Call me foolish, but every year I get excited for what is to come in the latest Madden game, just like I do when I support my beloved Philadelphia Eagles. And year after year, it usually ends in disappointment, though it could be argued – quite rightly – that no-one in the NFC East deserved anything last season. And now with a 17-game season, in reality, it’s just an extra week of disappointment.
My point is, the pre-release stuff around Madden is always so enticing, and Madden NFL 22 is no different. For a start, the big focus this year was on Franchise mode getting a much required update. For the first time in a long time, the attention was less on peripheral modes or Madden Ultimate Team, and on the mode that veterans likely have the fondest memories of. Just how much of a difference does this all make though?
For those unaware of what Madden NFL 22 is, here are the facts. Madden NFL 22 is the annual American Football release from EA Sports. The NFL is now in its 102nd season and this year’s Madden is the 33rd annual instalment. The cover athletes this time around are Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, the two quarterbacks who duked it out in Super Bowl LV.
Most of Madden’s modes from last year make a return with varying degrees of improvements. Some have hardly received any update from Madden NFL 21 and, surprisingly, Madden Ultimate Team is one of those modes. The exciting dream-team creator – or pay-to-win money spinner depending on your view – is almost identical to last season. The only major addition is the introduction of Strategy items that allow you to adjust your set-up at halftime if things aren’t going your way.
Minor modes such as The Yard and Superstar KO also return with a few welcome tweaks. Superstar KO now includes authentic NFL teams to play as, with real-world playbooks to choose from for all teams.
The Yard now also shares progression between Face of the Franchise, another returning mode. Class Progression being unified offers an advantage over last year’s seemingly endless experience and currency systems across all modes. Some specific classes are unique to each of the modes so make a note of those beforehand if you want to excel in both modes simultaneously.
Unfortunately, even some new venues and challenges don’t improve The Yard massively. Games can still feel pretty deserted without the traditional gameday atmospheres or even a lack of a commentator.
Face of the Franchise also features an entirely new story and way to enjoy Madden. It is a whole lot better than the cringe-fest that was last year’s effort with the very wooden Tye Sheridan acting as your rival. As well as the Hollywood positions like becoming a quarterback, wide receiver or running back, Face of the Franchise allows you to play as a linebacker for the first time. I don’t think there will be any other defensive positions being offered in future editions, but a linebacker is a welcome alternative.
There is an elephant in the room however, and that is Franchise mode. For the first time in as long as players can remember, Franchise mode has been the centre of all the updates, and has put the core Madden mode back in the limelight. Gone are the main menus of head coaches looking pensively from behind their desk, replaced with a whole suite of features that make Franchise mode the best it has been in years.
EA Sports have understood that nothing beats actually being on the field and have streamlined much of the Franchise menus to get you to game day quicker. Training can still be played out fully, but there is much less incentive to do so now. Instead, a Weekly Strategy menu allows you to pick a defensive and offensive focus and then all players will participate, with them all earning XP. The benefits of your training will be seen in-game now with plays being designated as Gameplan Focussed and receiving a little boost to their effectiveness.
Franchise mode also introduces Offensive and Defensive Coordinators who, along with the Head Coach, each have their own unique skill tree. Using a new currency called Staff Points, you can create a much more unique team than ever before. There will also be little scenarios pop up throughout a season that don’t do too much to change a course of a season, but are a little reminder that there is drama on and off the field
And they’re not done with Franchise mode yet, with scouting coming soon as a live-service update.
There are the occasional UI issues where text covers over some other parts of text, but these are minor issues after the Day One update. Madden menus still remain really busy however, often bombarding you with information.
On the pitch, a new feature has arrived known as Momentum Factors (M-Factors). I say a new feature, yet this has been taken from the NCCA Football series and dropped into Madden. A momentum bar at the top of the screen will swing after every play, showing which team currently has all the momentum. Swing it far enough one way and certain perks will be unlocked whilst you have the momentum. These aren’t anything too game-breaking, but can rightly benefit a team in the ascendancy much like in a real-life situation.
As usual, there are some typical “under the hood” updates to player animations, tackling and blocking and – on Xbox Series X|S at least – the Next-Gen Stats give you even more analysis and data. Tackling now takes a player’s physique into more of an effect and catching animations have been improved to make it look less like the ball is glued to a wide receiver’s hands when in triple coverage.
Almost every change in Madden NFL 22 this year is of a positive nature, and it is easily one of the best entries in recent years. Franchise mode is in great shape, and set to get better as the year progresses, and it almost feels like EA Sports are reminding themselves that not everyone wants to just play Ultimate Team. Some modes such as The Yard and Superstar KO still feel tacked on but at least offer a bite-size gameplay experience if time is limited. Seeing momentum shift after each play through M-Factor is a brilliant new feature and really drives home the fact that fewer things are better in sport than an NFL Sunday.
Take your team to the Super Bowl in Madden NFL 22 on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One