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Madden NFL 15 represents an encouraging step forward for this series

Madden NFL 15 transforms you into your rival's worst nightmare with a new breed of defense built to challenge the best offenses in the NFL. A new arsenal of pass rush moves, an intuitive tackling system, improved coverage logic, and immersive new camera angles make defense exciting and fun to play. Call plays with confidence thanks to an all-new crowd-sourced recommendation engine built from millions of online games played by the Madden community. Add in all-new NFL Films inspired presentation and it's not just football, it's Madden Season! Team chemistry is a system of boosts that offer certain attributes for all players on your team. Players that provide chemistry have a special hex icon on the front of their player items to see how much of a boost your player provides. Team chemistry ranges from 0-99, and as you add more and more to your team, the attribute boosts get bigger and bigger. Tiers, position, and chemistry types determine how much chemistry a player provides. For example, every gold tier left end player with Pass Rush provides the same chemistry boost.
 
Your team's chosen play style (like west coast offense, run stuffing defense, etc.) is no longer called Team Chemistry, but Style. Despite the name change, the concept is the same - choosing a Style and using players who fit that mold gives them ratings boosts in a few relevant stats. The Best Lineup button has been extended to select the best players based on the Style you've chosen. This creates the best starting lineup based on a few germane player stats instead of just their overall rating like last year.
 
The other thing Madden NFL 15 brought to you by Bengay Spermicide? (Nukes the swimmers AND burns the glans!) does right is offer a decent, albeit annoyingly branded Skills Trainer, which it forces you into immediately (though you can skip it). Combined with additional information on the play call screen (suggestions for what type of plays work against what types of defense, notes on how often team's run certain sets on certain downs and distances, etc), there's a decent attempt at teaching new players the systems, buttons and rules of football.

 
Playing on defense, for instance, is a task only now worth engaging with. For the first time ever in a Madden game, your individual actions while defending actually matter - from where you decide to position the player you're in control of, to when you decide to react to the snap, to how quickly you are able to read the motion and intent of your opponent's play-by-play gameplay. Much of this impact is achieved by simply allowing you to move the camera behind your own defensive players, mirroring the angle you use while on offense. The rest comes from you having to rely less on the AI to make things happen for you, a change of tack most welcoming felt during online matches against players good enough to befuddle the game's algorithms at will.
 
All of the above changes in Madden NFL 15 go a long way to making this year's Madden NFL 15 feel the most consistently satisfying entry in the series in a good long while. While holdover issues like problematic offensive lines, sometimes clunky running mechanics, deeply confusing in-game menus, annoyingly repetitive (and periodically incorrect) commentary, and various glitches of both the minor and severe varieties are still present, I didn't find myself sighing with exasperation over them nearly as much. More often, I found myself too engaged with the act of playing video game football to care quite as much. Given that I generally like video game football quite a bit, it's sort of dispiriting to realize how long it's been since I've been able to do that. There are still a lot of things this series could stand to improve, but Madden NFL 15 represents an encouraging step forward for this series. A small step, to be sure, but still a positive one.
 
Madden has hit the ground running this console generation and is in a better position to push forward than it has been in a while. This year's game is like the lone bright spot of the last generation: Madden NFL 13. That year we got Connected Careers and an improved passing game. Madden 15 improves these two facets, but it feels like other areas of the title have not progressed enough. Despite this uneven performance, Madden NFL 15 demands you raise your game to the next level, and hopefully is in the process of raising its own. I'm disappointed in the areas that haven't been addressed.