Madden 24 Review: Gameplay Videos, Features and Impressions

Madden 24 Review: Gameplay Videos, Features and Impressions

EA Sports

Madden 24 from EA Sports faces immense pressure.

At this point, that feels like an understatement for an embattled franchise that continues to sell well while facing heaps of criticism. Last year’s game had a muted reception (Metacritic rating of 69) like the year before and later dealt with crippling lost-save issues, among other problems.

Meaning, Madden 24 has a chance to right the proverbial ship as the fourth entry on next-generation consoles.

But Madden 24 must do much to succeed, similar to cover star Josh Allen of the Bills against a stacked AFC. A smooth, bug-minimal launch and promised upgrades across the board meeting expectations is the only way for the series to get back on track in terms of reception, if nothing else.

Gameplay

Here’s the best possible news for football fans—Madden 24 is the best-feeling on-field game in many years. No exaggeration or hyperbole there.

Last year, FieldSENSE was a bit of a buzzword. The game felt good, but it still felt like Madden. Those who pick up Madden 24 will nod along with this in no time flat—this year’s game feels more random.

And that’s a good thing.

Things just happen in football. Players miss blocks. Defenders drop too far in coverage. Quarterbacks just straight-up miss. These little things happen often in Madden 24 in a way that feels authentic and not over-tuned. Prior games felt too robotic and scripted. Now more than ever, there’s a good-feeling bit of randomness that frankly, does much for the enjoyability of the experience.

Tucked within that randomness though is a more refined true-to-life sensibility, especially with quarterbacks. Someone like Baker Mayfield is going to wilt at the first sign of pressure and take off trying to extend things. Joe Burrow is going to extend too, but stand in to take a hit while forcing it deep to a star player. There’s less nickel-and-diming the perfect underneath routes and more realistic behavior from the most important position in sports.

It helps that there are droves of new things happening during each play. Actual catch animations feel improved in specific scenarios. Some of these notable upgrades happen at the catch point as receivers and defenders adjust mid-air for contested catches.

In fact, mid-air adjustments that veer off into swats, big hits, catch tackles and other scenarios mimic real life nicely. Yes, there is still the Maddenish things like defenders jumping routes too early without looking and magically swatting something away by stretching like a member of the Fantastic 4. But for the most part, there’s less of that and more realism.

Same thing in the trenches, where chip-blocks and double teams stand out. As a whole, offensive line play feels better, especially when an interior player beats his defender, then goes bulldozing into the second level while actually making a second block. But other times, the randomness element mentioned above paired with jank creates broken plays.

Overall A.I. has clearly received some work too. It feels like defenders in pass coverage better recognize quick-hitting plays like slants while initially backpedaling off the snap.

Players have more control than ever as a quarterback thanks to choosing from a variety of placement options such as back-shoulder throws. It will intimidate some that the basic normal, lob and bullet options aren’t the only options, but more control means a higher skill gap.

The limited but game-defining superstar X-Factors return too, with someone such as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow being immune to defensive pressure in the pocket.

The above mention of randomness isn’t an excuse to gloss over the usual Maddenisms, though. There is still a load of jank that seems like a ticking timebomb. Players awkwardly climb over each other, stick limbs through each other, that sort of thing. At one point, a player who scored a touchdown remained prone for the entirety of the celebration camera.

It’s nothing new to Madden players that the physics system goes wonky on the regular, nor is it a surprise when this gets smoothed out throughout the game’s lifecycle. While it’s a baffling problem, it doesn’t overshadow the fact this is the best-feeling Madden in years.

Graphics and Presentation

The SAPIEN Technology that makes player bodies more realistic extends to a seven-person crew featuring male and female officials.

As such, Madden continues to inch closer to being one of those games capable of fooling onlookers into thinking it’s the real thing. This especially comes up more this year with the physics system doing a better job of displaying size disparities between players, such as when a smaller defensive back goes at the knees of a big running back.

Madden veterans otherwise know the drill. The lighting, reflections, physics for hair and towels, attention to detail for stadiums, faces for superstars and how sidelined personnel emote all look great.

