Last year’s Madden NFL 21 seemed to be the breaking point for many fans of the long-running series who became fed up with seeing an annual release with minor improvements and a roster update. Most of this backlash was from Franchise players. Franchise, a mode that once had tons of meaningful features, had become a hollow shell of its former self. This led to EA Tiburon and EA Sports eventually acknowledging their lack of commitment to the mode and promised more changes in Madden NFL 22.
Well, did EA turn it all around in this year’s installment? Find out in my review for the game Madden NFL 22.
Madden NFL 22 is available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC, and Stadia. It’s important to note that the next-gen and last-gen versions of this game are a bit different in terms of features. So, for the sake of clarity, this Madden NFL 22 review is solely focusing on the next-gen version (Xbox Series X/S and PS5).
Gameplay And Presentation – It’s Fun… Sometimes
Before we get into the Franchise mode, I have to start with Madden NFL 22’s core gameplay loop. Unfortunately, even though I have had some fun with Madden NFL 22, it just doesn’t feel like a finished product, especially for Madden NFL game.
Numerous times, I encountered issues with animations not working properly, terrible AI with Offensive Linemen, and problems with commentary (I’ll get into that later). And don’t even get me started on the crazy glitches.
Like so many other industries, the gaming scene has been heavily affected by the pandemic. So, I understand that some games won’t be “perfect” at launch. But, it’s frustrating to have the same gameplay bugs year after year. A lot of the stuff I just mentioned was present in the next-gen and last-gen versions of Madden NFL 21, blatantly showing the lack of attention paid to this edition.
Then, there’s the broken zone defense. More often than not, when running zone defense, your Defensive Backs will get burned by Wide Receivers on deep routes.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are times where you’ll be on the edge of your seat as you attempt to make a miraculous comeback or put away your opponent with one last defensive stop.
Crafting your gameday strategy is awesome too. Before each game and after each half, you’ll get the chance to select a game plan and add boosts to your players.
So, if you are playing Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, you may want to make sure you guard the deep pass so you have boosts on coverage attributes.
Dynamic Gameday was a huge talking point around Madden NFL 22 leading up to its launch. Originating from EA’s NCAA football franchise, this Xbox Series X/S and PS5 exclusive feature rewards several advantages to the team that holds the momentum of a game. There are also home-field advantage effects for each team. Although the momentum system is inconsistent in regards to how a high-impact play affects the meter, it’s a welcomed feature that can be fine-tuned with future updates.
Madden NFL 22’s presentation gets a revamp with new intros and even a new Superbowl celebration. Although it’s cool to see the presentation get some changes, it still doesn’t measure up to the likes of ESPN NFL 2K5 or older Madden NFL games.
Connected Franchise – Madden NFL 22 Franchise Gets A Much-Needed Facelift
As I mentioned earlier, EA put an emphasis on improving Franchise mode with Madden NFL 22. Admittedly, the game mode does get a few things right. For example, coaching trees are back in an EA football game! You can progress your Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, and Player Personnel (GM). You can also earn points through a myriad of ways, including selecting and completing in-game challenges.
Offensive Coordinators and Defensive Coordinators primarily give your players boosts. Your Player Personnel staff tree helps out with trades and contracts. The Head Coach has trees for the talent on the field and the coaching staff.
When other coaches are fired at the end of the year, you can take a look at the coaching pool and potentially find a notable name to add to your staff. Weekly game planning has been improved as well. You can now manage reps to reduce fatigue throughout the season. This new system isn’t perfect, by any means, but it is yet another small step in the right direction. All in all, it’s fantastic to see skill trees and the coaching carousel brought to the Madden NFL franchise along with an emphasis on strategy. It brings a level of immersion and replayability to the mode.
Sadly, I can’t say that for the rest of the Franchise mode. Sure, the game has a new scenario system where players will approach you via in-game cutscenes and give you extra goals to complete. However, most of the scenarios I encountered fell under one of two categories. Either a player spoke with me about the same scenarios from last year (Breakout scenarios, veterans asking how they can coach up younger players, etc.) or, some scenarios just didn’t make any sense.
For example, one of the potential in-season storylines deals with one of your players contemplating retirement unless the team turns the season around. No matter how well you perform or how much you win, the commentary will act as if the team had completely turned against you (You’ll also hear the exact same commentary lines each week). If you decide to trade the player, you may still get some in-game cutscenes from him as if he was still on your team.
To be fair, these scenarios seem to be purely optional but, it’s another example of how dull this series has become. There’s a lot to like about Franchise this year. But, just like its gameplay, Madden NFL 22’s Franchise isn’t a complete mode. There are several game-breaking bugs that make Franchise mode unplayable like the Final Score glitch with offline leagues or issues with the progressive fatigue system. Oh, there’s also a blinding visual glitch throughout the Draft each year.
Other Modes – More Of The Same
Face Of The Franchise doesn’t have the best reputation with fans and this year’s installment probably won’t change anyone’s mind. Apart from the mode’s average narrative, it’s clear that Face Of The Franchise is trying to lean into NBA 2K’s MyCareer mode. For example, there are more archetypes and positions to choose from in Face Of The Franchise. Plus, there is shared progression across Face Of The Franchise and The Yard.
On paper, this sounds great. However, due to the aforementioned issues with gameplay, the awkward cutscenes, and its absurd story, the mode falls completely flat in execution.
Speaking of The Yard, it’s still the fast-paced, chaotic NFL Street-esque game mode that a lot of people enjoyed from last year. This time, you can play via a Campaign, Live Events, or with friends. From a personal standpoint, I’m still a bit disappointed with the customizable options in The Yard but, it’s still a fun mode for those wanting a casual experience.
The same can be said for Superstar KO, which remains of the most entertaining modes in Madden year after year. Playing either solo or with up to two friends, you will pick out several NFL superstars to add to your lineup along with a base team. From there, you’ll face off with another player-controlled team that is climbing up the ladder. If you win, you’ll be able to pick another NFL superstar. And, if you lose, you’ll have to start over.
Finally, there’s Ultimate Team. Surprisingly, this mode has grown on me over the years. It’s certainly not my favorite, by any means, but the mode has become one of the reasons I play Madden for months after it was released. Here, you’ll essentially build and upgrade your own fantasy team with players from today and previous eras of the NFL.
Graphics And Audio – The Game Looks Great On Next-Gen (Kind Of)
In terms of visuals, I’m not sure how I feel about Madden NFL 22. At first glance, everything looks absolutely stunning from the opening introduction to the battered jerseys at the end of a game. I mean, just look at this screenshot of Justin Fields.
There’s just something off about some of the character models. It’s that uncanny valley feeling when you see a de-aged actor in a movie or when Superman had a weird upper lip in that version of Justice League nobody wants to acknowledge anymore. Almost forgot about the audio. There’s some new commentary material but, it’s doesn’t add to the game’s overall presentation. In fact, it’s offputting when you often hear the commentary team have a delayed reaction to a big play or bring up the same one or two topics in every Franchise game.
Most of Madden NFL 22’s game modes are better than they were in Madden NFL 21. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good Madden NFL game or even a good video game, in general. Instead, it’s clear that EA played it safe with this year’s installment.
Is the game fun to play? At times, definitely and I’d be lying if I said otherwise. There are also several modes worth playing like Franchise and Superstar KO. It’s just that there’s not really any reason for anyone to shell out $70 for this game (I’d possibly even argue that it’s not worth $40 or even $30 in its current state). Especially when you can play last year’s version and probably get the same amount of enjoyment.