Madden NFL 23 Even though it isn’t quite worthy of a “Boom!”
An interesting story about Madden NFL’s history is that Trip Hawkins, Electronic Arts founder, approached John Madden to put his name on EA’s new football sim. The NFL coach turned TV commentator wanted it to be an 11v11 simulation. Hawkins accepted, and Madden NFL was born.
Madden NFL 23 aims to return the series to its humble roots by putting Madden back on the cover for the first-time in over 20 years. The book also opens with an “NFL Legacy Game”, which doubles as a history lesson. It’s a lovely way to start the book. The cover features some of the most prominent stars of yesteryear, including Brett Favre and Randy Moss. The rest of the package, which is in its own right, pays tribute to Madden, and focuses on the more simple simulation aspects that John Madden valued.
Madden 23 comes off two disappointing years. It is a deliberately stripped-down experience that puts the majority of its resources into improving the action on the field. It’s not much more visually appealing than the previous year, with new touchdown graphics and a wider palette of colors than last year’s sickly-green. However, improvements to animations and player locomotion and defensive AI make it more refined, polished and enjoyable than last years’s ramshackle experience. Although it isn’t quite the same as the Bengals moving from the basement into the Super Bowl, it’s still a decent rebuilding effort for this series, even though it still lags behind other sims in many aspects.
Madden hasn’t had a particularly good decade.
After all, it’s no secret that the past decade or so hasn’t been particularly kind to Madden. The franchise has struggled with a consistent lack of vision, evident in modes like The Yard — hyped ideas from yesteryear that have now been unceremoniously crammed into a closet (or in this case, a sub-menu) as EA tries to get its house in order. This is hardly the first time that EA has “gone back to basics” with Madden, but rarely has it felt so needed as it does now.
Madden NFL 22: What We Said
Every IGN Madden NFL Game Review Ever
Madden NFL 22 offers a lot of good ideas, but they are often not executed well. To put it mildly, Face of the Franchise is a disaster. Although homefield advantage is a good addition, it doesn’t capture the real extent of on-field momentum swings. The interface is a pain in the eyes and is rendered in an unflattering shade. Although it is slightly smoother and more refined, it still looks like Madden. You’re likely to be disappointed if you expect a huge leap forward in the series’ performance on the new consoles or on the older ones. Kat Bailey August 19, 2021 Score: 6
Madden 23 has many updates that feel rather than are seen. You can feel the improvements in Madden 23’s game. They allow you to have more control over your players. This is evident in how smooth they move. The defense is smarter than ever, making this one the most difficult Madden games in recent history. Madden 23’s improved passing controls are the most noticeable. They combine with an accuracy monitor to give you more control when placing the ball in tight spaces. It is especially noticeable along the sidelines and at the end zone where space is limited.This Madden game is one of the most difficult in recent memory because defense is smarter than ever.
These changes are balanced by a more intense pass rush, which frequently saw me getting sacked if I dared to venture outside the pocket. Tighter zone coverage also makes for smaller windows of opportunity, with interceptions sometimes coming in bunches. It can be a little intense, but after the busted backyard football of the past couple years, anything that forces me to vary my approach is welcome.
Madden NFL 23: How does it differ on PS4, Xbox One and PC
This review is based upon Madden NFL 23 on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Madden 23 will once again be available for previous-generation consoles (including PS4 and Xbox One) and PC. However, there are important differences that you need to be aware of before choosing which platform you want to play on. The previous-generation and PC versions of Madden 23 will still be available for roster updates as usual, but they will not have many of the outstanding features that are available on the Xbox Series X and PS5 releases. These include updates to the running and passing games, AI, and the ability to play at 60fps (PS5) and 120fps with Xbox Series X. Although it isn’t a full copy-and-paste job compared with Madden 22, playbooks, X-Factors and balance changes are all there – it will still play as well as previous years.
When IGN asked EA why the PC version wasn’t updated to match the PS5 or Xbox Series X, a representative explained that “we have a passionate team of players who enjoy Madden NFL for PC.” Our team is determined to make the PC Madden version comparable to the current-generation versions. We are working towards that goal in the future.
You should also know that Madden 23 purchased on Xbox One or PS4 won’t grant you a free upgrade, except if you purchase the $99.99 All Madden Edition.
This version is also noticeably more stable, at least in the field. Madden 23 was the “most polished” version. I interviewed the developers last month and they said that it is still better than last year.
Given the poor state of last year’s game, is that bad? You have to start somewhere, even though it’s possible.
Reboot the Face
This mentality is also evident in the Face of the Franchise mode. It has become a symbol of many of Madden’s struggles. Face of the Franchise is a story mode that allows you to live the fantasy of being drafted by the NFL. However, it has been plagued with bugs and poor design decisions. Last year’s review made me wonder what the point was of it, as it offered little in the way of wish fulfillment and had no connection to core modes such as Ultimate Team or Franchise. It was, in essence, a dead end.
