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Madden NFL 16 Review: Draft King

/ Sep 30th, 2015 No Comments

Madden 16 Review

Last year, EA Sports delivered the first next-gen football game with Madden 15. The game was the same as its PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 counterparts in name only. With a modern polish, smooth animations and improvements on defense, it was clearly the start of a new era for Madden.

Building on the solid foundation that was laid last season, Madden NFL 16 gives players a better idea of what it’s like to be in the mind of a football player. From calling the play before the snap until the whistle blows signaling that play is dead, Madden 16 involves a series of strategic moves. It is the most tense Madden ever, but that also makes it the most rewarding.

Be the Playmaker

It’s difficult to improve upon a gameplay formula that is nearly perfect, but developers made some minor tweaks that result in a major leap forward for the franchise. With new passing controls designed for precise accuracy, players will have more control of the quarterback than ever. Combining directional throwing with controller buttons, players can execute perfect lob passes, deep bombs over the secondary, and place throws where only their receivers can make the catch.

The franchise has explored this concept before, but it has never been effectuated as well as it is in Madden 16. Open receivers can be hit in stride, while throws to covered wideouts can be zipped through tight pockets. This adds another level of strategy to a quarterbacking experience that had become somewhat methodical. Now, players must truly think like a quarterback as they avoid blitzing linemen and strategize the best way to throw to an open teammate.

Playmaker Madden 16

Become the playmaker in Madden 16.

The quarterback controls are complemented by a “playmaker” mechanic that pits the intended target against the defense in an immersive battle for the ball. On offense, gamers take control of the intended receiver and must plot the best way to go up for the catch. Pressing X will set up the receiver to pick up extra yards after the catch, while the Y button will trigger an aggressive attempt for the ball that could result in beautiful, Odell Beckham-like grabs. However, using these catch types in the wrong scenario opens up opportunities for a smart defensive AI.

On the defensive side, there is more strategy involved. The same buttons can be used to go for a pick, knock down passes or tackle the receiver immediately after touching the ball. Successful players will find a balance between going for the big play and hitting their offensive counterparts so that they can’t complete the pass. With last season’s defensive improvements, it all meshes together to create a non-stop immersive experience.

Draft Day

Most of Madden’s game modes carry over from last year’s version. Minor enhancements to Franchise mode create a satisfying RPG-like experience, but Madden Ultimate Team continues to be the game’s most addictive mode. However, it is still haunted by the same ghosts of the past. MUT involves a hefty time commitment and a deeper knowledge of NFL rosters. Additionally, the pay-to-win model gives players who spend real-world money an advantage. To offset this, Madden 16 has a similar new mode designed to be faster paced and more accessible.

Madden Draft Champions

Madden’s newest mode is Draft Champions.

In Draft Champions, players select a head coach and have a roster pre-built to fit that coach’s style. Then a quick draft occurs. Each round allows users to choose between three players (presented on cards the same way they would appear in Ultimate Team). High-rated players and past legends appear in the draft, allowing gamers to acquire Cam Newton, Terrell Davis and other NFL stars without paying money or saving up in-game currency. After the draft, your team takes the field and must win three out of four games to be crowned the draft champion.

This mode, which can be played solo or head to head, offers a rewarding experience without requiring a consistent chunk of time. Because better players are available and there are only four potential games to play, games in Draft Champions are often more exciting and intense.


Madden 16 is the closest you can get to playing football without strapping on pads. The non-stop decision-making creates a feeling of total immersion. Unfortunately, there are some elements that still need to be brought forward along with the rest of the game — commentary is barely passable and the presentation is bland. Overall, Madden 16 is the deepest, most gratifying football game to date.

Madden NFL 16 was reviewed on Xbox One using a code for the game provided by the publisher.


Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom
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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Draft Champions adds a much-needed layer of accessibility to the addictive Ultimate Team experience.


Player models are impressive, but animations can still be glitchy and lack smoothness.


It seems the game can't decide between the TV broadcast experience and the shortened video game presentation. Commentary is still not decidely next gen.


Passing accuracy and playmaker controls function perfectly, but completing deep bombs is almost too easy.