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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UNLV Running Rebels logo

Next year is going to be a big year for NCAA Football.

The BCS is going away, and a playoff will take over as the determinant of the nation's best college football team.

But how different will things be for my alma matter, UNLV? Well, they certainly won't be competing for a spot in those playoffs, and they probably weren't going to any bowls either. So the big question is: will they have a new head coach?

If you had asked me that question prior to the start of this year, I would have given an emphatic "Yes!".

Heck, I was ready to say "fire him" after last year's heartbreaking loss to Nevada

Caleb Herring against Central Michigan

Caleb Herring has almost single-handedly saved UNLV's season.
Unfortunately, both he and star running back Tim Cornett are seniors.

Bobby Hauck's first 3 years calling signals for UNLV has been less than satisfactory. Each year, the team has finished with a measly two wins, he hadn't won a single road game, and UNLV was prone to giving games away in the second half - even to teams that they should have beaten. The best thing that you could say about UNLV over the past 3 years is that they made some players on some division AA schools very happy! UNLV showed no improvement during those first three years, and in fact, the team seemed to be going backwards. Any hopes of a turnaround season were dashed by the third or fourth week of the season.

After the first five halves of football this season, it was looking like UNLV had fallen even deeper into a tailspin, and I had doubts that Hauck would last through the end of the season - let alone survive long enough to see the fancy new stadium be built.

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UNLV Running Rebels logo

It looks like there's going to be a lot of changes ahead for UNLV's football team. Early designs for a new domed football stadium near the UNLV campus have been floating around the internet for a few weeks, and news also recently broke that Timm Rosenbach has been hired as the team's new offensive coordinator.

In your face, Jerry Jones!

Timm Rosenbach at Washington State

Concept art for the UNLV Now football stadium, featuring a 100-yard-wide video screen. We'll never squint at an instant replay again...

The stadium will be replacing decades-old Sam Boyd stadium (located in the outskirts of town near Henderson, NV), and is supposed to be built on-campus, near the Thomas & Mack Center, only a few blocks away from the Las Vegas strip. The stadium is going to have a retractable dome roof, a seating capacity of 60,000+, and a 100-yard wide video screen. That's right, this stadium is going to have a video screen running the entire length of the football field, effectively making a whole side of the stadium unsuitable for seating.

UNLV Rebel Girls

Now on a 100-yard-wide video screen: the "Rebel Girls"!

The designers and backers of the new stadium want a building that exhibits the uniqueness and flair of Las Vegas, and they think a massive video screen is the way to do it. I guess mounting video poker machines on the backs of everyone's seats wouldn't fly. I'm not terribly thrilled about the video screen idea. A dick-measuring contest with Jerry Jones isn't my idea of improving the football program, and I highly doubt that any video screen is going to attract higher-profile recruits to the program unless the team actually starts winning. Maybe we can use close-ups of the cheerleaders to distract the visiting team?

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This review was originally published 07/30/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct). It has been republished here for archival purposes.

NCAA Football 11

NCAA Football 11 cover (PS3)

The game has nice ideas and looks great, but new gameplay mechanics only seem to create more bugs and problems.

EA really needs some competition in the football gaming market. I can’t imagine any football gaming fan NOT wanting the NCAA to discontinue EA’s NCAA football-exclusivity license when it expires either this year or next. [Update: EA has agreed to not sign another exclusivity agreement!] Comptetition is always good for the consumer, and right now, EA really isn’t giving us games that are up to par with our expectations. For the past two or three years, EA has given us NCAA football games that have contained some great new features and gameplay additions, but every year, they manage to fill the game with new flaws or take steps backwards in terms of gameplay.

Two years ago, excessive turnovers made the game almost unplayable. Last year, the oppressively fast game speed made the game look and feel so chaotic, that it almost completely overshadowed the improvements such as the “"Dead Duck" passes and the "Setup Play" feature. Like in past years, the new game gives us a lot of welcome improvements, but also introduces new problems and takes several steps backwards in certain areas.

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