Madden NFL '15 - title

Regular readers of my blog who happen to be football fans may have noticed that I never reviewed last year's EA Sports football games. I had played and reviewed the games every year for the previous three years, but not last year. The truth is: I didn't play last year's games. There were a few reasons for this.

For one, I was kind of burnt out on football games, and was neck deep in RPGs like Skyrim and Dark Souls, as well as Brave New World and some modding. So my plate was rather full. I was somewhat curious about the next-gen football games being released on the PS4 and XBox One, but I had neither system, so couldn't play them. And I wasn't really sure that the PS3 version would be worth playing, since EA's focus was probably (and hopefully) on improving the next-gen games. I didn't want to waste my time on an inferior version of the game that may have been "incomplete" compared to its next-gen counterpart. So I skipped last year's football games entirely.

I still don't own a PS4 or XBox One, and don't have any immediate plans to buy either. But a friend granted me the use of his PS4 so that I could try the P.T. demo. I figured while I have the PS4, might as well try the new Madden, so I picked up a used copy on eBay fairly cheap.

Since I was borrowing a friend's PS4, my time with the game was limited. As such, this review can't be as in-depth as some of my previous football game reviews have been.

EA is continuing to make small, iterative changes to the game's mechanics, as well as recycling mechanics and features from earlier iterations of the game. This year's focus was on defensive control and line of scrimmage play, both of which are areas that were in desperate need of an overhaul. Unfortunately, EA's changes were mostly superficial.

Madden '15 - defensive controls
"New" defensive controls are just prompts for commands that already existed. At least they work better now...

The game advertises new defensive controls for breaking blocks and tackling. The only thing that is really "new" is the ability to steer blockers in order to fill gaps or maintain containment. This helps to give defensive linemen a greater sense of presence, as they aren't run out of the play by blockers quite so easily, and gap control is actually possible.

The other new defensive controls are really just fluff features...

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Chicago Bears alt logo

At the start of the 2012 season, I may have had my hopes for the Bears a little high. I argued that the Bears might be the most balanced team in the league this year, potentially featuring an elite offense, defense, and special teams!

For the first half of the season, in which the Bears got off to a 7-1 start, it looked like I might have been right. But red flags started going up out of the gate. The offensive line just wasn't protecting Cutler very well, and Mike Tice's offense too often looked like the anemic offenses under coordinator Mike Martz. Although not ruled out for sure, it didn't look like Johnny Knox would be playing this year, and Devin Hester just doesn't have the same spark he once had. Early in the season, it seemed as if the Bears might have to rely once again on their defense. That defense shocked the league by being more effective than the offense, with both cornerbacks (Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman) earning Pro-Bowl honors for forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns! Things were looking good at 7-1, but there was a bad feeling in my gut that this all looked too familiar.

Starting the second half of the season, that feeling became justified. Once again, the injury bug started biting the Bears. Alshon Jeffrey and Earl Bennett were both the victims of multi-week injuries, leaving Brandon Marshall as the team's only true threat in the passing game and allowing opposing defenses to send everything they had after Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Cutler and Forte also suffered temporary injuries, and backups Jason Campbell and Micheal Bush were ineffective against the 49ers.

Chicago Bears 26 - Detroit Lions 24 - Brian Urlacher on sideline
I'm getting too used to seeing Urlacher in street clothes.

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There has been a lot of complaining this past month about the non-union, replacement officials currently being used in the NFL while there is an ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and official's union. These replacement officials are doing an objectively horrible job over the pre-season and first few weeks of the regular season, and this week might have been the worst.

However, the horrible officiating is rapidly becoming the best bargaining chip in favor that the official's union could possibly hope for. The NFL cannot afford to continue to allow these bad calls to continue to happen over the course of the year (and most certainly into the playoffs). This week, the NFL may have to just cave in to all the official's union's demands in order to get the trained, experienced professionals back into the zebra-suits and onto the field.

In Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, the game came down to a clear blown call by the officials. With no time left on the clock, Seahawks quarterback Russel Wilson threw a hail mary pass into the end zone. It appeared that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had intercepted the pass, but Seahawks receiver Golden Tate manages to get a hand or two on the ball as well. The play is ruled a "simultaneous catch", which, by rule is awarded to the offensive player.

Sept. 24, 2012, Green Bay vs. Seattle Simultaneous Hail Mary
One official signals "Touchdown", the other (with the slightly better view) give the signal that usually implies "Interception" and "Touchback". The play is ruled a touchdown on field, is reviewed in the booth, and is upheld.

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I saw on NFL Network earlier today that there is apparently some controversy regarding the following play at the end of the New York Giants / Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Sunday, September 16th:

After the game, during the handshake, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was apparently irate with Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano regarding this play, shouted at him the whole time, and almost walked away without shaking hands. The folks on NFL Network were even talking about the possibility of the league taking action against the Buccaneers and possibly even changing the rules somehow to prevent this sort of thing.

What a big baby!

The Buccaneers are trying to win the game! That's the whole point of playing. They are trying to force a mistake that will give them an opportunity to get the ball back and score.

I guess the Giants just didn't want another "Miracle at the Meadowlands" to spoil their game.

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EA Sports logo

Just saw this article in the online version of the Wall Street Journal. According to the article, Electronic Arts (EA) has settled a class action anti-trust lawsuit that alleged their exclusive contracts with the National Football League (NFL), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and Arena Football League (AFL) constituted monopolistic behavior. If the settlement is upheld by the court, EA will owe a small sum of money to consumers who purchased any of their Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football video games for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Wii, PlayStation 3, or Xbox 360.

I doubt that many gamers will be able to actually claim the money owed to them, since I'm sure EA will demand receipts that show a new purchase of the games (and honestly, how many people actually keep receipts for every game that they buy?). I'm also not sure how the settlement will treat consumers who purchased applicable games used, or consumers who resold the games (i.e on eBay or to GameStop).

The most disappointing thing though, is that although EA is agreeing not so sign exclusive deals with the NCAA or AFL, there is no mention of the status or future of its current deal with the NFL. If EA is not forced to relinquish its exclusive deal with the NFL, then this settlement is a very hollow victory for football gaming fans.

I still have a lot of questions, but the prospect of a return to open competition on football video games should be very exciting for football fans! Even if it doesn't apply to the NFL. I hope that companies like 2K, Natural Motion, Sony, and Microsoft will release competitors to EA's NCAA Football over the next few years. I'm disappointed that NFL 2K, NFL Fever, or Backbreaker NFL don't seem to be any more likely, but I hope companies will step up to the plate with new titles like NCAA Football 2K, NCAA Football Fever, and Collegiate Backbreaker.

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Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to opinions about video games and the video game industry. But occasionally, I talk about other stuff too. Feel free to read about the blog.

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