It’s time to talk about lowering expectations. Madden Mobile can’t be a portable version of the console series. Unlike The Six Million Dollar Man, we do not have the technology. Yet EA keeps on trotting out this franchise on iOS devices, and while it’s still a long way from being a full-featured Madden game, this year’s edition is the best yet. Let’s explore why, shall we?
If you’re one of those folks who like to break out the pitchforks and torches every time EA releases a free-to-play game, you probably won’t want to hear this, but the company has learned to take it easy on the monetization. This is a game with a Stamina system and Madden Cash, yes, but it’s very possible to play for fairly long sessions once you’ve leveled up a bit. There’s always something to do, and a season game, one of the many rotating Live Events and a full Head-to-Head game all cost about the same amount of Stamina.
Season games are the closest you’ll get to playing what you would consider a real game of Madden. You’re in control on both offense and defense, and EA downplayed the tap controls from last season in favor of a virtual stick and context-sensitive action button. The result isn’t great, but it’s workable. It’s still maddening (pun fully intended) that you have to level up to unlock more of the playbook, but at least you don’t have to pay coins to use certain plays. That was a blatant cash grab.
Head-to-head play is still asynchronous, with opponents taking turns alternating offensive drives. Sorry defensive players! What you can do now is to pick specific plays to guard against by scouting what other players like to run, and if they call those plays and your team’s defensive awareness is high enough, it’ll have the same effect as calling the right play on defense in Tecmo Bowl. In case I just dated myself with that reference, two things: one, you need to go play Tecmo Bowl right now, and two, it means the play will likely get blown up. It’s not very realistic, but its’ better than having no impact on what your team does on defense at all.
Games of any kind get you coins, which can be spent on packs of player cards in the store or used to bid on specific cards in the auction house. As an alternative, you can tackle one of the many Live Events which rotate through the game at regular intervals, playing specific challenges in order to win player cards, trophies or collectibles. There’s a fairly complex system of upgrades that requires you to collect certain combinations of trophies and/or collectibles; completed sets can then be traded in for some pretty sweet rewards. This is fun, possibly my favorite part of the game. What isn’t fun are the Live Events that offer a chance at a special kind of card. I completed a ton of these during my review time and came up empty every time.
The graphics in Madden Mobile are perfectly acceptable, though I experienced some weird stadium glitches where the wrong team’s colors and logo would sometimes appear during Season games. The range of animations is pretty decent, though not what you’d see on consoles, and you’ll definitely tire of the end zone celebrations after a while.
Notice I got all the way through this without mentioning Madden Cash. That’s because you don’t really need it unless you just can’t wait to upgrade to a full team of Gold players or you’re not patient enough to grind things out. Coins seem to be a lot easier to come by this year, so you can get a pretty nice team together for free just by playing regularly for a few days. A better team than that requires some serious dedication, but that’s probably as it should be.
You might be surprised what Madden Mobile has to offer, especially if you’ve found previous offerings in this series underwhelming. It’s still very much incomplete as a football game, but it’s better in nearly every area than its predecessor, and there’s something to be said for incremental improvement. If you like football analogies, it keeps the chains moving toward a day when we can really play Madden on mobile.
Want tips? Read our Madden NFL Mobile Tips, Cheats, and Strategy Guide.