Madden NFL 23 review: Taking the series forward a yard at a time - MrLiambi's blog


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Friday, 23 September 2022

Madden NFL 23 review: Taking the series forward a yard at a time

American football popularity has peaked and troughed in the UK over the years, from when coverage of the sport first hit our screens in the early-80s to today's expansive overload of all things gridiron. One thing has remained constant, though - the success of EA Sport's Madden game series.

From the 90s, the game has spanned just about every console and format from the 16-bit machines and up. And, it's always carried the name of arguably the greatest coach and pundit the sport has ever seen - John Madden.  Indeed, his name is almost as synonymous with football video games as it is with the real-life equivalent. There have been a handful of competitors over the decades, but they have largely come and gone.

Sadly, so too has Madden himself, having passed at the end of last year. Thus, this latest addition to EA's perennial series is the first to sport his name since and therefore has a fair bit to live up to. The big question is, does it?

Honouring a legend

When the game first loads, there's no shortage of nods to the titular legend. As well as a video package both celebrating his career and the birth of the game franchise, there's a Legacy Game to play. You can choose between NFC or AFC legends to take control of, each of which feature Madden as head coach from a couple of his most renowned eras.

Once over, the game is very much exactly what we've come to expect over the years. You're faced with a polished if relatively basic menu screen with a few modes to leap into. You can play one of games, of course, both locally and online, or launch into the Franchise and Face of the Franchise modes.

The latter is one of the few that's most improved this year, with a lot of new cinematics and the ability to either play in a league season or the yard (Madden's 6v6 matchup). You get to build a custom player once more, and opt for a field position, but the way a season unfolds is more intuitive and faster to get to grips with we feel.

The creation tools are better too. We felt we ended up with a rather odd looking player-character last year - one that seemed to have come straight from a 80s cabin horror movie - but the options this time around gave us something that looked a lot more like the other, scanned players in the game.

The other modes are very much same old, same old. Ultimate Team is always great fun, but we always find you have to be a hardcore fan to get the most from it and, dare we say it, be willing to invest some real-world coinage along the line.

New gameplay features

Perhaps the biggest new on-field feature is FieldSense - a new gameplay system that utilises AI and new animations to make for a more realistic, more impactful game. It gives wide recievers more fluidity, defensive backs more counters, and extra ways to down an opponent. At least, if you're playing the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S versions, that is.

In truth, unless you are a real stickler for Madden games, you might not notice the differences in play. And, in fact, some of them don't always work out the way you'd want anyway.

Perhaps more noticeable is the new skill-based passing system that's been added. As well as the age-old button press passing that we've all been using for many years, an optional accuracy reticle can be added to make QB throws more precise (or less, as is often the case). It doesn't change much, considering the same button presses seem to work as before, but does allow for fine tuning depending on your skill level.

Other than that, a geme feels similar to before save for one main thing - the presentation.

Under the Friday night lights

This year's Madden game looks spectacular. Not only are the graphics on current generation consoles crisp and almost lifelike, they are matched with the best broadcast-style presentation in the series yet.

The announcers - Charles Davis and Brandon Gaudin - are about as authentic as it gets, while the cut scenes and pre-match build up is superb. So much so that even after you've seen the same sequence several times, you tend to still leave it on to hype yourself up.

The SSD storage in both PS5 and Xbox Series X/S help keep loading times as short as possible, which also benefits the flow of the experience, while character models are excellent throughout - even outside of the create a player mechanics. The new animations definitely help up the visuals too, not just in gameplay terms.

Audio is rich and bombastic too, with suitable crunches on the field and superb crowd effects. You really want a surround sound system for this one, that's for sure.

This might not be a massive leap forward for the series, but it looks and sounds the bees knees... on current-gen machines, anyway,

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