Reality TV is for Suckers, but what about Madden 16?

Am I a sucker?

Well, I’ve been watching the TV show “UnREAL” on (gasp!) Lifetime.  Hold your horses, that’s not the sucker part.  If you’re not familiar with what “UnREAL” is, it’s a fictional weekly drama concerning the lives of the people who produce and direct reality TV shows.  In this case, it’s a mythical reality show called “Ever After”, which looks suspiciously like “The Bachelor”.  And by the way, there really isn’t ANY reason for you to be familiar with this show unless you’re

  1. female,
  2. married or
  3. trying to impress a girl.

And if you think I’m being sexist, you should know that Mindy Kaling (of “The Office” and “The Mindy Project” fame) believes this too, and you all know that Mindy don’t lie:

Anyway, after watching “UnREAL”, I’ve hated reality TV even more than I did before, which is quite a feat since I REALLY hated reality TV in the first place.  If the show is even a little bit accurate, basically all the producers and directors manipulate the “contestants” in to doing their bidding by playing on their insecurities and general lack of self-confidence or overinflated egos.  And by “doing their bidding” I mean “generally being evil and sabotaging each other at every opportunity”.  So I like to think (perhaps unfairly) that all those “contestants” are suckers.  They THINK they’re doing what they want, but, in actuality, they’re pawns in a giant game of “who can set new lows at what qualifies as being a human being.”

Unreal Animated

But then I consider my current relationship with Madden.  No, not John Madden the ex-NFL football coach, but his digital offspring, Madden the video game.  You see, I’ve essentially bought every version of Madden since 1996.  Heck, it might have been even earlier than that, but my memory is a little hazy from the 90’s.  As to why it was hazy in the 90’s, let’s just say I didn’t always exercise what people like to call “good judgment”, and move on…

The point is Madden is essentially the same game every year.  It’s NFL football.  And NFL football doesn’t change that much from year to year (or decade to decade for that matter).  So I’m ponying up about $60 a year for what is essentially the same game with a new coat of paint.  But that doesn’t stop me from preordering it, and true to form, I preordered Madden 16 and received it one day before the official release date.

Madden 16 Cover

So the question remains…am I a sucker?  Did I just pay for what I already had with marginally new rosters, or is what’s new in Madden 16 actually worth the money?  Let’s take a look at what’s old, what’s new, and what I think versus what EA Sports wants you to think.

What’s Old in Madden 16?

Except for minor upgrades, Connected Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team are pretty much the same as it was in Madden 15.  So if you liked it than, you’ll like it now.

Yes, there are a few additional goals in the form of “Drive Goals” during the Franchise mode that add experience and confidence to individual players if completed during specific drives, but otherwise, it’s the same mode consisting of taking control of your favorite team and leading them to the Super Bowl over and over again as they all improve RPG style, leave your team for more money, forcing you to scout for new players in college to draft the following off season.

Madden Ultimate Team (or “MUT”) is just as addictive as before.  Build your team from packs of player cards that you either earn through playing or buy with real money and play against others online or complete solo challenges.  Everything is essentially the same as it was in Madden 15, except some of the solo challenges are now short scenarios where you revisit key points in NFL history, like taking over for the final drive of Super Bowl 49 and seeing if you can not pull a Pete Carroll and actually beat the Patriots.  Good stuff.

The graphics are also theoretically improved, but I’m having a hard time telling them apart from Madden 15.

What’s New in Madden 16?

Total Control Passing –

What they say…

Place the ball where only your receiver can get it with body-relative throws including high-point, low-point, back-shoulder, and the ever-popular touch pass.

What I say…

Um…it’s a little bit more responsive, but this is essentially a minor refinement.  If you liked the control over passing you had before, this is the same.  Besides, I basically only throw bullet passes anyway because I like to jam on my receiver button assuming that pressing it harder somehow makes it more likely my receiver will catch the ball.  Note to self…it really doesn’t, but it does wear out your game controller faster.

