Madden 21 was released a few weeks ago, and being a casual fan of the NFL, usually watching the occasional divisional game and the Super Bowl every year, I was excited to get my hands on this year’s edition of EA’s hallmark game.

I haven’t played a Madden game for a long time, and being a big fan of the FIFA franchise, my biggest fears were realised when I booted up the game and saw the soul crushing Ultimate Team was also highlighted game mode in Madden too. However, there’s still plenty of game modes for me to play so I can ignore the cash cow of Ultimate Team. There’s plenty to do in Madden, be it a career mode in the form of “The Franchise” or a story mode where you create your player and aim to become a hall of famer in “Face of the Franchise.” And that’s what I had my eyes set on… 

Face of the franchise was a lot of fun, but definitely has its drawbacks, and sadly in the end left me frustrated, but I’m going to start off with the positives. Starting off in High School, you are competing with fellow Quarterback, Tommy Mathews for a starting place, and the ups and downs of that rivalry turned friendship follows you to college as he chooses the same college as you. It was a fun little story, with the illusion of choice… you pick your actions, how to respond or which college to go to, but ultimately I felt they had zero impact on the story. As did your performance, as it’s implied that if you perform well you will be the starter, but despite having a record-breaking game, I was still dropped. And yes, I was playing on easy mode to achieve that record-breaking game, but I’m still learning!

Ultimately it left me frustrated as my actions had no consequences. And the frustration only continued when you join the NFL. If you want to enjoy the story elements, you only get to play about 4 games per season, and a lot of them being repeat games against your rivals. It fails to give me the satisfaction of feeling I helped achieve a hard-earned Super Bowl victory win when you only have one play-off game, and then you’re there.

Sadly, that’s not where the issues finished. The mode suffers from a few big bugs. When one season you’re tasked with keeping your spot, I had a bug where I had to complete 5 out of 5 training drills to be named as starter, however on the 5th play it always claimed to be an incomplete pass no matter the outcome or how many attempts I had, not that it would of mattered anyway, as a quick look on YouTube showed me that no matter what you’re either dropped and drafted away from the team, or get named as starter only to get injured, and drafted away from the team. And then what summed up this mode perfectly to me was the ending. You’re being honoured by high school by having their field named after you and your teammates nickname, all for it to play out in silence… absolute silence. 

It’s sad as this mode had a lot of promise, but ultimately feels neglected and almost an afterthought by EA. What kept me going with it is how good the gameplay in Madden 21 is. Its frostbite engine feels smooth, and the superstar X-factor some of the bigger players have makes them feel unique to use. There’s the occasional animation bug, with players running the wrong way or suddenly stopping, but apart from that it feels fun. When you’re in a game in looks brilliant, and realistic. The only thing that lets this game down on for presentation is when you begin a game, it lacks the fanfare of a typical NFL game. Only showing you highlights of the players celebrating from a game yet to be played. 

The other mode Madden offers for quick enjoyment is The Yard, a 6v6 game. It’s a fun mode, one I’m yet to fully explore but I’m excited to get into and is reminiscent of FIFA’s Volta mode. The comparisons to FIFA are really endless, but that’s a debate for another day as I feel some of those qualities are indicative of all sports games, for better or worse. As a rookie in Madden, I found the experience enjoyable, there’s plenty to do so much that having been playing this for a week I’m still yet to play all the modes. There’s definitely issues in the game, and their focus was probably on Ultimate Team. I’ll leave the die-hard Madden Fans to dissect whether that’s a good thing or not, as I already have my opinion on it thanks to FIFA. Overall, I’d give Madden

7.5/10

It’s a game I’ve had fun playing, but sometimes fumbles the ball. I’ll definitely be going back to it though.

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