I have completed my first full franchise season in Madden. It was a roaring success, going 13-3 and winning the Super Bowl. I eventually progressed to 12 minute quarters with the accelerated clock burning off 25 seconds. Game pace feels about right, stats look more realistic, etc.
Gameplay wise, now that I’ve played about 30 games of Madden (including the supershort Draft Champions mode), just the tiniest bit of bloom has come off the rose. Two areas need attention, in my opinion: returning kicks is still all but impossible because blocking AI sucks (this is less true for punts, but I’ve still never run one all the way back) and there has to be a faster way of making defensive changes on the fly. I should, ideally, be able to tell my entire defense to concentrate on one play in just a couple of button presses — it’s more like four or five, which means it’s the only change I can make. The UI for this has to be streamlined.
I’m also thinking of going back to All-Pro, or maybe just adding some sliders to make Pro harder. Once I got back into my Madden rhythm, I was dominating most games. Cleveland has an awesome OL in real life, so my running successes aren’t that surprising, and I do feel properly limited when Manziel has to throw deep. It’s much harder to upgrade QBs (which is good; I turned him into a 99 in I think two seasons in Madden 15), so you have to be smart about their weaknesses. You can no longer get ungodly numbers of sacks either; I’d like to see slightly more intelligent AI play on defense, but it’s not a deal breaker. I might play one more season on Pro before making any other decisions.
Why did I lose three games? An annoying feature of Online Franchise mode. Every other PS4 game lets you suspend the game. I can start a game, watch Netflix with my wife, then go back to the same game having lost nothing. With Madden, you get disconnected for inactivity (even with a single player franchise)… which means your game is meaningless. Even if you reconnect. To be fair, the game does warn you, but for some reason I hoped it didn’t actually apply to me. Lesson learned. I lost a game I originally won (by a lot) and simmed the rest of the season until the playoffs.
As far as the offseason is concerned, some things haven’t changed much. Guys do, indeed, re-sign in the offseason for reasonable sums, which leads me to believe that there’s something wrong with the re-signing logic in mid-season. I was able to keep most of the players I really wanted without much fuss. Free agency is something of a crap shoot, but then I spent some of my excess funds (from which you pay signing bonuses) to improve my stadium. The trials and tribulations of the NFL owner. Free agents want LOTS of signing bonuses. I did grab Antonio Gates on a cheap two year deal because the tight ends I have now need some development time before they’ll be ready.
Which leads me to the draft. As I mentioned in an earlier article, during the season (and some of the offseason) you scout players. The offseason adds the combine data. You don’t get the Madden numbers (95 speed or what have you), but you do get the drill results and where they rank in the class. I drafted the sixth fastest halfback (by 40 time) in the third or fourth round and ended up with an 86 speed back. I could have looked harder and maybe gotten a gem, but I didn’t.
When you make a pick, you get an immediate reaction if the player was a reach, a good pick, an okay pick, or an excellent pick, based on the OVR numbers of everyone in the draft. You get all the stats after the pick is made, so you can see how good or not the player is. I miss having to go through the preseason to find out, which was a nice touch in Maddens past. Overall, I had a good draft. As the champ, I got lousy picks, but I came away with a starting right tackle, a really good backup QB that could replace Manziel if he gets greedy, a kicker (which the draft REALLY liked, calling it my best pick), and a project tight end who’s extremely fast (82 speed), along with some other pieces and parts. Scouting didn’t help me find much in the way of amazing Brady-esque picks (unless you count the 97 power kicker), but it does help you avoid busts. There was a third round receiver who graded out as “undrafted” once I unlocked his top three stats. Keep in mind that Madden makes awareness weigh heavily into OVR, so you could find a great project player who’s dumb as a post for cheap.
All of my players were in the 70s, one in the high 60s, and one who was awful that the game auto-drafted for me because I hit the wrong option. I don’t know if steals (80+ players in the later rounds) are possible or not; I was filling holes more than finding best player available. My right tackle was a tremendous pick, despite his high 70s OVR, because of his tremendous strength (94) and good across the board blocking ratings (80s). His awareness will need work, and I’m sure he’ll whiff on his share of blocks until he gets smarter, but he’s a keeper.
I’m eager to play the preseason to try out how these new parts will fit together. I will report on any new lessons I pick up from season 2!