For Those Left Behind
HIGH It’s more than a roster update…
LOW …but not by much.
WTF Madden Ultimate Team is the ultimate wallet drain.
Before this review officially starts, readers should note that this is covering the Xbox One version of Madden NFL ‘22.
Though every effort was made to secure a Series X prior to Madden‘s release, there wasn’t one to be found. Similarly, I would imagine it’s likely that many of our readers may find themselves in a similar predicament. This review is for the patient masses who tirelessly check Twitter for stock updates. They are not alone.
At the end of GameCritics’ review of Madden NFL ‘21, it was made clear that the series needed a next-gen update to maintain relevance. Fortunately, Madden NFL ‘22 does just enough to justify its existence on older consoles.
Maybe it isn’t a “must-buy” in the truest sense (and that Tom Brady fanservice in the opening might deter even more buyers!) but EA Sports seemed to heed reviewers’ advice and made some upgrades for the current season. They’re mostly cosmetic, but the effort is noticeable and appreciated. There might not be a 4K sheen on the Xbox One version of Madden NFL ‘22, but that doesn’t mean this edition is one to sneeze at. Player models are more realistically proportioned, and on-field graphical glitches have been smoothed out more than expected.
No, users aren’t going to love the player faces, and the Create-a-Player is less feature-rich than desired. But on the field, where it counts, Madden still looks an awful lot like Sunday afternoon broadcasts. Gaming is certainly beginning to see diminished returns in graphical quality from generation to generation, and while Madden ‘22 on XBO might not be the belle of the ball, will anyone really notice in the middle of an intense scramble away from aggressive defense?
Last year’s improvements to controls and Skill Stick nuances carry over to this edition with snappier response, even during chaotic pileups at mid-field. The number of onscreen animations is impressive, with tearing and clipping kept to a minimum, even when employing last-second misdirections and dives. Plus, the “pre-canned” feel of the juke animations is largely gone in Madden ‘22, resolving a concern players have had for several editions.
On a negative note, last year’s improved AI seems to have set sail for next-gen machines, leaving Xbox One owners with a computer opponent that rarely learns from human error. This was a highlight of Madden ‘21 and it’s disappointing that the challenge no longer scales appropriately. In short, gamers who enjoy spamming those cross patterns are about to fall in love with Madden all over again.
Under the hood, not much has changed in terms of features or modes. At least, nothing positive. Beyond the standard Play Now, the slightly improved (but still arcadey) KO and Yard modes, and the exhaustive Face of the Franchise story mode, not much has changed.
Otherwise, the venerable Franchise mode has been streamlined and sped-up, eliminating a lot of the office minutiae that mired down previous versions. Now, gamers can realistically manage their franchises without spending hours in menu trees and getting these dream teams on the field is much easier, making a true dynasty a realistic option for the average player.
Likewise, the simpler, more-focused story in Face of the Franchise eliminates a lot of the silliness (and horrific acting) of previous editions. EA Sports hasn’t really matched the NBA 2K series for dramatic prowess, but the mode is a nice distraction for those who enjoy single-player gameplay, and moves along briskly, if not forgettably.
On the flip side of the enjoyment coin comes the long-in-the-tooth card mode, Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). Though card collecting has kind of exhausted its welcome, this year’s MUT is more random and money-hungry than ever. Initial card packs seem weaker than in previous editions, practically forcing gamers to spend real money to derive any enjoyment from the mode. With an improved Franchise Mode and decent online offerings, it’s likely that MUT is going to lose its luster to all but the most die-hard card trading fanatics.
Also, readers should notice the use of the word “decent” when describing online play. While games that stay connected played well, with little lag or delay, maintaining a steady connection was often difficult. Even on a wired, gigabyte internet connection, Madden ‘22 repeatedly booted back to the lobbies without explanation, and even crashed on occasion when trying to find a match. When it worked, online play was as strong as ever for the series. But the erratic connection problems made multiplayer more of a chore than it probably should be in 2021.
In many ways, that last sentence kind of sums up Madden NFL ‘22 for the Xbox One. When it does things right, the pure football gameplay remains one of the finest gaming experiences around. When it doesn’t work, its flaws and missing elements are more evident than ever.
For gamers who haven’t purchased a new Madden title in a few years (and refuse to spend time hunting for a new console) this is a solid, thorough sports sim that still brings a wealth of gameplay to the table.
Disclosures: This game is published by EA Sports and developed by EA Tiburon. It is currently available on XBO, XSX/S, PS4, PS5 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to online multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Lyrics in the in-game music selections. Additionally, this is a lifelike representation of full-contact NFL football, and some tackling animations and injuries may concern some parents.
Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the Game Settings menu.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Madden NFL 21 features subtitles and numerous tactile feedback features within the controller, in all modes. The game is easily playable without sound and is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.