the purpose of this review. It will be available for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 on August 26, 2014.

Madden NFL 15 review
out of 5

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