When sport sims throw a hundred modes at you over the years and few ever stick, it gives a sense that the developers are lost trying to find something for returning players to do. Madden has been lost in the woods for a while, trying to do just that, but what they really needed to do is what is clearly present this year. Madden NFL 23 feels stripped back in a way, focusing solely on simply improving the on-field play, getting rid of the bugs, refining pass rushes, defensive consistency, and the all-round moment to moment plays that fans have been craving for a while.
Madden NFL 23 for the most part is a sold refinement, and getting in the thick of a game hasn’t felt this consistent or enjoyable for a while. Passing has been overhauled if you so wish, to feature a much better mechanic. An accuracy meter will pop up to give you more control when launching the pigskin down field, along with a grey target area. It allows you to make solid passes in front of players instead of directly at them to try and escape a potential interception. Not only that, but the AI has seen a significant improvement, meaning receivers are finding open positions on the run.
Pair that with the new passing controls and you’re given opportunities for some fire passes. Another improvement is on the pass rush, where it’s easier to break through a defence with the right play so that the QB doesn’t have years to decide where the ball is going. The defence on the whole is better equipped to make the sack, making games more exciting and realistic. All these improvements make Madden NFL 23 a far better experience, proving that changes and rectifying past issues make for a better game all round.
FieldSense provides better physics in most aspects of the game. For example, rushing through the defensive line feels more authentic, as your skill determines how successful you’ll be at making up those yards. As a defensive player, you’ve got more control over tackling as well. When you run into the ball carrier, the likelihood of stopping them in their tracks with better clarity allows for straight stops instead of them making some extra yards as you flounder around with your fingers crossed. This bleeds into runs as well. You have a better control over your options to avoid being tackled based on your player’s skill, with those painfully unrealistic animations effecting your goal of getting a first down or path to the end zone seen in previous years.
Although the visuals aren’t a massive step-up from last year, transitions between play animations and play calling feels smoother. The cinematic presentations that make it feel akin to watching on TV look stellar, and blends into replays all play in to making every game one fine looking package. Occasionally it felt a little rough around the edges, but generally, the visuals are tweaked enough to make game day look wonderful. Commentary is solid, and repetition that sometimes bled in over the last few years isn’t as present. It all feeds into the fact that EA has gone with the ‘back to basics’ philosophy of the game, something that has been needed for a while now.
Some of the modes have received subtle changes to make them more appealing, as well as giving more control. Franchise mode has received some improvements to its signing process, adding tags and motivations to sign free agents, meaning money isn’t the only draw to bring someone in. Building on last year’s approach, these ideas help to improve the process of getting new signings, and add a sense of personality to the players as they sign based on different factors such as whether they’re signing with a team close to their hometown or playing alongside a star quarterback. Scouting was improved drastically last year, and while this year’s Madden is similar, it features some additional fine-tuning to give you more of an idea of college players come draft day.
Face of the Franchise is much more bare bones, but there’s still plenty to do to make sure you’re not left bored going from week to week. You dive in by picking an NFL team to start with, removing all the draft process and college games to decide where you’ll end up. After creating your player and choosing the type of position and player you want to be, each team has a grade next to it that’ll show you how likely you are to fit in. I went for the Colts as I had potential to play regularly, as well as make a decent wage. When you’re settled in your club, you get given certain goals for each game.
I picked QB because I was more likely to have something to do in every game, and most of my objectives were based around passing so many yards, not getting any turnovers after successful completions, and making winning plays. You can also choose what you do in the week between games. Certain training options give you a boost to your strength or speed, but you can also take part in community outreach programs or live Madden streams to connect with fans. Joining the 99 Club feels stripped back, but I kind of liked that. For a while, Madden’s story mode hasn’t known what it wants to be, so having such a simplified yet rewarding approach was just what I wanted.
Madden NFL 23 feels like it’s thrown out the old playbook and started from the beginning, fixing old problems and made a much better on-field experience. There’s better control on passing, defending, and pass rushes, making the act of playing the best we’ve seen in years. Ultimate Team is still a strong element of the game, and the small chances to Franchise mode should please the diehard NFL fans. For me, I really liked Face of the Franchise this year, but I some of the potential positions don’t have as much of a draw as the quarterback. If this is the future of Madden, then it’s a strong foundation for years to come.
More control over passing
Defending has improved
FieldSense means better physics-based plays
Not a huge visual step up
Some cuts in presentation feel jarred