One of the biggest complaints about the "Madden NFL" series is that over the years, it's gotten too complex. With the pressure to tweak the series annually, the football franchise has added and discarded features so often that it feels as if fans need a doctorate to wade through it all. The convoluted controls, bugs and hit-and-miss changes have been the biggest barriers for average players, and they are part of the reason why some are turned off by the game that bears the name of Oakland Raiders coaching legend John Madden.

EA Tiburon finally has addressed this and other qualms, creating one of the most accessible entries in years.

EA TIBURONColin Kaepernick, in all his tattooed glory, is featured in "NFL Madden 15," the latest version of the video game designed and named
EA TIBURON Colin Kaepernick, in all his tattooed glory, is featured in "NFL Madden 15," the latest version of the video game designed and named for football coaching great JOhn Madden. ( eas )

With "Madden NFL 15," the game makers fix many nagging issues while revamping visuals on the latest consoles. Now, quarterbacks and star players look more like their real-life counterparts. Colin Kaepernick is so detailed you can almost read the tattoos on his million-dollar arm.

Although the eye-popping visuals and slick presentation will get the oohs and aahs, fans will appreciate the upgrades to the defense.

Like many changes, the defensive side of the ball has been simplified so that rushing the passer doesn't need a complex series of button presses and tackling isn't a guessing game. EA Tiburon added a layer of transparency with button prompts and a tackling cone, so defenders can consistently bring down their man. Fans won't be frustrated with missed tackles because the system makes those mistakes clear.


Advertisement

For those who've been out of the game for a while, "Madden NFL 15" comes with a proper tutorial called the Skills Trainer. It's the best way to get reacquainted with the controls; more importantly, it teaches players football concepts. This is something I've wanted for years.

Want to know how to attack a Cover 3 defensive scheme? The training will drill that into you. Is man-to-man pass coverage leaving your offense frustrated? There's a lesson on the flood concept and how, as a quarterback, to better read pass defenses. It's the best way for casual fans to get a deeper understanding of football and improve their virtual passing and running game.

That seems to be the general theme around "Madden NFL 15." It's a title that aims to cut through the byzantine systems that have weighed down the franchise and to streamline the experience so that everyone can jump in.

The intimidating task of building a squad in Madden Ultimate Team is allayed by a straightforward to-do list. Improving your player or team in the connected franchise mode is done at a press of a button or a short drill that is much less arduous than past versions.

These advances really open up "Madden NFL 15," though I do have occasional issues with bugs. The improvements help players unlock elements of the franchise that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Reach Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei.

'Madden NFL 15'

* * * ½

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Rating: Everyone