It’s undeniable that Madden NFL has gotten stuck in the rut of this generation. Since the release of Xbox Series X/S and PS5, EA’s long-running NFL sim has consistently hovered around 65 on Metacritic. The complaints have been the same: monotonous and unpolished presentation, and modes that have failed to keep up with the competition.
Many fans trace Madden’s decline back to Madden 13, which formed the basic template for the current iteration of the series. Others go back even further. Wherever it has started, it’s hard to ignore the sense of unease that has taken root in reviews, social media, and elsewhere. EA has protested in previous years that it’s only a vocal minority, and that the series is doing quite well with the average gamer not extremely online. This year they are embracing it.
“As a game developer, especially on an annual sports title, it’s not so much having thick skin as [needing] have a big filter, because there’s a reason these players are going to say whatever they’re going to say about the game, and you have to figure out why,” senior producer Clint Oldenburg tells IGN. “And even if there’s a hundred words in there that don’t tell you why, there might be one or two that will tell you why, and that’s what you need to focus on to make sure you’re delivering the core experience that those players are asking for.”
“A little too animation-based”
Oldenburg and fellow producer Mike Mahar say they went through reviews and social media posts “line by line,” grouping errors and other issues together and trying to separate legitimate criticism from the usual noise around annual sports games. What EA Tiburon has come up with in response to all these criticisms is to basically go back to basics. It’s not an exciting approach at first glance, but strip away all the usual hype words like “FieldSENSE” in confusing capitals, and you find what appears to be a rather fundamental – and much-needed – rebalancing of the action on the field.
Madden NFL 23 Screens
In other words, EA may finally be moving away from what has made Madden “Madden” for so long and towards something more akin to real football. At its core, it’s a desire to move away from the game being “a little bit animation based,” that feeling that you’re constantly messing with Madden’s mechanics every time you make a play call or throw.
“Our players have told us very strongly, their words, not ours, Madden has become a bit too animation-based, meaning they feel like they lose control at critical moments and are seeing quick-time events, lacking of a better word,” says Oldenburg.
In Madden NFL parlance, that means moving away from the so-called formations and money plays that dominate YouTube every season with a system that is “emergent, organic and natural.” The defense received the most upgrades, with a greater focus on group tackles, pass coverage and quarterback containment.
“I think from a high level, just the changes we made to the deep zone and the fast pass this year help combat the money play problem, specifically those deep cross routes that I already talked about. We added game logic. zone drift that gives our depth zoners the awareness to not keep sliding down the field if they don’t have a vertical threat so they can take advantage of that deep crossing path,” says Oldenburg, referring to a pattern that has been devastatingly effective for several years now. years due to Madden’s various defensive strategies. AI quirks.
Oldenburg also talks about fixing formations like the Gun Bunch, which have been dominated for years because of how easily they can be adjusted to open up large parts of the field, as well as frequently dominated QB throws used to spread plays.
“We think we’ve recorded it pretty well this year,” says Oldenburg.
Feedback from the beta so far confirms the impact of these changes. If Madden 22 was similar to backyard football in how easy it was to roll out of the pocket and throw the ball to a wide receiver breaking the corner or flats, then Madden 23 should be a rude awakening for many players.
“I think it would be probably arrogance on our part to think that some expert-level player in our community isn’t going to find fault with the matrix, so to speak, but we definitely play play-by-play, feedback, feedback, with everything. that we’ve heard up to this point to try to address it,” says Mahar.
One way or another, it’s clear that most of Madden 23’s focus is on rebalancing the gameplay this year. It’s sorely needed: If the moment-to-moment gameplay isn’t fun, then it doesn’t matter how much work is put into Franchise Mode or Madden Ultimate Team.
The real test is whether EA Tiburon can put out a polished game. Madden NFL has been heavily criticized in recent years for its bizarre bugs and glitches, which are endlessly lampooned on social media. To that end, Oldenburg says polishing is a “top priority” in Madden 23, “especially from a gameplay perspective.”
EA Tiburon hopes to catch bugs using something called “vision hooks,” which use a combination of bots and other technology to quickly reproduce problematic issues. The Madden team is also committing additional resources to fix bugs during production.
“We’re very confident that our game for Madden 23 will be the most polished version of Madden we’ve had in a long time,” says Oldenburg. “What I’m not going to say is that it’s going to be perfect, but the team is still striving for perfection, as difficult as it is to achieve. That’s our goal. we can achieve our goals if our players believe that our game is a buggy experience.”
Question marks still remain
Elsewhere, Madden remains a question mark. Face of the Franchise, Madden’s tutorialized story mode, is removing elements like its college football mode, while arcade modes like The Yard are only getting superficial updates, with resources going into overhauling free agency in the game mode. franchise.
Meanwhile, PC gamers continue to receive little attention. When asked why the PC version doesn’t keep pace with console releases, an EA spokesperson said, “We have a passionate group of gamers who enjoy Madden NFL on PC. It’s important to our team that the PC version Madden PC is comparable to current-gen versions, and we’re working to achieve that in the future.”
When Madden 23 arrives later this month, it will be EA’s latest attempt to firmly establish the franchise on the current generation of consoles, while also putting some shine back on its faded legacy. Fans will be able to see for themselves if it succeeds when Madden 23 launches in early access on August 16.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN and a co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have a tip? Send a DM to @the_katbot.