Having no football background and being a casual fan, Madden NFL was one of the hardest games I’ve played (initially that is). American football is so complex with all the formations, play calling, rules, etc. that it’s so hard for a noob to understand let alone memorize. It took about a month or two for me to understand the football basics and grasp Madden gameplay. That’s how hard it is to master a sports videogame you have no experience playing in real life.
To get back on topic, in order for beginners to ‘git gud’ in Madden NFL I’ve come up with a list of advice drawn from personal experience. I don’t have Madden 16 yet but I play Madden 13 on the PS Vita all the time so I’m going to use Madden 13 screen captures to help you. Read the tips below:
Master football fundamentals
Learning the rules by heart is the foundation of every professional football player and it should be yours too. It’s impossible to be good at Madden unless you know the rules. Flags will rain down the field and you’ll be buried in negative yards with all the penalties.
Watch ACTUAL NFL games
Once you have the fundamentals locked down, watching NFL games should be your next step. Watching games will help you see the nuances behind plays both on the offense and defense. By ‘studying tape’ you get to learn how to read defensive formations and how to look for signs to tell whether the defense is on man-to-man, zone coverage, or if they are going to blitz. I shit you not, watching NFL games made me a better Madden player. Not only did it educate me, actual NFL games gave me inspiration to imitate the plays from the NFL into Madden. Watching Tebowtime helped me know when is the right time for a QB rush. Watching Foles tie the game TD record made me want to throw dragons in Madden too.
Familiarize yourself with your team
I suggest stick to playing one team on Madden at first. What’s your favorite team? Mine is the New England Patriots (before calling me a bandwagonner, I’m a fan since 2003 and lived through the hellish aftermath of 18-1). If your team is the Minnesota Vikings, stick to them before using other teams. Memorize BOTH the Defensive and Offensive plays. Study your roster and know what their strengths and weaknesses. Are your receivers fast? Is your QB accurate at deep passes? Those are the stats you need to look at. For example, I know for a fact that the Pats has an average-at-best offensive line. It would be useless to throw long passes downfield all day since the O-line usually can’t protect Brady for over three seconds. Pats receivers are also not speedsters so it will take more than three seconds to get open deep. So what do you do? Dink and dunk your way to a TD, just like what the Pats does in real life. By familiarizing yourself with your team, you’ll get an idea on how opponents will attack you and how you can respond.
Audibles is your best friend
Audibles are plays signaled by the QB at the line of scrimmage to change the original play. Calling audibles is a great way to adjust your offense when you think the defense is going to do something. You have the option to select the formation’s other play, choose a player’s Hot Route, or change the play entirely to a new formation. For example, your original play is a deep pass but you ‘read’ the defense is going to blitz. Instead of going for it, you should audible to a Slant or Screen pass. When you’re running the ball but the opposing defense is stacking the box, audible for a quick pass or gamble on a deep pass. Mastering the audibles is one of the fastest ways to improve in Madden.
Dink and Dunk
When I was still learning how to play Madden I always pass the ball. I had this urge to always throw dragons just like the plays I saw on weekly NFL highlight reels. Dumb, I know right? Well I think I’m not the only one with that tendency so to those who wants to always throw it deep, STOP IT! It will only lead to incompletions and interceptions. Only throw it deep when you have to or when the defense is not expecting it. Approximately 80% of my passes are short to medium passes and I call a deep pass every now and then. This approach not only made my completion rate skyrocket, it also helped me avoid turnovers too.
Balance the air and ground attack
Now that you don’t have the urge to chuck it deep, it’s time to balance the passing and running game. It looks cool to see Wide Receivers making spectacular catches but that won’t help you win games most of the time. An efficient running game is needed to complement the passing game and vice versa. Supposing you’re passing the ball well, it’s always a good idea to call for a Halfback draw occasionally when the defense is focused on covering your receivers. Same goes for the running game. If you’re Halfback is moving the ball well, that’s the perfect time to call Play Action passes.
Look out for Safeties
When reading the defense, a rookie Quarterback looks at the opposing Safeties first. So should you. Why you ask? Knowing where the Safeties are often lets QBs ‘know’ what the defense is trying to do. It’s like a ‘tell’ in poker. For example, a Safety stacking the box, most of the time will stop the run. Cornerbacks aligned to Press often have top cover help from a Safety. Linebackers or Defensive Ends dropping back in coverage usually signals an incoming Safety blitz. Knowing where the Safeties are and making a calculated decision based from it will save you from incompletions, lost yards, and interceptions.
Now that we’re done with the offense, let’s move on to the second part of the Madden crash course, the defense.