Madden NFL 16 Squeezes More Awesome Out of the Xbox One

Keeping an annual franchise fresh year after year is a tall task, but based on our recent time on the sidelines with longtime EA Sports’ Senior Producer Seann Graddy, Madden NFL 16 is poised to continue refining the pigskin property’s fan-favorite elements, while also innovating to up its authenticity and immersion.

Featuring a new focus on risk/reward systems, Madden NFL 16 – the series’ third entry on the Xbox One – is emphasizing both its passing and defensive games. The former, according to Graddy, “is all about dominating your opponents with the pass, through your quarterback, through your receiver with new catch types and ways to deliver the ball.”

Complemented by realism-ratcheting animations, Aggressive, RAC Catch (Run After Catch), and Possession catches will significantly change the way you play, thanks to the aforementioned risk/reward factor. The Aggressive approach, for example, might see the player going after the ball at its highest point in spectacular, air-catching fashion. But this will also leave them open to potential defenders down below: While a successful catch will make them a star, having the ball dislodged as soon as their cleats hit the turf will have the opposite effect.

On the defensive side, players must weigh the pros and cons of their actions in a more strategic fashion. Sporting new mechanics to protect against the pass, they can play-the-ball or play-the-man; the former, for example, pits the reward of swatting or intercepting the ball against the risk of giving up the big play. Citing the series’ success as an “authentic simulation” rather than an arcade-y experience, Graddy sees these seemingly subtle inclusions as potential game-changers for the most seasoned players.

While the more casual fan might not notice all the new depth and nuance, they should have little trouble embracing “Draft Champions” mode. One of Madden NFL 16‘s more impressive additions, the new mode plays on the recent passion for fantasy drafts. Featuring 15 rounds with three player picks each, the mode works much like your real-life weekend hobby. The big difference with Draft Champions, though, is that you actually play with your assembled team against another live fantasy football fan or A.I. team, rather than passively watching your season from the couch.

Less-dedicated armchair athletes will also appreciate the series’ fresh focus on introducing new players to the gridiron. Building on Madden NFL 15‘s newcomer-friendly “Interactive Experience,” Madden NFL 16‘s enhanced take will teach rookies the basics, while instructing old pros on the finer points of the game’s new mechanics.

Of course, the title’s most noticeable update might be its beyond-real visual presentation. Graddy playfully admitted bias before calling last year’s entry “the best-looking sports game” to date, but said that his team’s time with the new-gen hardware has allowed it to push the tech even further, polishing everything from animations to camerawork and every authenticity-pushing detail in between.

On top of the fresh features and refinements Graddy discussed with us, he promised there was much more to be revealed before the game hits the Xbox One and Xbox 360 field this August. Whether you’re looking for a new way to get your fantasy football fix, or you want to take your passing game to the next opponent-shaming level, it doesn’t look like Madden NFL 16 will disappoint… or leave you deflated.