Madden NFL 22 Review
Another year, another Madden.
Look, Madden. I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed. It feels like Madden has been making only minor improvements every year for the past who knows how many years now, and Madden NFL 22 sadly suffers from the same problems as its predecessors. It’s an enjoyable game, and it is better than last year’s entry, but the new features are not enough to justify the price tag. It shows promise in some areas, but that just makes the whole experience even more bittersweet.
I thought last year’s Madden 21 would be the big one, the first next-gen Madden game taking full advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. It wasn’t. While other sports franchises like NBA 2K21 saw a huge graphical leap on next-gen, Madden 21 remained largely the same on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. FIFA, EA’s other premier sports franchise, also received a decent next-gen facelift.
Many people gave EA the benefit of the doubt, attributing Madden 21’s condition to the developers familiarizing themselves with the new next-gen hardware and developing during a pandemic. Madden 22, on the other hand, was sure to be a hit with another year of next-gen experience, I thought. It’s not.
Madden 22 primarily innovates on two fronts this year: Franchise Mode and Dynamic Gameday. There are other improvements across the board as well, but these are the big two selling points enticing players to upgrade. Franchise Mode now features skill trees for your coaching staff, and there are also a ton of new storyline scenarios that pop up during the season. A scouting update is coming soon after launch, but since it’s not in the game now, I can’t offer an opinion on it. It is nice to see Franchise getting serious attention after being left on the back burner for so long, but these improvements still aren’t enough to make it feel fully fleshed out.
Dynamic Gameday, however, is very much a step in the right direction. The Momentum system places a tug-of-war style meter at the top of the screen, awarding a perk to the team that fills up their side. Home Field Advantage awards an additional perk to teams playing in their own stadium. Crowds have new animations, sounds, and reactions under the banner of “Gameday Atmosphere.” Momentum and Home Field Advantage place an interesting twist on the established Madden formula, and the new crowds are a noticeable improvement. I really hope these features are elaborated upon in the years to come because atmosphere is a huge part of football.
As far as other modes go, Face of the Franchise is laughable in its current state. Stories and characters have never been Madden’s strong suit, but this year they’re especially bad. The mode is also buggier than the others for some reason. The bugs aren’t exactly game-breaking, but they were frequent enough to be annoying. Sometimes the subtitles would not match what characters were saying, characters would clip through one another on the field or their feet would clip through the ground, and the commentators would say the wrong things. There’s a general lack of polish, and the mode’s strengths aren’t as strong as they could be.
The Yard returns this year with some improvements, and the mode is still a great time. This mode is one of the best things to come to Madden in the past few years, so it’s nice to see it return. This year, The Yard features a campaign divided into four chapters with unique venues and house rules. Each chapter has a high-profile NFL player that serves as a boss that must be defeated in order to progress to the next chapter. The Yard provides a breath of fresh air from the more serious modes, and the campaign and improved progression system give it a longer shelf life than it had last year.
Despite my frustrations with the franchise’s stagnation, I will admit that the game is a step above Madden 21. It looks and plays better than last year, but not by much. Home Field Advantage, Momentum, and dynamic crowds make a difference, sure, but they’re not exactly revolutionary. Next-Gen Stats still feels like an underutilized system. Franchise Mode got the biggest facelift this year, but even that just feels like a previously ignored mode being brought up to an acceptable level. At the end of the day, the improvements are incremental.
And that’s the biggest problem with Madden 22: it’s not enough. Yes, it’s a little bit better. Yes, it’s playable and you can have a perfectly good time with it. But for a $70 game that has years and years of feedback and experience to build off of, it’s not enough. Madden deserves better, which makes its complacency hurt that much more.
It’s ridiculous that Madden is as popular as it is while it remains so far behind its contemporaries. Baseball fans love MLB The Show every year. NBA 2K has its problems, but at least that game made a huge graphical jump when it hit next-gen consoles. Madden can do so much better.
The franchise needs revitalization. Most of the problems with this game and the ones that came before it stem from the fact that Madden has been using the exact same framework and skeleton for years at this point. Take some time off. Come back with a new foundation. Create a truly next-generation Madden experience. I can see hints of that true next-gen experience in Madden NFL 22, but the game feels like it’s being held back.
All in all, Madden NFL 22 is ultimately disappointing. Even after all these years, it still feels like EA is coasting on its exclusive rights to NFL simulation football. I do appreciate the improvements to Franchise Mode, I like the direction the game is going with crowds and the gameday experience, and The Yard is still fun, but the core of the game remains underwhelming. At the end of the day, it’s still football so it’s at least somewhat enjoyable, but every play left me wondering what this game could look like if there was some competition or a serious overhaul of its core systems.
Madden NFL 22
- Score: 2.5 / 5
- Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Developed By: EA Tiburon
- Genre: Sports
- US Release Date: August 20, 2021
- Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
- Quote: "All in all, Madden NFL 22 is ultimately disappointing. Even after all these years, it still feels like EA is coasting on its exclusive rights to NFL simulation football."