Receiver/Defender Controls –

What they say…

Dictate the outcome of each passing play while the ball is in the air for the first time ever in Madden.

What I say…

Well, first of all, it’s upsetting to learn that I was never able to “dictate the outcome of each passing play” in previous versions of Madden.  I kind of thought that was the point of playing a video game.  But, all kidding aside, these new receiver / defender controls actually do somewhat improve gameplay.  For receivers, pressing A after your QB releases the ball makes the intended receiver go for a “possession” catch, or in other words, put too hands on the ball and fall to the ground if necessary to avoid at all costs a dropped pass or interception.  Pressing Y activates an “aggressive” catch, which is basically high-pointing the ball while leaving your receiver open for big hit.  It could also be called “OBJ-ing” the ball.  And pressing X activates an “RAC” catch, basically prepping your receiver to run after the catch.  Honestly, that’s what your receiver does anyway if you don’t bother touching anything, so I don’t really get this one.  There are similar controls while operating on defense (like pressing Y to aggressively go for the interception).

Draft Champions –

What they say…

Draft Champions adds to the Fantasy Football experience by paying off draft night immediately. As soon as the draft is over, players can take the new squad onto the field. The result? A very tight draft experience that distills the best parts of Fantasy Football, and combining it with an exciting Madden event that can be completed in an evening.

What I say…

This mode rocks.  Basically, after choosing your coach and, thus, your style of play, you get a base team with all low level players.  Then you go through several rounds of a “draft”, which essentially is picking which one of three potential high end players you want to add.  Each potential player has advantages and disadvantages, and it was fun picking who I wanted on the team through a pseudo-draft process.  One really cool feature is that historic players are also randomly included in the draft.  I ended up with a Bears team that had Eli Manning passing to Calvin Johnson, Randall Cobb and Rob Gronkowski, while LaDainian Tomlinson blasted out of the backfield.  And on defense, I had Richard Sherman patrolling the secondary.  What a blast!  After the quick draft, you can play online with others or offline for “rewards”, like additional packs of players for your Madden Ultimate Team.  I have to say, this is one of the best new modes introduced in Madden in over a decade!

Streaming (Xbox One Only)

This isn’t actually a new feature in Madden 16, but rather is a new feature for Xbox One.  Since the upgrade to Windows 10, Xbox One is now able to stream games to any device that has Windows 10 installed.  I tried this out on my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and found the results to be mostly positive.  For about 80% of the time, it ran smoothly on my Surface while in my apartment.  No matter what room I went to, I had to issues.  Responsiveness was good as well.  I didn’t notice any lag whatsoever…at least during that 80% of the time.  What about the rest of the time?

Well, about 15% of the time, the streaming was a little jumpy.  It would lag for a half second here and there and then pseudo-fast forward to catch up.  It was fine if I let the CPU run my plays, or if I called a running play on offense, but timing on pass plays were certainly disrupted.

And for that last 5%?  Well, sometimes it just didn’t connect.  I wasn’t sure if it was bandwith, interference, or something to do with the software, but there were a few times where either the Xbox One didn’t connect to my Surface, or the streaming was able to start.

In all fairness, I saw about the same amount of connectivity issues with Madden 15 on my PS4 when I streamed it to my PS Vita, so perhaps it’s just my network.  Either way, this is a nice addition for Xbox One users.

Bottom Line

Hey, if you love Madden, you love Madden.  There’s no two ways about it.  I could tell you it was a steaming pile of poop and you’d still plop down $60 to pick it up.  But, luckily for you, its significantly better than a steaming pile of poop.  In fact, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had with Madden in a long time.  And that’s coming from a sucker who puts over a 100 hours into Madden every year.

Usually as the Bears.

Winning Super Bowls 54-0.

Hey, I never said it was realistic, did I?

And no, I’m not a sucker.  Except for the Bears.

GO BEARS!

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