Madden is one of gamings longest-running franchises. The first game was released back in 1988 and has become an annual tradition since 1990.
It has come a long way since then and continues to scratch the itch of those that need an American Football fix. With Madden 21 we reach the final installment before a new generation.
Gameplay and Accessibility
The most important part of any sports game is how it plays. Madden, for the most part, plays well. The problem it just takes too long to get into the game. Loading times are far too long and in the bid to create an authentic atmosphere you end up with an experience that sometimes feels laborious to play.
That’s not to say the game isn’t full of those wonderful moments that make football games memorable. Throwing a hail mary on 4th down in the 4th quarter and it paying off still generates that feeling of exhilaration. As does dodging a defensive player and running the ball to a touchdown or sacking the quarterback. The core game is fine in small doses but play for any length of time and cracks start to show.
Madden 21 has quite a bit in terms of accessibility. There are various control methods, some including fewer buttons, and accessibility settings full of options. You can read more about them here.
One of the new additions to the game, The Yard, is fun for quick burst play and creates a quick and punchy alternative to a full game. It’s more arcadey, capturing the spirit of backyard football, and changes things up in an interesting way. It doesn’t really have a killer hook to keep you engaged for long though.
This is kind of a reoccurring issue with the game. Everything in it feels passable but nothing in it feels like it’ll truly sink its claws into you. It kind of feels like tick boxes being ticked to make sure they’re delivering what the audience has come to expect. Face of the Franchise mode offers a ridiculous story where hardly anyone is likable and the performances are fairly terrible. I also ran into numerous glitches playing it. Considering the last Madden game I played in-depth was 19 it’s a huge step backward from what the story mode offered then.
Franchise mode feels more or less the same… but that’s kind of a problem in itself. Nearly everything feels like a minor update if that.
Ultimate Team remains a fun way to do bite-sized challenges that are perfect if you don’t have time for a full game. Unfortunately, the aforementioned load times mean it feels like a chore to get into them sometimes.
Graphics and Presentation
Madden 21 is the best the series has ever looked. A few bugs may make things look odd at times but there’s no denying that graphically there’s an improvement. It’s not a dramatic one but there is definitely an update.
Presentation-wise the game kind of falls down. Menus are pointlessly clunky and jumping from one section to another just takes time that doesn’t feel needed. It feels like it’s putting barriers in front of the actual game. The in-game cutscenes can help add a bit but there are only so many times you can see the same thing play out before it starts to get stale.
If what you want is the latest season of the NFL in video game form then Madden 21 is going to be great for you. If what you want is a fun American Football game and don’t care about the season updates then you might want to pick up a previous year’s installment or waiting for a price drop. Ultimate Team remains as fun as it has always been. Plus The Yard does offer a fun alternative to traditional American Football with a fun arcade-style.
Next-gen upgrades will hopefully sort the loading times a bit but the problem is that’s just a part of Madden 21’s issues. Unfortunately, there are so many small things that build up to make Madden 21 an experience that, at times, feels like a step backward.
Reviewed on PS4.
Review code provided by EA.
Featured image credit: EA