Review: ‘Madden NFL 15’ is true next-gen football

“Madden NFL 15” is a next-generation experience.

The “Madden NFL” franchise is often maligned for its seeming lack of changes from year to year. While this year’s edition, “Madden NFL 15,” doesn’t reinvent the proverbial wheel, it’s upgraded in all the right places and truly made into a next-generation experience.

“Madden NFL 25,” last year’s model, was ported to the newest gaming consoles from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 generation, but it felt like a slightly prettier version of the same game.

Next-gen gaming is all about connecting online with the community while upping the power and beauty factors, and that’s where EA Sports gets it right this time.

Done are the days when football beginners would “Ask Madden” what play to choose. Now, the game takes data from all “Madden” players to advise what plays work in which situations and how many yards they’ll net you, on average. However, the play-calling menus don’t seem as user-friendly as in years past if you choose to go deeper and select your own play.

The “Madden” presentation also received a long-overdue face-lift, finally providing a main menu setup that both responds quickly and is easy to navigate. The in-game accoutrements were spruced up, too, with slick pregame and halftime shows that are worth not skipping.

A single game of “Madden” never has felt so close to an actual TV broadcast in look and feel.

Actual football gameplay innovations remain small, but mostly impactful. Among the biggest are on defense — when not playing local multiplayer — where users can take control from the players’ perspective rather than the traditional behind-the-QB camera angle. This has been doable in Superstar mode in the past, but now is integrated into the other modes. It’s nifty, but switching players on the fly gets disorienting. Plus, the kicking game is improved by a fading line that better indicates how a kick may travel.

As a bonus for football newbies or those looking to better understand the nuts and bolts of the sport’s strategy, a bolstered Skills Trainer now teaches everything from Cover 6 defense to stick routes. There’s also a new Gauntlet mode that presents the skills challenges along with some more arcade-style objectives that’s a fun diversion.

Honestly, “Madden” doesn’t feel like a must-buy every year, but “15” comes closer to that distinction than the franchise has in years.

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