Madden 23 Review

As summer slowly winds its way down, the smell of football season begins to work its way into the air. And, right on schedule, the return of Madden promises to kick off the 2022/23 season. After backlashes with Madden 21 and Madden 22, however, it’s not unfair to suggest that the latest iteration in the long-running football sim needs to pick up some positive yardage, to at least start to win back some support. With more than a decent amount riding on the release, does Madden 23 strike for a touchdown, or fumble the ball once again?

Kick off

Right from the off this feels like a modern Madden experience, for better or for worse. From the UI, to the in-game broadcasts, right down to the menu layout, it all feels very familiar and comfortable. Absolutely not a fault on the game, by the way. It’s nice to know where everything is—the less time spent trying to work your way into the career mode, the better. What that does mean, however, is the same quirks from last season have worked their way into 23. For example, we were never on board with moving all in-game decisions behind an option on the pause menu. The “Coaching” tab is back and, while it’s not a dealbreaker, it’s still a less than ideal setup.

Onto the on-field action, then, and we’re greeted immediately with a slew of new features. Headlining 23 is “FieldSENSE”. FieldSENSE claims to help create more realistic animation, resulting in a more realistic football experience. Combined with a new timing-based passing mechanic, what you’re left with is a game that certainly represents the NFL in 2022 a little better than previous iterations. WRs still make silly catches they shouldn’t, MLBs are still pick-machines, but it feels a little more rounded than in previous years.

The biggest benefactor of FieldSENSE, based on our experiences, is the run game. Running the ball, while once cumbersome with anyone other than Derrick Henry or Saquon Barkley, now feels like a legitimate means of moving the ball. We might not see Tyler Allgeier break off 90-yard runs every week this season, but he’s certainly capable of it here, and not by accident either.
A word on the aforementioned passing mechanic, also. It was nice of EA to offer the option of keeping the old mechanics. The new mechanics certainly take some level of getting used to, but offers a greater degree of accuracy on more difficult passes. That’s once you get used to it, by the way. The risk/reward of going with the new passing mechanics are very obvious when playing, and having the option to go back to what you know is certainly welcome in that regard. 

Put me in, Coach

The meat of our experience can be found in the career modes, however, and this is where we were most intrigued by EA Sports’ development decisions. There’s been a mutiny of sorts brewing for some time over the lack of love shown the titles’ Franchise mode, and Madden 23 was billed as a tangible step forward for that part of the game. It’s undeniable that there have been changes. Madden 22’s upgraded scouting has carried over and is feeling a little easier to get into, for example. Across a season with the Falcons, we frequently came across events that asked to make team-building or motivational decisions (start Mariota or switch to Ridder, for example), which increases the immersion some. It’s difficult to argue that the mode has received a wholesale revolution, though, when just about everything feels like an extension of Madden 22. I’ve yet to see a coordinator hired away from my team, and I’ve yet to come across a player that can’t be signed in free agency for a bit more cash, despite motivations being billed as a major part of free agency. Simply put, Franchise mode doesn’t feel like a massive step forward. More a handful of tiny steps. That’s fine, but you’d like a little more.

Madden Ultimate Team returns, with more options than ever! I’m told. Out of an anti-loot box principle, that’s the extent of coverage we’re giving MUT. 

Final whistle

Madden 23, from our experiences, is unlikely to win over any newcomers. FieldSENSE is a genuinely nice step forward (that’s only available on PS5 and Xbox S|X), that makes the in-game experience feel a little more real. It does feel really really good to rattle off a huge run, or complete a deep bomb down the sideline. It’s everything around it that, sadly, affected our time with the game. It’s hard to imagine Madden 23 doing much to stem the displeasure around the franchise online. It does, however, do just enough for us to say that, yes, this Madden is better than the last one. And the one before that. Not the revolution the franchise probably requires, but more an evolution with some growing pains. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, however.

A copy of Madden 23 was provided to the Atlanta Sports Network for the purpose of this review. This did not impact or dictate the content of this review in any shape or form.

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