With a greater focus on receivers/cornerbacks and a fantastic new Draft Champions mode, Madden NFL 16 represents a vast improvement over last year’s game in nearly every way.
When it comes to recommending the latest game in Madden NFL franchise, there are typically a few questions to answer. What’s new this year? What’s better this year? What’s worse? Does it warrant a purchase if I bought it last year?
It’s the way a review approached Madden ’98 and it’s the same way this one will approach Madden NFL 16. After all, if it isn’t broke…
This year, Madden NFL 16’s gameplay focus is on the intimate relationship between quarterback and wide receiver. Whereas before a lot of the attention was placed solely on the QB, and the receiver’s tendencies were left to chance, Madden NFL 16 gives players more control over both. They can determine how the QB releases the ball (lob, bullet, touch) and how the receiver tries to catch it (aggressive, safe, run after catch).
It’s these two ideas – one new and one old – that work in tandem to create an on-the-field experience that better represents the player. Granted, players had some agency in a receiver’s actions before, but now there are more options at their fingertips. It’s not just about hitting a button and hoping for the best anymore. If the player wants their receiver to go after a ball they can make them, or if they want them to turn up field prior to catching the ball they can do that as well.
Since Madden NFL 16 has revamped its receiver options, it’s only fair that they give the cornerbacks some boosts as well. For this year’s game, players have the added option of determining how they want to play a receiver. They can play the ball for a better chance at an interception or play the man to guarantee a tackle and hopefully prevent a first down. Like with the receiver additions, these slight tweaks make for a Madden experience that is better influenced by the player’s direct actions. It also makes for games that are less prone to frustrating AI decisions, although those can still happen.
Off the field, Madden NFL 16 offers the usual bounty of modes that fans enjoy. The Connected Franchise continues to deepen with the introduction of drive goals. These situational objectives will ask players to complete certain actions and in return will give them XP and confidence boosts. Some are pretty basic, like getting two first downs on a drive, while others can be more challenging, like completing four passes in a row.
It’s obviously a small change, but one that helps break up the monotony of the average career mode. And for players who want even more control over their franchises, Madden NFL 16 has beefed up scouting to be more streamlined. Scouting has always been something that’s there for those who want it, and largely ignored by the more casual fans. However, the way this year’s game surfaces information, specifically the player ratings, helps make things easier.
Madden NFL 16’s signature mode for this year, however, is Draft Champions, which combines the team-crafting of Fantasy Football with the on-field experience of Madden. Players will go through 15 rounds of player selection, choosing between one of three players. However, picking players for a specific position comes with its own risk. Pick a decent player early and you may miss out on a better one at that position later. Or you may pull the trigger on a player that doesn’t gel with your team’s coach or his game plans.
For those players who have enjoyed Madden Ultimate Team over the years, Draft Champions feels like a smarter offshoot. It doesn’t have quit the finality of crafting a team, since players only complete in 3 AI matches or 4 online ones, but it also features more strategy. Draft Champions is the mode for players who have a few hours to spare and want a complete experience.
As far as visuals are concerned, Madden NFL 16 is once again at the top of the pile when it comes to sports games. Player faces are more detailed, animations are getting smoother, and the overall presentation is more dynamic. There are still plenty of areas that could use fine-tuning, but it’s hard to deny Madden NFL 16 doesn’t look good.
Then again, Madden has looked good and played relatively well for the last few years. So, if you’re still holding out for the revolutionary next step in the franchise, Madden NFL 16 is not it. Rather, this year’s game makes smart tweaks to a few ignored on-the-field areas while beefing up its selection of modes with Draft Champions.
As a result, it’s fair to say that Madden NFL 16 is as complete a package as the current-gen platforms have seen thus far. It’s the best playing iteration, the best looking iteration, and it’s likely to give players far more value than any prior release. And given that last year’s Madden NFL 15 was pretty disappointing, it’s easy to say this year’s version warrants a purchase.
Madden NFL 16 is available now for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 copy for this review.