But some of the usual culprits persist. The current commentary duo has started to wear out its welcome after five-plus years. Crowds are varied enough, but never really escape the low droning buzz sound. There are new pre-snap camera angles, but players do nothing more than flex around during pre-game loading screens and there’s little in the way of a halftime show. Menus feel the same as last year, complete with just enough input lag to be annoying. The soundtrack is the latest stuff, for better or worse.

Given Madden is the only NFL simulation game on the block, it’s a little surprising to not see it strive for more broadcast-level immersion and it sometimes feels like the game doesn’t know what it wants to be.

The graphics and presentation package are good as is, undoubtedly, but it sort of feels like a quarterback not taking that third-year leap and instead settling into Kirk Cousins land.

Superstar, Franchise and More

Notable shuffles reshape the Madden game modes experience this year.

Superstar The League and Superstar Showdown replace both Face of the Franchise and The Yard, respectively. In the former, players can start a career as a quarterback, running back, wideout, linebacker and cornerback and in the latter, take on 3v3 and 6v6 games against friends.

Within those modes one of those new big talking points are new combine mini-games. They are standard-fare drills for those who played prior Madden games with the features and offer an eye-of-the-beholder level of fun.

When players aren’t dipping into the limited number of cutscenes in the solo mode they can complete daily tasks, plus standard checklist items for these types of modes with things like sponsorship deals. Posting a Tik-Tok video in a player’s free time isn’t anything more than an RPG-styled menu decision, but it’s better than nothing.

Solo and squad-based play happens in the arena, where traditional play-calling has been removed. A 50-yard field with neon all over the place, including on helmets and the ball itself, it’s a Tron-looking fun side experience that is already more enjoyable than The Yard ever was.

Madden promised big changes to the beloved Franchise mode this year and delivered in some respects.

Those mini-games make a return and the game boasts 26 (also playable from the main menu and in Superstar). These, as expected, help a player train their characters during preseason training camps and weekly training.

Players now have more options for commissioners ranging from whether to engage with free-agent motivations at all to a handful of different settings that impact how difficult it is to pull off trades.

Relocation, notably, is now available to players interacting with the mode as a coach, not just team owner. It also has some notable refreshments, including new cities.

Diversified draft pools mean more high-upside players and even injury-prone players, broadening the variety of prospects and overall draft classes. If nothing else, it’s nice to know players can’t sleepwalk through the scouting process now.

Trades even get a revamp. Players can now use a somewhat-staggering six trade slots in an offer and an extra year of draft picks. If nothing else, it means actually getting back a massive return for a superstar player. Generally speaking, A.I. trade logic seems a little better so that computer-controlled teams aren’t ruining the realistic immersion.

Restructuring contracts is a very nice feature to have, but it appears that all it does is take a lump of cash from the front end of the deal and throw it onto the back without tacking on years for further flexibility. And while this push for realism is nice, a franchise mode still missing real-life staples such as waiver wires, compensatory picks and other details slants the scale notably.

There isn’t much that hasn’t been said about the card-based Ultimate Team in the past multiple times. The mode has been streamlined further and with an uptick in helpful tutorials for new players. It also promises seven seasons, up from five, but it won’t change the minds of players who don’t fancy it. For those who do, it’s again as deep as ever and yes, loaded with microtransaction options.

Madden again offers plenty of options worth perusing. The aforementioned precision passing isn’t mandatory and players are more than welcome to boot up and play with more traditional controls, for example.

Conclusion

Madden continues to fight comparisons to its past self, notably re-debuting things like referees on the field and side items like training camp and mini-games. It’s also again fixing problems introduced just one year ago, such as odd-looking player models.

On the field, Madden 24 is the biggest leap for the franchise in some time. Off it, the small pass to a variety of game modes will once again register as polarizing.

But in a vacuum, both renditions of Superstar and franchise mode are better than their counterparts from past years and this is a cornerstone moment for the on-field gameplay (that the upcoming NCAA game might take cues from, hopefully).

Annual players will have extremely justifiable complaints, but for new players or once-every-few-years players, this is the time to hop aboard.

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