Madden 15 Review Part 2: Offline Experience

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Connected Careers: Player Mode

Playing as a player in Connected Careers provides for a completely different experience than the coach and owner franchise modes in Madden 15. Instead of taking over a team, you take over a single player and try to carve out a Hall-of-Fame career.

The first step is to pick the player’s position and type. Every position on defense is available, and all of the skills positions on offense. Offensive linemen are left out, likely because playing them would be incredibly boring.

The next step is to pick the player’s “backstory.” In reality, this just means picking if the player is an early-round draft pick, a late-round pick, or an undrafted free agent. Early round picks start off with better stats, while undrafted players improve much faster.

It is also possible to play as a current NFL player, so all those Johnny Manziel fans now have an excuse to buy a copy of Madden 15.

Seasons progress as they do in the franchise modes, but you do not have any control over the team’s roster. This can be frustrating when your team doesn’t re-sign their best wide receivers, or drafts another player at your position. Real NFL players have to deal with these problems though, so it is difficult to complain too much.

The biggest difference comes inside the game. The gamer is “locked” into controlling only their created player. Even if the wide receiver you’re controlling is open, that doesn’t mean that the quarterback will throw you the ball.

The player mode is also enhanced by special camera angles that put the focus directly on the player you are controlling. This dynamic camera keeps things in focus by making sure the gamer can see their player, the player’s assignment, and the football at all times.

Another thing that has changed from previous versions of this mode is that the full play-calling interface is available at all times, regardless of the controlled players position. While this isn’t realistic, it does prevent the game’s AI from doing stupid things like running the ball up the middle over and over during the two-minute drill.

All these features add up to being a very rewarding experience. Overcoming poor decisions by teammates and making the plays that really matter to help your team win can be very fun. The frustrations that come from watching your quarterback’s interceptions cost your team a game only serves to make the victories that much sweeter.

As with the franchise modes, EA wisely removed the need to play through the same tedious drills each and every week. Drills from the skills trainer can be played for extra experience, but they are no longer necessary.

The new feature added this season is that a player’s confidence must be managed. Players start with a confidence level of 50. Push it above that, and the player will play above their talent level. Let it sink below 50, and your player will begin reminding you of quarterback Matt Schaub’s 2013 season with Houston.

Of course, managing confidence isn’t just about playing well in games. Game prep time must be used to keep a player mentally healthy. This creates a strategic decision for the gamer: invest in confidence for the short term or experience for long-term development.

The one true complaint for Connected Careers Player is that the entire mode lacks personality. There’s no swag* to acquire, no off-field dilemmas to deal with, and no ways to piss off your coaches other than being awful on the field. Just a small amount of (optional) personality would go a long way to make this game mode amazing.

*EA is officially in trouble for producing a game that invoked my usage of the word “Swag.” That just isn’t right. 

Ultimate Team

While the “Madden Ultimate Team” mode is mostly about EA augmenting their profits by securing some in-game purchases, the mode does offer some from challenges for people looking to have some fun in Madden 15.

Gamers who tried out Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) in the past will feel right at home. The guts of the mode remain mostly unchanged. The goal is still to build a team using random players that are acquired by opening packs of virtual cards.

Keeping the players on your team requires contracts be renewed. Contract cards come in the packs of cards, but typically these aren’t required early on. Your team starts off awful and just about any new card you acquire will be an upgrade. That new player comes with a new contract, and removes any need to re-sign the original player.

This means that by the time you begin to acquire your favorite players, you’ll have plenty of contracts in storage that you can use to keep those players on your team.

Acquiring replacement players is fairly easy. MUT comes with literally hundreds of challenges that either provide individual cards or coins that can be used to purchase packs of cards.

These challenge are not repeatable, so there is a limit to the how much MUT can be played before it’ll cost you real money in order to continue playing. Luckily, for most people that wont happen until the Madden 16 release is closing in.

Ultimately, MUT feels like it would be more at home as a tablet or smartphone game, but that doesn’t prevent it for being a fun pick-up-and-play mode for just about any Madden 15 player.