Madden NFL 15 Preview: EA makes playing defense fun again

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Read our full Madden NFL 15 review.

Madden is more than just a franchise: It’s a 26-year-old institution. Sure, there are older brands out there — the Marios and the Zeldas of the world. The difference is, those others need to constantly reinvent. Madden is all about iteration. Football doesn’t change dramatically from year to year, but technology certainly does. So when we’re looking at a game like Madden NFL 15 for the first time, we’re not asking ourselves, “What does this game do that’s genuinely original?” We’re asking, “What does this game do that’s better than those that came before it?”

A purely casual observer might answer “not much.” On the presentation side of things, there are new pre-game introductions featuring refreshed stadium exteriors and a new QB runout sequence. There’s a new halftime highlight reel accompanied by contextual commentary informed by the goings-on in the first half. There’s also a new approach to controlling your view of the action during a game, with D-pad commands for switching your view at the line of scrimmage. Planning a run down the middle? You’ll want to zoom in tight on the snap. Passing it downfield? Pull back for a wider view of what’s happening. Simple.

New intros, improved halftime, and more camera perspectives — just the sort of bullet-points that we’ll often laugh at with any new annual release, poking fun at the creatively bankrupt situation that must exist behind the scenes. These are meaningful additions for a diehard football fan that craves a new Madden fix year after year, but there’s still something comical about the idea of pimping out “new cameras!” on a press release.

But dig a little deeper — and let’s be clear: this is a series that’s always rewarded those willing to invest — and you’ll find a host of very smart functional changes. Inspired by the success of Madden 25‘s Xbox One exclusive CoachGlass, which beamed statistical information to a second screen device in an attempt to make defensive play more satisfying, the EA Tiburon team integrated that same functionality into the game. No need for a second screen anymore; all the info you want is right there on your TV.

The play calling screen has been completely remixed so that it now pulls in data from the real world to give you a sense of how often your team uses certain plays and how effective they are, all gauged situationally based on what’s happening at that precise moment in your game. The feature depends on being able to download data; it’s of an inconsequential size, but it’s worth noting that you’ll need to at least be connected when you first fire up the game if you want to see the extra info.

EA Tiburon also continued its long look at the defensive side of the game. CoachGlass last year was an attempt to remedy the fact that playing on defense isn’t really all that enjoyable. Most just pick their plays, assume control of a linebacker, and trust in the AI to handle any pass disruption. We’re back to cameras for a moment, as the devs brought over NCAA Football’s (R.I.P.) two-piece defensive camera that locks to a player and allows you to monitor the action from both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Defensive players at the line are also agile in a way that’s more true to life than it has been before. Now, if a linebacker is in the midst of a block as a running back starts to trot by, you can use the left stick to steer the block and even reach out for a tackle. There’s also an all-new “Tackle Cone” that pops up as a defensive player moves in for the kill. The cone that appears communicates the player’s range; just get your target inside the cone and hit the appropriate button for one of several different tackles.

That’s just a sampling of what our presentation touched on. One-button switch to pass defenders, a timing-based minigame off the snap that give the offense a slight advantage when rushing the ball, the new Coach Stick (for quickly checking stats in-game before the snap), and more. Our brief hands-on was enough to confirm that the game feels like Madden should, but all of the new enhancements are going to require more time and attention … which is just how EA Tiburon’s always liked it.