EA apparently recognized this and has effectively relaunched Face of the Franchise 23. The cutscenes have been drastically reduced in favor of a simple, satisfying week-to–week routine of choosing your schedule, upgrading you character, and playing your games. It’s still fun to play as a quarterback. However, you can also play as a running back, a defender, or as a receiver. Your customizable avatar will attempt to make a fresh start for a new NFL team. But the real goal is to earn your way into “99 Club.”
Face of the Franchise is still far behind its counterparts in MLB The Show or NBA 2K when it comes to career modes. It lacks any feedback that can be considered realistic. Face of the Franchise allows you to throw five interceptions and still be a star. However, if you have five picks in the NFL you will most likely get traded to the Jets. It’s still a good baseline for future Madden 23 versions, just like the rest of Madden 23.
If you think I sound optimistic, that’s because I am a Vikings fan. Irrational beliefs are part of the territory. What makes me happier than previous years is the fact that I can at least somewhat buy into this vision. This is a huge improvement from last year when I was comparing Madden with charmless multi-purpose stadiums such as the Metrodome.Madden 23 still has its moments, even on its best days.
Then again, even on its best days, Madden 23 is still Madden. Witness the new free agency mechanics in Franchise mode, which introduce motivations for signing with a team like “warm weather” and “Super Bowl contender.” They’re a smart addition on the face of it, adding a layer of depth without unnecessary complexity… or so it seems. The problem is that the CPU isn’t equipped to handle these new systems, resulting in an unbelievable number of top players hitting the market. These sorts of unintended problems tend to happen a lot in Madden, and they often take months to fix. Even now, EA has no ETA for a patch to address the oddities that have arisen since Madden 23 launched to the public this past week. On the bright side, there are some notable quality-of-life improvements, including the ability to quickly select team friendly vs. player friendly contracts.Madden NFL 23 Screens
Since I was a Franchise-first player for many years, I am well aware of its flaws. The community shamed EA into putting resources behind it. It has been much better. I actually like the revised Scouting system that was introduced last year. However, its unstable Jenga tower is constantly on the brink of crumbling. EA’s NHL games are customizable, but it doesn’t have the depth and breadth of NBA 2K. You can’t import legendary players like Randy Moss. Its greatest strength is its support for full 32-player leagues since 2009, as well as its little story events, and dynamic player growth.Since I was a Franchise-first player for many years, I am very familiar with its flaws.
If I want anything from Franchise mode, it’s that sense of continuity, of narrative — of being carried from one season to the next. Some of that is just being enjoyable to play in general, but I also think often about little flourishes in Football Manager like ownership naming the stadium in my honor after a prolonged stretch of success. FM Mobile is arguably far simpler than Madden’s franchise mode, but it managed to keep me playing for multiple seasons just on the strength of effectively imparting a sense of accomplishment. It makes me wonder if crafting a truly enjoyable management mode might be easier than Madden makes it out to be.
Microtransaction Reaction: Madden Ultimate Team
Madden Ultimate Team (MUT), despite constant debate and controversy about its distasteful gambling-style card pack, is back for another year. Fans have been complaining for years about the FIFA-initiated card-collecting system. This is especially true now that traditional formats such as Franchise are being replaced by it. Despite its popularity, it is an integral part of Madden’s culture.
MUT is largely a secondary mode to Madden’s career options this year. Most of its updates are focused on balance changes to existing elements such as Strategy Items, Power-Ups and rewards. As usual, MUT is a mode that focuses on grinding solo challenges, earning awards, and building players. It’s possible to build a good team by grinding if you are patient. However, the power curve can get out of control by the Super Bowl. Anything that allows players to move faster by spending time instead of money is unbalanced.
However, Madden’s biggest problem over the years is not its Franchise mode nor its bizarre bugs or lack of polish. Fans who longed for Madden NFL 2005 or NFL Blitz and complained about Franchise mode were actually saying that modern Maddens weren’t as fun to play.
The stiff characters models, the inconsistent presentation and the dependence on animation-based cash plays were always a problem. Madden has occupied the uncanny valley in sports sims for a long time, and it’s only gotten worse in the last few years.
Clint Oldenburg, senior producer of Madden 23, was open with me about these issues and emphasized how the game’s animation-based gameplay had become problematic. It’s amazing how Madden 23’s targeted improvements in player movement and AI can improve the overall experience. John Madden was right to insist that the series should be focused on the simulation first.
EA’s football sim Madden has had a difficult decade. The profits have increased, but the product has been affected, just like the NFL. Madden NFL 23 offers a glimpse at the end of that tunnel. It includes a few smart enhancements to animations and AI. These subtle, but significant, improvements make the game more enjoyable. Madden NFL 23 is still far behind other sims in terms of quality, bug-free, and identity. Madden NFL 23 has given me some hope that the series is on the right track. It’s not a clear “Boom!” but it’s making progress.
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