It's been awhile since I've owned a sports game. And no I don't count anything that has Mario swinging a tennis racket or kicking a soccer ball -- though those games are awesome. I'm talking about the simulators; the Maddens, the FIFAs the 2K everythings. Those real-life sports simulators that are supposed to make you feel like you are 'in' the game, like you are LeBron James driving to the rim or that you are Peyton Manning throwing a long TD pass to win the game.

Yea, those sports simulators lost me years ago.

The last Madden I owned was Madden 05 for the Gamecube because why should I shell out $60-plus to buy the same game every year? Why should I care about this little change in graphics or tweak in mechanics? And I never understood those sports gamers that geeked out over some new engine that made my running back break a tackle easier. It was all lost to me. A corner of gaming that I would enjoy playing sporadically when visiting friends or family but ultimately felt was not worth my time or money.

And when I tell people my distaste for Sports games they are shocked because anyone who knows me knows I love sports of all kinds, especially football. I can understand the intricacies of many different sports but to go and play a simulator for hours is beyond me.

Madden NFL 15, however, I can honestly say is a turning point for me in my gaming life. The amount of detail and time put into a complete sports gaming experience is evident throughout. And it is a great game to get gamers as a whole on board.

In this Madden NFL 15 review, I'll explore the major selling points of the game, which include Graphics, Gameplay and Game Modes. Each section will explore the pros and cons and what changes were made from previous editions.

GRAPHICS/PRESENTATION

Boy, this game is beautiful to look at. From my first impressions of playing the game months ago, the first aspect of Madden NFL 15 that stood out was the graphics.

From the players to the grass on the field, the graphics on Madden 15 is better than any previous incarnation. This makes for a very enjoyable experience as you play on your next-gen console and your HD TVs. Each football player looks so much like their real-life counterparts and the power the next-gen consoles allow for extra detail on the jerseys and helmets -- by the way, the new Jaguars helmets are sweet!

Each stadium has its own flavor and looks eerily similar to how they look in real life. The different sound effects coming from the PA systems is also similar. The most notable being the Carolina Panthers stadium and their Panther roar -- which totally makes me think of Sable.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are brought on to give the play-by-play and color commentary. Their unique voices and chemistry is on full display and really gives you the feeling that you are actually watching a CBS broadcast instead of playing Madden. However, the more you play the more repetitive they both seem. I've been guilty of screaming 'F@#$ YOU, PHIL SIMMS!' a few times while he gave one of his captain obvious comments on one of my poor throws.

The pregame talk with Nantz and Simms is great and gets players really amped up for the game. While the halftime show with Larry Ridley is a great addition -- much better than what was shown at E3 -- but could use something more. Not sure what it needs but it could be better and more like a real halftime show. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

There's not much else to say about the graphics of Madden NFL 15. Words can't describe how great this game looks.

GAMEPLAY

Madden NFL 15 -- not unlike past Maddens -- prides itself in its new defensive capabilities. With that said, Madden 15 has the most detailed and complex defenses in the video game's history.

With so many options and actions for your defensive player to perform, your mind will be going a mile a minute trying to figure out the best way to get off the line to sack the quarterback. Timing the snaps was my personal favorite action to have my lineman use, because once you have that timing down you can shed your blocker rather easily using some of the face buttons like square for the PS4 or X on the Xbox One.

If blitzing and attacking the quarterback isn't your game, you can use the right analog to 'guide' your blocker to either clog running lanes or give a blitzing linebacker an easy path to the QB. These immersive options for your defense makes Madden 15 a defensive battle every time you go on the field.

On the offensive side of the ball, you will definitely need to be quick on your toes...or in this case your fingers as the defense is faster so you'll have to make snap decisions. And if you make a mistake, you are in for a rough time because the AI is much smarter in Madden 15. Cornerbacks are eyeing the QB longer to see where they will pass the ball and it's noticeable how quickly they get to the area where you throw. The game is all about anticipation when you are on offense, throw the ball before your wideout gets to his spot. This game really challenges your offensive capabilities.

However, some of the suggested plays -- and there a lot, from what Madden players usually choose in a given situation to what teams normally run -- are not the best. You'll more likely than not go into your playbook to find the play that you are more comfortable with.

