The latest iteration of the Madden NFL series has made a multitude of changes which for the first time opens it out to the wider public, namely by taking a leaf out of FIFA’s book and making it infinitely more accessible.
Because as much fun as Madden has been in previous years, it’s always suffered with casual players never having enough time to experience the full array of features the game has to offer, outside of a simple exhibition match.
Now though the game has introduced a new feature that would allow even the most time sensitive of gamers to shoehorn an entire season of play into a single weekend.
This addition to the game should no doubt please millions of casual NFL fans (like admittedly myself) who likely tune into the Superbowl, venture to the rare game at Wembley but don’t have the time, patience or inkling to endure America’s favourite past time on their PS4 or Xbox One beyond an occasional exhibition match.
However if all of this so far sounds as though EA Sports and Madden have purposefully focused on pulling in new crowds rather than pleasing the games dedicated fan base, then don’t worry, that’s not what’s going on.
Despite making the game miles more accessible, the biggest changes have upped the ante for seasoned players, bringing in a more nuanced ground game, improved defensive AI and all new trick plays to make the challenge and enjoyment all over the pitch even greater.
Now though a complete overhaul has allowed greater control over the runner as well as letting you actively engage with the defenders coming at you in more ways than simply palming them off with a stiff arm or spinning out the way.
Obviously player attributes, fatigue and a host of other factors come into play, but ball carriers now have greater flexibility to implement special moves or fakes by tapping your controllers triggers (L2/LT or R2/RT).
As with any football match, these moves won’t always come off, but when you do pull off a well-timed manoeuvre, leaving multiple defenders on the floor while you pull away for a 60 yard touchdown, it’ll have you feeling so satisfied you’ll want to start celebrating with your team (but please, no backflips in the house).
That said, for a casual player it can still be pretty daunting and there’s still plenty of work needed on simplifying the defensive side of the game for complete newcomers.
It’s the one area we struggled with initially and also the area we had least fun with while playing.
Obviously we’ve no doubt it’s something the games practice mode can drill into us and help us improve over time.
But there’s no question that this is one side of the game that’s not as easily geared towards making Madden as easy as possible to simply pick up and play for complete newcomers.
There’s a slight bit of extra customisation for Ultimate team but that’s it.
And in truth, why would they change what isn’t broke?
Overall the main Madden focus for this year has been concentrating on how to make the game both more accessible for casual gamers and more in depth and challenging for the seasoned pro.
A task that on paper reads like an equivalent hail mary pass for EA Sports, but thankfully they seemed to have pulled it off with all the poise, control and vision of Peyton Manning after the snap.