Madden NFL 16 Review on PlayStation 4
Annual sport franchises like Madden NFL 16 have it a little rough. Considering there’s only about 12 months (if that) to really work on a new game, there isn’t a whole lot of time to innovate. And even EA Sports wanted to throw everything out and start over, there are fans that expect something familiar each year to worry about. Instead of expecting something radically different that will change sport games forever, [that would be a nice surprise though right?] it’s probably more helpful to judge Madden NFL 16 on the refinement of its gameplay as it strives to be as authentic as possible. Along with what kinds of modes of play there are, and whether they land or not. Madden NFL 16 is very hit and miss in both of those aspects.
First and foremost, at the time of this writing, Madden NFL 16’s franchise mode is currently busted. It is operable, but most notably there are major issues with player progression during games and across season play. These bugs will kill any stat related realism and cause problems with long-term player progression if that’s something you care about. This is likely going to be fixed as soon as humanly possible but leaving one of your most popular modes busted for launch isn’t a good look and needed to be noted.
While those issues are exclusive to franchise (CFM), there is another issue that is subtle, but so frustrating and it persists across all modes; Madden NFL 16’s loading times. The traditional pregame load screen is pretty long on its own, but it’s the small delays that occur while navigating Madden NFL 16’s menus that really add up. Something as simple as scrolling through stats or flipping around the options takes much longer than it should. Sure a second or two may not sound like a lot, but when almost everything you do has that small delay, it gets real annoying real fast. This has existed for a while now in the Madden franchise, and actually feels a little improved this year if anything. but it still exists and it still isn’t any less of an annoyance. Other types of “lag” like issues also carry over into Madden Ultimate Team’s auction house, where occasionally bids on cards can delay, causing you to lose out on a player because the game took too long to refund you your coins from your previous bid.
Couple this with the bugs in franchise, the occasional bits of freezing and lag that I encountered throughout Madden NFL 16’s various game modes and it starts to paint a picture of instability on the back end of things. It isn’t game breaking though by any means. Most of the time Madden NFL 16 works fine. However, it happens often enough that you’re left with this feeling that something could get jammed up at anytime. If a loading instance starts taking a little longer than it should, you’ll probably find yourself holding your breath and crossing fingers.
However the NFL isn’t about distracting off the field issues right? Let’s talk about Madden NFL 16’s gameplay. Inspired by its cover star Odell Beckham Jr., Madden NFL 16 places a lot of emphasis on Wide Receivers this year. Players now have more control over how WRs approach their catches. With a hold of a button you can focus a WR on catching for possession or for yardage. Two welcome additions that work quite well and add realism.
There’s also the aggressive “risky” spectacular catch. I quote risky because it feels like Madden NFL 16 went a little overboard with this new feature. It sure looks awesome when a WR jumps up, battles with a CB and comes down with a catch; however it starts losing its luster when you see middle of the pack WRs pulling it off with regularity. Still, it’s something that fans should be happy is in the game, but it could use some fine tuning for sure.
In addition to the changes to WRs, there are also a number of smaller tweaks across the board that enhance Madden NFL 16’s realism. They are added alongside improvements to the broadcasting and presentation. However, some longstanding issues persist. There are still a handful of plays that can be abused for easy yardage on offense, and defense still doesn’t control as naturally as offense does. Be ready to find a way to counter plays such as slants and screens because they are easily pulled off, abused, and you bet your ass someone out there will use the s**t out of them.
What ends up happening is that games online, with their short quarters, end up being hyper offensive. You rarely get an authentic feeling game. You can’t really establish the run because you’re living in constant fear of punting the ball away and giving your opponent a huge advantage if a run or two goes south. And if you do find a hole in your opponents run defense and can exploit it, it’s isn’t difficult with good clock control to take up an entire half with one drive. Something I was able to achieve pretty easily without running every play down to the last second.
OK so Madden NFL 16 still isn’t the perfect football simulator and has some frustrating bugs and load times. What about its game modes then? Putting aside for a moment the already mentioned franchise mode that will probably be fixed soon, the rest of Madden NFL 16’s game modes are very well developed and deep. There is so much to do and rarely will you find yourself getting bored (unless football bores you of course).
Madden NFL 16’s flagship mode is without a doubt its Ultimate Team mode (MUT for short). So much of Madden NFL 16 ties into MUT in someway, including its new Draft Champions mode which we will get to shortly. There’s an obvious reason why EA pushes MUT so hard on fans. It’s filled with microtransactions. However this is nothing new and really isn’t a point of contention. Unless you’re playing at the absolute highest level, you’ll rarely run into pay-to-win situations. Sure you’ll occasionally play a team that feels “bought” but they are pretty few and far between.
It isn’t particularly difficult to put together your own team without purchasing points and there are plenty of modes within MUT to break up the monotony of grinding coins. Between situation challenges, traditional head-to-head, playing against friends, wheeling and dealing on the auction house (which is quite addictive) and season modes, there is a ton to do just within MUT itself. Granted it will definitely take some time to start reaching high OVR levels, but I never had any issues with getting matched with someone similar to my team’s OVR.
MUT’s season mode in particular is excellent as the stakes are always high. You’re placed in a 10-game season with other players around your skill level and must win a certain amount of games to make the playoffs. Advancing through them will earn you coin rewards. Preform poorly in the playoffs and you could be regulated to a lower level league European soccer style. It’s extremely well done and hopefully EA Sports continues to invest time into it.
New this year and equally as welcome is Madden NFL 16’s Draft Champions mode. Meant to simulate the experience of a fantasy football draft, Draft Champions tasks players with drafting star players to anchor a pre-generated team that you then enter into a tournament with. It doesn’t exactly mimic a fantasy football as you lose the human element since you’re not drafting against anyone else. However that said, you still have to make the tough choices as each draft and round is randomized and you don’t know what positions will be available and at what OVRs. For example, in a recent draft I had I choose to draft Tony Romo over other two positions of need early on. However in the final round Aaron Rodgers appeared alongside two positions I didn’t need. Sheepishly I chose Aaron Rodgers knowing now that Tony Romo was a wasted pick.
Although I messed up, those types of moments are still enjoyable and the best part is you can start over quite easily. Tournaments are quick, only four games long. And if you hate the team you drafted, you only have to wait 20 minutes to start a new one (an understandable restriction probably there to prevent people from grinding the draft over and over for a perfect team).
Madden NFL 16 is just fun enough and just authentic enough to recommend to football fans, despite its technical issues. Yes, the load times and occasional freezes are frustrating but isn’t enough to ruin the game (thankfully). Not having a functioning franchise at launch is outrageous, but because it’s a known issue and will likely be fixed soon, means it’s a problem that will be eventually forgotten and forgiven. Also considering Madden NFL 16 has so much else to offer makes it an easier pill to swallow. Madden NFL 16 is like your typical perennial playoff team that lacks a certain something to get to the Super Bowl. “Off the field”, EA Sports needs to make sure that any mode it’s going to ship out works properly before launch. “On the field”, Madden NFL 16 still doesn’t feel as authentic as it could be. It’s a good football game, but not an elite one.