The story goes that John Madden refused to sign on to EA Sports’ original football sim until he fielded 22 players. The rest, of course, is history — and the Madden NFL franchise has been striving for realism ever since. That ambition comes in the form of some buzz this year, including uniquely marketing-led FIELDSense and accurate passing – but does it matter?
Well, yeah – there’s no doubt that the ground game takes the shape of Jonathan Taylor one step further, and to be fair it was already starting from a pretty good place. The ability to hit holes more precisely means that deftly navigating between blockers feels more gratifying than ever, and we love how the rumble of your running back cleats resonates through the DualSense because You head to the endzone.
Precise passing – which is introduced immediately after starting the game – also makes sense. Ball placement is not only a co-commentator’s catchphrase, but a real phenomenon in the NFL: The best quarterbacks not only find their receivers, but also place the ball in positions that only their teammates can catch. This, naturally, makes the ball less likely to be batted – or worse, an INT.
Unfortunately, the visual representation of this feature can be a bit messy. Effectively, you need to move the analog stick to orchestrate the throw as your QB animates, but the on-screen meter and a messy splash of crosshairs can overwhelm — especially when you have your grille in. Have a cashew-sized pass rusher. Still, the ability to throw a shoulder or chest plate past a receiver is beneficial, and makes those tough two-minute drills all the more rewarding for scoring goals.
However, the impact of FIELDSense is minimal. EA Sports claims that branching animations make the game less predictable overall, and you can now hammer a few buttons to break through tackles or DTs to pull off a few extra yards. But there are still occasions where you can see the game awkwardly transitioning between motions as it calculates the outcome, and certain sequences feel robotic as a result. Is it better? Yes, especially when you’re able to get the ball out of the receiver’s hands with a last-ditch hit – but there’s still room for improvement.
The same is true of the Face of the franchise, even if it made an Odell Beckham Jr.-esque jump from last year’s disappointing effort. EA Sports has cut out a lot of the crap here, allowing you to pick up on a fifth-year free agent plot to get your career off the ground. Now you can play as a cornerback we’ve selected, and “enjoy” the incredible responsibility of covering some of the best receivers in the world. We speak from experience when we say it’s all fun and games until you make one wrong move and get smitten by Tyrek Hill.
Instead of pepper you with poorly-acted cutscenes, the gameplay loop focuses on the ground. You get to choose your weekly preparation, which includes training exercises and rest days for statistical growth, as well as your overall goals. For the most part, though, you’re just playing football and earning XP, which you can then spend on increasing your stats and becoming a better player. We found that some individual drive objectives didn’t always seem achievable from our situation, but that’s a minor problem.
Taken personally, we enjoyed the franchise this year — but it falters the ball when compared to established options like MLB The Show 22’s Road to the Show or NBA 2K22’s MyCareer. And the same is true of the franchise, which is undoubtedly getting better; Adding new free agency logic, which takes player motivation into account, undoubtedly adds depth and variety to the team-building aspect, but some peripheral features such as coordinators still feel underpowered.
And to be honest, we’re not even sure about some of the changes in Madden Ultimate Team. EA Sports claims it has cleaned up the overall progress and interface, used a Battle Pass-style system to issue rewards and more closely tied your binder. But frankly, we found this downright overwhelming: It’s more unclear than ever what to do with your unused cards, and we found our New York Giants theme team taking a lot longer than previous years to get started. Put. It doesn’t help that the menus are, in our experience, extremely sluggish to boot.
Of course, longtime fans would argue that a fuzzy interface and slow loading are the least of Madden Ultimate Team’s issues — and the emphasis on expensive microtransactions is as present as ever. Compared to game modes like FIFA Ultimate Team, we’d still argue that it’s easy to assemble a capable team without spending money here, and there’s more than enough single player content to keep you busy, which means you’ll need to. No if you don’t mind playing against AI then grind.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Madden NFL 23 is that, frankly, that’s all. When you consider how much is packed into NBA 2K23 this year — which includes an industry-leading Franchise mode and a full-length Michael Jordan campaign on top of the vast MyCareer suite — EA Sports’ soccer sim is unavoidably light. looks like. Sure, street football yard mode is back — but it’s buried deep in the menu, giving us the impression that developer interest has piqued.
It should also be noted that, following the unexpected passing of John Madden last year, here’s an opportunity to do more to celebrate his legacy. The presentation is filled with nods and nods to past Madden NFL games, but it probably would have been nice to have a homage to that classic 16-bit style of gameplay accepted outside the opening cutscene. There’s a special match that you can play featuring favorite players from coach to broadcaster, but a lot of the material honoring Madden is reserved for Madden Ultimate Team, which we find a bit difficult.
Madden NFL 23 is the best gridiron game ever on the PS5, but the series is taking big, confident strides forward rather than toe-to-toe. There’s no doubt that both the franchise and Face of the Franchise are better this year, and we like the improvements in the run game and the addition of accurate passing. But is that enough for a series that has been accused of stagnation over the past decade? It looks like EA Sports is settling for a rather easy five-yard advantage with a ball deep down the field.