It’s one of the best times of year, and that, my friends, is football season. Every year I get excited that maybe this is the year we’ll stop hearing about Tim Tebow, but then Sam Bradford had to go get hurt and we’re back at it again. Anyway, with the start of football season always comes the release of Madden. This year’s edition is the 26th in franchise history, and this is also the second one that focuses primarily on defense. This edition is also the second one released on next gen consoles with the first one, Madden 25, not being overly great. This year’s does take a turn for the better, and hopefully will be a turning point for the critically acclaimed series.
As stated, this year’s game focuses on the defensive side of the ball, which is fitting, as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman graces the cover. One of the biggest and most noticeable changes in the game is the defensive camera. Instead of using the same camera on both sides of the ball, there is now a choice to use a view that puts the user right behind the defensive player they are controlling. It truly makes you feel as though you are on defense, and it is a welcome addition.
When controlling a defensive lineman or any defender that comes in contact with a blocker, a new button combination sequence appears. When the defender engages with a blocker, the game will prompt the player to tap a button and push the analog stick in the direction it wants. If the player does this quickly enough, the defender will shed the block and move into the backfield. This made rushing the passer more fun and made me, for the first time in about five years, actually play from the defensive side instead of just simulating to when I’m on offense.
Your players will also make plays and catch the ball in this edition as well, which means fewer frustrating times when your defender drops an easy interception. Coverage is also tighter, making throws harder on both the computer and other players. Both of these serve as welcome additions.
With the addition of all the defensive features, one would think, “Well yeah, but what about the offense? That is probably super hard now.” And you, the reader posing this question, would partially be right. It is harder to play offense, but not super hard, just more realistic. You can’t just drop back and chuck the ball 50 yards downfield with no consequences. You actually have to find windows in the zone and choose what direction to lead your receivers when they’re in man coverage so they can separate. In last year’s version, I would average 30ish points a game on All-Madden, but this year I barely average 21 on All-Pro. It’s a lot harder to put up points, which is much more realistic. Finally, the defenders can’t jump nine feet in the air to pick off one of your passes anymore which makes me a happy camper.
Aside from the gameplay and updates in graphics, not much else has changed from last year. All the Connected Franchise modes are still there and they are still great. This year, EA added a preparation task to the franchise, which means that you get to allot points to boost your experience or confidence, neither of which really change the outcome of the game. One added mode this year that I tried once is “The Gauntlet,” which is basically practice mode on steroids. You get pitted against a leaderboard and have to do the drills better than your friends. It’s cool in the sense that you get to compete with your friends in a new mode, but in reality it’s just glorified practice, and who really wants that?
After all is said and done, it still is a Madden game, so some things will infuriate players to no end and some things will just be weird (see Tiny Titan). Nevertheless, this game is a huge step forward for the franchise, not only in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of a truly next gen experience.