As with pretty much every EA game, there is a new sports game release every year just ahead of the new season…most of the time it’s pretty much the same game with a new trick or two up it’s sleeve. Well to be perfectly honest since the era of Ultimate Team games in and micro-transactions I’m starting to get a bit sick of EA and their BS so you can imagine the mixed feelings when Madden 21 landed on my desk for review. On one hand the game does just enough to keep the series chugging along and on the other it’s a so underwhelming it’s not even funny.
Same S*#t Different Day
I love my sports games, Fifa, UFC, Fight Night, F1, you name it and I’m all over it. However, it’s becoming easier and easier to dismiss the latest renditions for being overly similar to the previous years. Yes there are updates and changes being made and maybe this years games are being made with the next-gen consoles in mind but since the move to the Frostbite engine a couple of years ago, most EA Sports games feel the same year after year.
In fairness the Frostbite engine means that as ever Madden 21 looks bloody fantastic, the stadiums are gorgeous, players are hyper realistic and the move to the latest consoles like the PS5 is primed and ready to rumble. As ever the fans are gloried cardboard cut outs, which is a minor complaint but it would be amazing to see EA flex their muscles to create a real immersive experience.
When it comes to American sport, the pomp and ceremony is part of the parcel of the game and when it comes to Madden 21, the pre-game show of players dancing about the place is just cringy and with a game as technical as this, wouldn’t we all prefer them sexy stat blocks that they typically use in the American broadcasts? It just feels like Madden 21 was released before it was finished.
Speaking about the game not feeling finished, Madden 21 is buggy as hell. The performance issues across the board are really annoying and things like the game freezing or frames dropping means you might actually have to close the app and restart. Sure visual glitches are down on last year but they are more than made up for with a rake of performance issues and to be honest in a game of this standard the amount of bugs is unacceptable. Watch this now Madden will make a fool of me with a new update which will resolve these problems.
The Skill stick dynamic is rightly interesting and getting to grips with it will make it so much easier to pop together evasive combos to avoid tackles. For example hit your spin but you can already be ready with the hand off mid spin rather than having to wait to complete one action to begin the next. While defensively there is a new Pass Rush system that includes new moves to help navigate blocks.
Two of the best additions from Madden NFL 2020, X-Factor and Superstar abilities, are back again this year, these are the attributes a player is known for and I like this because it makes you feel the need to use your super star player, not unlike real life.
Face of the Franchise
This years story mode is now named Face of the Franchise: Rise to Fame and it’s pretty rubbish. You start back in High School and like many of these type story modes, its a wafer thin story, a bunch of choices that don’t matter and some cringeworthy character interactions, that all lead to you eventually making the big time.
We do like a new game mode and this year we’ve got one in The Yard. Madden 21 has taken a leaf from a few other game methods namely Fifa Street to create a 6 aside backyard bash. The only way I can describe this is a fun little game mode that allows you to play the pros in a way that you may have done yourself as a child in the garden. No rules, no time limits, no messing around.
In The Yard, Madden 21 sets up two sides in an 80 yard field, no kickers and every time there is a turnover you start with a 1st and 20 from your own 20 yard line.You can hike the ball to any player on your team and you can throw behind the line of scrimmage multiple times. You even get bonus points for interceptions or for throwing a TD after already passing it once.
Very similar to the likes of Fifa Street, The Yard is a cool distraction from the norm but it’s not enough to play on its own.
Franchise mode should be a staple of Madden 21, but it’s essentially an exact replica of last years model and the year before that. 3 years and no changes. Sure they expanded the wild card rounds, but that’s only to match changes to NFL rules but apart from that everything else is the exact same.
It’s a crying shame because a game mode that allows you to be a player, coach or owner and is the most fun in the series has been relegated to the bench in favour of Ultimate Teams, micro transactions and milking the cash now that is online gameplay for every cent that it’s worth without any regard to the actual enjoyment of the game.
The Goosed Verdict
Madden 21 is going to get a similar review to UFC 4 in that if you like the sport, then this game is going to be right up your alley. Having said that this is the exact type of game that could do with some competition in the market to help get the skids up EA to make some major innovations for the good of the series. For me personally Madden 21 is a let down for this reason alone. As the only major NFL game on the market, it’s become lazy, relying on micro transactions and the support of the sport to keep selling titles. Madden, like FIFA and a few other EA titles has become stagnant and while The Yard is a fun game mode and there are one or two tweaks to the overall gameplay, Madden just feels the exact same as last years game with a new hat. But then again if you’re an NFL fan and enjoy the Madden series (like me and FIFA) enjoy spending your dollars and get to the grid iron.