The start of the NFL season unofficially begins with the release of the new Madden game. Here are three things in EA Sports' latest video game offering, "Madden NFL 15," that brings you closer to the NFL and ready to kick off the season.
Play as Richard Sherman or other defensive stars in this year's "Madden NFL 15." (EA SPORTS)
The Seattle Seahawks' demolishing of Peyton Manning and the high-flying offense of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII showed how important it is to have a great defense in a pass-happy NFL. Unlike last offseason, where many teams tried latching onto the new offensive trends of the pistol offense and read-option schemes, teams this year operated with a clear defensive focus. The J.J. Watt-led Houston Texans drafted Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall. Super Bowl contenders like the New England Patriots (Darrelle Revis) and Green Bay Packers (Julius Peppers) strengthened their defense. Even the Broncos, record-setting offense and all, spent most of their resources on linebacker DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward.
So far, defense is the name of the game this season, and "Madden NFL 15" follows suit. Fittingly covered by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, with a "Legion of Boom" menu screen (requested specifically by Sherman), this year's Madden boasts the deepest and most diverse defensive gameplay experience ever seen in the game's long-running tenure.
For the first time ever, you're allowed to play the game from the defense's point of view using a dedicated camera, and are able to control a player for an entire snap with sufficient controls to help you make a pass rushing swim move, first down saving tackle or game-changing interception. You still have to go out on offense and put up points, but "Madden NFL 15," like the Seahawks in February, places the much needed amount of emphasis on the other side of the ball.
Just like the Cowboys.
Together We Learn Football
The Oklahoma Drill with the Atlanta Falcons, like an episode out of this season of "Hard Knocks." (EA SPORTS)
When Brian Hoyer beat out Johnny Manziel for the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback job last week, reports of Manziel's unsatisfactory grasp of the Browns' playbook began to surface. Some might quickly point to Johnny Football's off-the-field habits and YOLO lifestyle, but the truth is, there's always more to learn about the game of football. "Madden NFL 15" brings football education to the masses with constant in-game footballing tips and strategy. The game defines "Mike" and other football terms, explains passing concepts such as "Omaha" and on the play-calling screen, informs gamers of the strengths and weaknesses of all formations.
The "Coach Stick" control also lets you see what your coaching staff views as favorable offensive matchups, so you know exactly when to take advantage of Percy Harvin versus a slower cornerback, or a matchup between Calvin Johnson and pretty much any defender. Lastly, "Madden NFL 15" provides you (and Johnny Football) the opportunity to utilize your growing football knowledge in a lifelike, drills-oriented practice. On offense, these practice sessions allow you to grow your knowledge of the route-running tree and improve pass timing. On defense -- straight from the "Hard Knocks" greatest hits collection -- the "Oklahoma Drill" is a fun way to learn the basics of the new pass rushing moves and tackling system.
Game broadcast presentation in "Madden NFL 15." (EA SPORTS)
No, no, I don't mean official review replays (although that's also featured prominently during games). I mean that in "Madden NFL 15" the "GMC Never Say Never Moment" mode provides you the opportunity to replay a recent instant classic from the real NFL schedule, picking it up from the pivotal point of the matchup. While this is not a new feature to the Madden series, the wired-for-sound performance is reminiscent of NFL Network's "Sound FX." Speaking of production value, by adding former NFL Films cinematographer Brian Murphy to the development team, all "Madden NFL 15" games are showcased as a full primetime TV event with the CBS and "Thursday Night Football" duo of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.
From the opening kickoff to when the clock runs out, this year's Madden sticks to the happenings of today's real-world NFL as closely as cover athlete Richard Sherman covers his opponents. Simply put, if it's on the field, then it's in the game for "Madden NFL 15."
TD is an NFL digital media producer of The Dave Dameshek Football Program and the Around The NFL podcast. He's also a sports video gamer and quarterback body language expert. Follow him on twitter @ProducerTD