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The heart of Madden NFL 15 remains its Connected Franchise Mode

The vanilla Play Now and online Head-to-Head modes in Madden NFL 15 are there for the exploring, and they’re the best way to go if you just some want to throw on some pads and take to the field. But Connected Franchise of Madden NFL 15 is quickly becoming a feature attraction, and it’s been given a bit of a facelift this year. Here, you choose between becoming a player, owner, or coach of your favorite franchise, which gives you the power to either affect the flow of individual games or get deeply involved in the team’s upkeep. The newest additions in Madden NFL 15 are a “Game Prep” feature and a statistic for individual player confidence. Game Prep provides different activities during a given week that give you more experience to sharpen your skills, while confidence takes into account the ups and downs even veterans feel from week to week.
 
The heart of Madden remains its Connected Franchise Mode, where you and your friends can be a player, coach, or owner. While little has changed at the high level from the past couple of seasons, there are dozens of nuanced modifications that longtime fans will notice--for better or worse. The most drastic is the elimination of Practice in favor of a Game Plan, a feature that allows you to target various metrics such as Confidence to improve player attributes and increase XP. Its implementation is a bit clunky--the menus don’t make it readily apparent how influential your decisions are, and you’re never quite sure if you’ve completed your tasks for the week--and the overall results are difficult to measure. On the plus side, things happening around the league (such as your team’s upcoming schedule) are referenced on-screen more often during games, adding desperately needed context to your experience. Overall, Connected Franchise Mode in Madden NFL 15 remains a deep mode for players online and off; every major sports game should have similar experiences.

 
By their nature, these interactive lessons aren’t the most thrilling aspect of Madden NFL 15, but they are key for the casual fan that may want to go a little deeper on their knowledge. The tutelage bleeds into the game too, should you want it. Prior to selecting a play, you have the choice of the ever-present coaching suggestions, but now they’re expanded to give statistical reasoning to each recommendation. So you will be presented with a half-back dive on 2nd and medium because it’s successful a good percentage of the time for a decent yard gain. Or you’ll line up in a screen formation because statistically the opposition will choose a comparatively vulnerable defense at this stage of the game. Madden NFL 15 also collates successful community picks and your own favorite plays the longer you spend with the game. You can also use the ‘Coach Stick’ to compare player stats in traffic light style, possibly influencing the decision of which rush to take or which pass to make.
 
Me, I mostly stuck to playing on football's best defensive line (St. Louis). Hitting sprint at the snap gives you an indicator of your timing ("perfect" or "late") and now you know one button is for finesse moves and to disengage, one button is for power moves. This new camera does make defense fun. Piling up three to five sack per game (with one player) is fun, though maybe cruel. He simply cannot avoid the pressure of rushing linebackers and defensive ends in Madden NFL 15, a ridiculous turn of events given his actual ability to intelligently avoid the rush. This kind of brain-over-brawn football ability is in no way recreated in Madden NFL 15, preventing Peyton Manning from feeling like Peyton Manning. For the sheer range of options he provides at the quarterback position, the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III is a superior option to Manning. Simply writing that line makes me feel like I've committed a sin. Griffin is nowhere close to Manning in reality and he never will be, but he does have the speed to avoid defenders and keep plays alive.
 
On the flipside, the main improvement on offense in Madden NFL 15 is that playcalling has been streamlined. The suggested plays, now more than ever, take into account the tendencies of the defense as well as what would be a smart play call given the down and distance. More seasoned players still have the option to pick plays by formation, type, etc., but after exclusively using the suggested plays feature for awhile I can say it's rock solid.