Review – Madden NFL 22
I always find it healthy to take a break every now and then from these yearly released franchises. It helps with franchise fatigue and really lets you put into perspective the iteration changes. Madden has had a bad habit of taking one step forward and two steps back for years now, and that is one of the reasons I skipped Madden NFL 21. There has been a lot of flashy updates that add some production value here and there. However, the overhaul of mechanics, animations, physics, and modes that fans have been wanting have been ignored. While Madden NFL 22 doesn’t exactly break this chain, I feel like this is the first installment in a long time that doesn’t feel like a step back.
I have to give EA some credit here for finally giving fans the long overdue overhaul to the Franchise mode that has been requested for a long time. In fact, this is really the main focus of Madden NFL 22 this year and I’m glad it finally happened. There is one other introduction that I ended up liking and that’s the Dynamic Game Day system, which will alter gameplay depending on how the crowd and momentum are shifting. All the features from the last few Madden’s have also came over with The Yard, Superstar X-Factor, Face of the Franchise, and the classics like MUT.
I’m not going to bother getting into the nitty gritty with all the modes that have been around forever. I know them, you know them, and there hasn’t been much change to them to warrant getting into them. I will, however, mention a bit about The Yard because Madden NFL 22 added another currency to its ridiculous system. MUT is still the most egregious when it comes to the micro-transactions, even though they have added more ways to earn packs. However, while The Yard is only cosmetic; its system is so off balance that the grind is massive to even earn a single glove. With the added features to this online focused mode where you can customize your outfit, stats, and Superstar X-Factor, of course they found another revenue stream here.
Face of the Franchise is largely the same, where you get to customize a player, go through the draft, and build up your legacy in the NFL. While this is fun to do, I never felt any connection with my player and a lot of that starts with the character creator itself. Once you’re in there, your options are limited and it feels like you’re just going through someone else’s story. It also doesn’t help the immersion when there are so many audio and visual bugs throughout the cutscenes. There were also times where it almost seemed like they weren’t able to get to the audio for some sections in time. Unless this was a glitch, I would go into a meeting with the coach and the lips would be moving, but no voices.
The real meat of Madden NFL 22 is with the Franchise Mode, which has now become my favorite mode again. As I mentioned at the beginning, Franchise Mode has gotten a full rework this time and not just another facelift. There is so much you can do now as the owner that it almost feels like an actual sim. As owner you get to manage the entire organization with overseeing drafts, training and leveling up players, developing the training staff and leveling them up, weekly strategies, managing your salary, promoting your star players, and making sure your fans are happy and buying merchandise. Let’s break some of these down and expand on them.
Not only do you get full control over your players, who makes the cut, salary cap, developing their skills, and making them a super star. You also have control over your coaching staff as well and the skills they come with. Head Coach, Offensive Coach, and the Defensive Coach all have their own perks and a skill tree to level them up. As you play games, completing coaching challenges will earn you points to spend specifically on the staff teams. The skill tree typically has two branches to choose from for additional optimization. This system is a really nice touch of depth to make the franchise feel like its in your control.
Along with leveling up your coaches, you’re able to make weekly plans for the upcoming team. There will be a breakdown of the opposing teams all-stars, their strengths and weaknesses. You can then adjust your your offense and defensive strategies to take advantage of this information. You can then have the players train for these scenarios so they level up stats specifically for the upcoming week. This is about as close as “studying tape” as we will get in a game and it’s a wonderful addition to the pre-game activities.
Another aspect of the Franchise Mode that I don’t think is overall the most important, but it’s certainly a welcome feature, is the fan managing. This includes making sure you schedule fan events as well as marketing and propping up your stars. Winning games, making playoffs, and winning Superbowls all have an effect on fan morale. The better the morale the more the fans will spend at the stadium as well as buying merch. This all directly affects the franchises funds and how much you will be able to buy salaries.
The last main feature introduced in Madden NFL 22 is the Dynamic Gameday features. For the most part this is an update to the presentation of the game with included the Next-Gen stats system, as well as more detailed stadiums and dynamic fan reactions. However, there is a new system that helps simulate the crowd and how that can affect play calling. The buffs and negatives for each stadium and team will be different as well. For instance, if the opposing team is at home and you are losing, the momentum will shift to their side and the crowd will start trying to distract you. This could delay your audible calling as well as not let you see the letter above the receivers during a pass play. I really enjoyed this system as it does make each game feel different depending on how you’re playing.
All of these additions I think are great, and the fact they didn’t axe any features or modes like they usually do is a plus. However, if you were expecting any refinements in the physics and player interactions, then you’ll be disappointed here. There is still plenty of visual bugs and physics issues all the time. If anyone has played Madden, you know the type of issues I’m talking about. Players diving forward, but the completely stop momentum and fall backwards during a hit. Bouncing off things a foot away, getting limbs stuck on other players, and a whole ton more.
Visually there isn’t much of an improvement either, which is a shame because I was hoping the next gen version would sport some more visual flair. Some character models look fine and fairly accurate, while others like Mahomes look really odd, albeit the hair rendering on him is some of the best. The stadiums all look great, as well as the overall NFL styled presentation, however, the turf has a small draw distance still which looks odd. I will say with the additional focus on the dynamic gameday system the fans have gotten a bit of an upgrade which is always nice. I’ve also ran into some issues with the HDR bugging out causing weird shadow effects and distorted colors in some areas.
Sound design feels largely untouched, besides the typical new announcer lines reflecting current NFL standings and the soundtrack update. The soundtrack remains the typical hip-hop licensed songs that were popular a few months ago along with your standard rock and licensed NFL songs. On the field sound design is well done with the crowd roar and the impact sounds from tackling. There are some audio issues I experienced as well with certain sound effects cutting out, let alone the slew of audio bugs from the Face of the Franchise mode. These aren’t persistent, but they are annoying. Another classic Madden issue is with the announcers not accurately reacting to or talking about what just happened. This is something that has plagued Madden for a long time and it’s still present here. Overall though the announcing is fine with even some nice nuggets of NFL facts.
Madden NFL 22 I feel is the first Madden in a long time that has added something significant, with a few smaller additions as well, without taking steps backwards. The full revamp of the Franchise Mode is really great and finally something done for the fans that isn’t around MUT or selling packs. While there is still plenty of greed here and even an added way for them to sell even more MT’s, the focus on some single player aspects is appreciated. This wasn’t the massive leap forward we hoped for, but it’s a great step in the right direction without any big set backs. If you were looking for a year to jump back into football, Madden NFL 22 has a lot going for it.
With a full next gen version I was expecting a bigger leap in visual quality. While Madden NFL 22 isn’t ugly overall, certain models and textures aren’t great.
General gameplay largely remains the same for better and worse with some small tweaks, but the additions of the Game Day features is welcome.
Sound design is fine from the music, sound effects, and announcers. However, announcers can still be inaccurate and there has been a ton of audio glitches.
I have to give credit to EA Tiburon for finally giving the fans the fully reworked Franchise Mode we have been wanting. The work here is in depth and well done. Madden NFL 22 carries over all the modes and features from the previous games as well.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Madden NFL 22 is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PC, and Google Stadia.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Madden NFL 22 was provided by the publisher.