The exclusive deal between Electronic Arts and the NFL can be a double-edged sword. The lack of a viable competitor to the Madden franchise can sometimes yield a mediocre annual release, but the exclusivity can create amazing experiences when the full force of the NFL is put behind one game. Unfortunately, despite a wealth of new ideas and some that even push the franchise forward, a series of bugs made Madden 16 a disappointment.
Fantasy Meets Football
One of its most notable new ideas is Draft Champions, an inventive take on the popular phenomenon of a fantasy football draft. There is definitely an element of randomness to what players pop up each round, and players may end up passing up on a perfect fit because there are too many good options in any given round. With only 15 rounds to draft, it is impossible to make upgrades at every position.
In my experience with Draft Champions, I found it best to draft to fit a play style. You better draft some offensive linemen if you plan on running the ball, but at the same time you have to balance your offensive and defensive picks. The draft is aided by the inclusion of Legends, like Christian Okoye, Herman Moore, and Rod Woodson. The new mode can be unforgiving: lose one game and you are out, albeit with some Ultimate Team cards as your reward. I wish there was a way to save the teams you have drafted to play with them later, but its novelty makes it a welcome addition to the Madden family.
Changing the Playbook
Other modes have received some tweaks. Connected Franchise Mode has added some in-game drive goals that dynamically update every time you take the field. This is just another way for players to increase their XP as well as give them an in-game confidence boost. Other changes, like additional management tools, a refined scouting system, and a "To Do" tab, are definitely improvements over prior years. Ultimate Team received quite a few changes of its own. It's not my favorite mode, since I find the XP-to-currency exchange grindy, but as a popular mode I can recognize that it's made some smart improvements.
The core gameplay has undergone revisions of its own. The Quarterback has more passing options with the addition of a touch-pass, and additional control over passes. Wide receivers can select how to catch, giving an extra layer of strategy on the offensive side. Defensive players now have the option to play the ball or the receiver, and minor changes for rushing the QB.
Field of Bugs
Despite all this, I found myself enjoying Madden 16 much less than Madden 15. Sometimes it takes a few years to shake out the bugs when EA makes meaningful changes to gameplay in their games, and this year's entry is a perfect example of that. The new receiver/defender gameplay features lead to more dropped passes, tipped balls, and interceptions than previous years, the improved collision detection has some bugs when it comes to players tripping over their own teammates, and the improved graphics seem to actually slow down the game at times.
For example, during the exhibition Cardinals vs Steelers Super Bowl game that serves as the first game, it would repeatedly turn choppy. I credit EA for trying to push the PlayStation 4 to the limits, but I had to wonder how it let such obvious problems go out the door.
I pressed on, but that certainly wasn't the end of the errors. I've lost save files after it hung on franchise connected games. I saw a win falsely recorded as a loss in Draft Champions. I witnessed player models outright disappearing on the field and during touchdown celebrations. In one hilarious moment, Phil Simms bantered about my team dominating the third quarter, only seconds after the quarter had started.
In a world where Madden is our only NFL game, I can only measure its success and polish against past iterations. Though Madden NFL 16 has some great ideas in the form of new modes or changes to existing systems, it feels less cohesive and finished than the franchise deserves.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 disc provided by the publisher. Madden NFL 16 is now available for $59.99. The game is rated E.
Madden NFL 16
- Draft Champions is a novel new game mode
- Lots of smart, small changes to core gameplay
- Some tweaks lead to frustrating offensive game
- An overabundance of bugs
Asif Khan posted a new article, Madden NFL 16 Review: Roughing the Passer
sounds like the PS4 version may be buggier than the XB1? I know virus was complaining about a lot of issues. I really haven't seen any of these bugs although the frame rate drops are very real and really inexcusable.
The opening cutscene is horrific for 2 reasons: the performance is absymal. Sadder, it's actually a great, well presented sequence that captures a lot of the feel and presentation of a real game and NFL Films. Commentary is interesting, players are interacting and bantering, storylines are built, all in one drive (although it's also an awful tutorial). Then you get dropped into real Madden and you're reminded of the past decade of atrocious commentary and poor presentation that just has you mashing A/X between plays to get back to the action.
I have yet to see a game killing bug on the PS4, really the only ones I have seen was the announcers talking about the wrong team at times, I can be on offense and according to the announcers the other teams QB is leading me down the field, or they talk about how my passing game is doing terrible, the very next drive after I had 60 passing yards on 5 plays ending in a touchdown. I think my only real complaint about the game is the momentum system it seems to be using, if the opposing CPU QB gets off to a great start, no matter who he is, he will be unstoppable for the entire game, vs if he starts 1 for 4 he will finish 15 for 40 and the game will be a blow out, even if it is Tom Brady.
I am going to be honest here, I read this full review and I am stuck wondering if the Madden 16 I have played is the same one the reviewer did. I think it is a step up from last year in a couple of ways. I will say this, I mostly play franchise mode so maybe it is just the other modes are terrible or a step back, but the tutorials (not the opening one) are fantastic and actually can teach you about football, franchise mode while still not being as good as it was in 2002 is better than it has been in the past, probably 7 years (PS3, PS4 era). As for on the field the new throwing options make all the difference, if you have a solid running game and know where to place the ball on certain routes vs the coverage being applied this game is better than it has ever been before.