Review – Madden NFL 23
It’s that time of year again, when the NFL season starts up and I start getting the itch to play a few rounds of Madden. Due to the hype of the NFL season starting, I get my hopes up for a great Madden release because I just want to be engrossed in football again. With each year comes some new tweaks that are supposedly going to make the gameplay and control better, and while there are some years that feel worth it, Madden NFL ’23 is not that year. It stays largely unchanged from last year, so I won’t waste a lot of time on modes, but I will go over the new FieldSENSE. This year EA is celebrating John Madden since he passed last November, and he is not only the cover star, but also unlocked for free as a Legendary coach in MUT.
As I mentioned above, Madden NFL ’23 stays largely unchanged from last year as far as modes go and how they work. Face of the Franchise (the story mode) received a few tweaks that allows you to choose your team based on contract terms. Contract Terms can provide more or less credits and XP per game depending on how badly that team needs you in your position. For example, as a QB my offer from the Colts was an A because they need a new QB and my contract terms were better. This only plays a marginal role in the actual game, and I didn’t really feel like it would have mattered if this was added or not. Another addition is that you are able to play this mode as a Cornerback, bringing in another option for defense.
Franchise mode still allows you to play as a player, in any position, or play as the coach. Playing as a specific player locks you into that position; you get to create a character and level them up through the season. The coach allows you to play all positions and allows you to get deeper into the roster, leveling up coach and player perks. Playing as the coach is what I like to do because it gives you more play time and offers more of a simulation route.
MUT is still as greedy as ever, constantly pushing packs in front of you, even when you just want to go back to the main page. Loading screens are filled with MUT packs to purchase and it’s always on the forefront of the in-game messages. MUT still has the same depth of modes, offering plenty of gameplay options to earn coins for basic packs, but to get the good stuff, be prepared to spend some money. The Yard makes a comeback as well, and you can even play as your Face of the Franchise character to earn more XP as well as earn Cred for MUT.
Now that the basics are talked about, let’s get into the big advertised change for this year, FieldSENSE. Let’s start with what EA says this upgrade will do: “Providing the foundation for consistent, ultra-realistic gameplay, Madden NFL 23’s new FieldSENSE Gameplay System equips players with more control at all positions in every mode. FieldSENSE leverages animation branching technology and a suite of new user control mechanics for a seamless gameplay flow with authentic results on every play.” Man, that sounds really nice, and to be fair this foundation continues to improve and become better, but as of right now this is a whole lot of nothing.
From a QB standpoint, you’re now able to slow down time and adjust power and position of the ball. If you hold the Left Trigger, you can adjust within a small circle where the ball will go. This gives more control if you want to do a back shoulder throw or throw it low and away from defenders. This is all great in theory, but I really didn’t feel like it added much more than just adjusting the stick left, right, down, up to throw it to that side of the receiver. Now, I am no professional Madden player of course, but it just felt pointless. Especially since the slowing down feature isn’t usable online. It just felt like more complication for the same result, especially with the AI, which I’ll get to later.
Another feature of FieldSENSE is greater control of runners, allowing to make quicker cuts which results in less floaty feeling movement. I will say that this is a good change since running control does feel better. However, they’re also touting more and better animations and physics which I feel like is BS. Having more control of my runner is great until I get locked into this dumb tackle animation. I’ve had defenders tackle me from behind in a full trucking sprint, where the animation slides them to me from a yard away and completely stops my momentum and I fall backwards.
This is my biggest issue with Madden NFL ’23 and Madden in general, is the inconsistent AI, animations, and physics. It never fails to piss me off when at least one or two times a drive I get screwed over by some wonky physics animation or my AI will fail. Too many times have I thrown a ball, it goes through my receivers head, and then he only reacts to try and catch the ball after its already passed through him. Or the running back AI making terrible lane choices. It happens far too often and it makes me want to never play the game again.
Visually, this is the best looking Madden yet, even though it’s still pulling along last gen consoles. The menu system especially for MUT is a bit annoying and cluttered, but overall the presentation in-game is crisp. Nice intros of the stadiums, fans, and teams all look great, with a professional broadcast look which helps the immersion. The fields look great, and no longer has the weird grass pop-ins. Player models for the most part look really good, but there is still some awkward uncanny valley looking players that can pull you out of the experience. Performance always felt solid, and I don’t recall there being any slow downs.
Sound design is also top notch this year, with high quality sound effects on the field. From pads clashing during tackles, to the crowed roaring, as well as the small broadcasting menu sound effects, it all sounds polished. Also, this year has been the best for the announcers. I don’t think I heard a single time where they mistakenly called a play. The music still remains your typical set of hip hop and rock tunes that were popular the year before, which is fine.
Madden NFL ’23 is one of those years that if you skipped it, you wouldn’t really be missing anything. The additions to the Face of the Franchise mode aren’t significant enough to drop last year’s iteration and start again here, and that goes for any of the modes. The one big feature, FieldSENSE, didn’t live up to the hype, and even if it isn’t a setback, it didn’t improve upon the main things that annoy me. Perhaps this is more of a feature for the competitive scene, but for your everyday Joes, it’s more complication for the same result.
Visually the cleanest Madden there is, with some great looking details and presentation. Majority of models look great, but there are some odd ones.
FieldSENSE adds more control over positioning throws, however, I didn’t feel it really changed the flow of the game or make the AI better.
Sound design is great with plenty of great on field sounds from players getting hit, fans cheering, and the announcers are more accurate than ever.
Not much has been added or overhauled here, with the same modes as last year, same greedy MUT MTs, and still plenty of dumb AI and physics issues.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Madden NFL 23 is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Madden NFL 23 was provided by the publisher.