The running game is similar to last year's edition and honestly it was probably the most effective offense each and every game I played. Once you got the tricks of running down, it becomes a much easier time to crack your opponent's defense.

I've also noticed some minor changes to the gameplay. One example is a pie chart-like graph that appears when you scroll over to a particular player. It shows their fatigue along with some other crucial stats that change as the course of the game goes on. This makes it more convenient to monitor your players and substitute when needed.

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Overall the gameplay is great, if not frustrating to master at first. Once you get all the new options -- especially on defense -- the game becomes much more manageable and much more fun. You gain a new appreciation to all of the factors that go into every play.

Game Modes

This section will be broken up by the different game modes offered in Madden NFL 15.

Interactive Experience

First things first, when you boot up Madden NFL 15 you'll get a 'cut-scene' scenario where you play the Carolina Panthers against the Seattle Seahawks in this year's NFC Championship game. After seeing the scene play out, you are thrust into a final drive scenario with Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers.

EA Sports is calling this First Interactive Experience and it lets you play out different scenarios and based on the result a unique ending. This is truly a fun mini game while you wait for you console to download all the needed information from the disc. It definitely tests your mettle against arguably the best defense in the game.

Don't worry if you don't beat the Seahawks on your first try -- i sure couldn't -- you can replay the experience in the menu. And hopefully there will be more Interactive Experiences like this in the future.

Skills Trainer

The Madden 15 Skill Trainer lets gamers learn play calling from the ground up. It shows novice to longtime Madden players the best offensive plays to pick against certain defenses, how to recognize a defense and how to exploit them.

It even lets you try out new moves for your defensive lineman and try out your running skills. It also shows you the difference between a lob pass and a bullet pass -- and believe me, there's a huge difference.

Players can spend hours in this mode alone studying like the pros to be the best Madden player and is worth checking out.

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet mode is probably the most fun and easiest to get into. You'll be given certain tasks to complete with your favorite team. They can be getting a first down on third and short or just completing simple cross routes. But every five tasks you complete, you go through a 'Boss' task that ups the outrageous meter to 11.

Try kicking a 100-yard field goal in 200+ mph hurricane winds. Or run 90 yards for the touchdown with no blocking, just using properly timed spins and stiff arms.

Oh and with only three lives before game over, you'll be trying to beat your high score over and over again. Gauntlet is easily the most competitive and genuinely fun mode in the game.

Connected Franchise

Here it is folks, the game mode that you'll spend hours on building the dynasty for the history books. The Connected Franchise mode is similar to last year's edition but has a brand new feature; the confidence meter.

A player's confidence can affect their stats in negative and positive ways throughout a given season. This changes week to week, obviously, and many factors can alter the player's confidence. Confidence ratings are a great addition to Madden as it mimics real life in so many ways.

However, you'll need to put some time in before you see any dividends from the Confidence boost.

The player training you can perform during a given season definitely appeals to my inner Pokemon trainer. Deciding which players need improving and for how long -- because you are only given a certain amount of hours to spend training -- definitely calls for some strategy. I only wish the hours that are not used could roll over, but then that wouldn't be realistic would it?

What really bothered me was that certain coaches and coordinators will give advice to improve your team but not for the job they are assigned to. For example, my wide receivers coach will tell me that my cornerbacks need some work -- WHAT?!

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But all in all the Connected Franchise is exactly what you would expect from Madden, a great way to improve your skills while bringing your favorite team to the Super Bowl. It brings back all the great memories of my last Madden game and how much time I spent bringing my Bills to a dynasty of four Super Bowls in four years.

FINAL RATING

All in all, Madden NFL 15 is a welcome addition to the franchise bringing in more mechanics to make each game feel like a real life NFL game. The graphics are amazing and there is plenty of replayability with the Gauntlet and Connected Franchise modes.

While some quirks like the announcers being repetitive or the defense being very hard to score off on at first take some getting used to, they can't overshadow what EA has done with this edition of Madden.

Playing EA's latest football game has brought this Sports nut back to loving sports games again and whether you're new, left the genre like me or a seasoned Madden player you'll love this game.

9.0/10.0