Madden 24 Review

Madden 24 Review

As excitement reaches fever pitch for the start of a new NFL season, it’s also time to welcome in the next edition of its premiere digital representation, Madden 24. While we’ve recently seen some lovely indie interpretations of the sport in the shape of Retro Bowl and Legend Bowl, players yearning for a modern, graphically rich game of gridiron will be hoping that Madden 24 doesn’t just run the same plays as last year. Fortunately, the team at EA Tiburon have a few surprises squirrelled away in their revised playbook.

Ultimate Team is now front and centre as the first option when you start Madden 24 – not Play Now, not Franchise and not Superstar. That will likely tell you everything you need to know about EA’s priorities, but I’m willing to bet that not only does Ultimate Team make them an embarrassingly large amount of money, it’s probably the most-played mode, so really, they’re just helping us all out aren’t they? Still, it does feel more like pushers setting out their stall for a new batch of addicts.

Everyone knows about Ultimate Team, and whether you’re a Madden or FIFA player, the collectible card game allows you to build out your personal team of real-life superstars, all the while searching for the best cards. I know why it’s addictive – it’s because it’s fun. I know why I spend money on it every year – it’s because it’s fun. And I know why EA have put it front and centre – because it makes money.

We can get into an argument about business models, capitalism and content, but I’m not going to come up with anything revelatory. Madden Ultimate Team is a great mode, providing a series of challenges to keep building your team up, and you can still play and grind away at it without spending much, if anything, in the way of real money. You also get to experience the revised gameplay and animations that are really front and centre of Madden 24.

Madden 24 Scoop Tackle

Making yearly sports games is tough. How do you revolutionise a game you shipped a mere 12 months ago? The answer is that many years you’re not able to revolutionise much of anything, but thankfully this is not one of those years. Madden 24 brings a complete sea change in the way that players are constructed, and in turn, how the game is animated, making this the most realistic-looking game of American Football we’ve ever seen. Seriously, you won’t be able to go back to Madden 23 after playing it, as last year’s outing sees the players’ bodies contort and bend in unnatural ways that your eye can’t help but be drawn to. If you know, you know.

This skeletal system is called SAPIEN, and EA have clearly sunk a lot of development time and money into it. These player models have fully realised and accurate skeletons, and that makes all the difference to how they’re able to move and animate. It is precisely the kind of thing you want to see from premiere sports games as they move ever closer to hyper-realism.

Superstar returns this year, bringing some drama to your create-a-player as you aim to become an NFL star. It all starts with the NFL Combine, where you’re going to have to show off your skills here if you want people to start talking about you as you head towards the draft. The Combine tasks you with various track and field style events to move you up or down team draft lists. You can retake these as many times as you like, helping to improve your standing, and you can also take part in an interview with the press that tests your football knowledge. It’s worth noting that this is a genuine NFL knowledge quiz, so if you’re not big on the real-life sport you’ll be better off giving it a miss.

Madden 24 Rodgers

There’s some nice touches to Superstar mode, like the social feed with its live Madden Cast videos, and the way it takes your rookie player through to the NFL with your first contract, but it all feels quite generic, and the create-a-player options are now pretty limited in this day and age. Still, as you prepare for your first NFL game you encounter one of Madden 24’s big new additions, the return of mini-games.

Mini-games are exactly that, bringing in a bunch of small-scale experiences that add some frivolity to the regular Madden formula. Games like Target Passing where you have to break targets with your throw and Passing Skeleton where you’re using a skeleton crew of receivers to score as many touchdowns as possible. The key thing here is that they’re fun, and completing them gives your player XP as a reward to further build up their skills.

You can simulate them if you’re not feeling confident or are pushed for time, but you’re going to be missing out on one of the best new features of Madden 24. It’s a shame then that through Superstar mode you’re going to be playing the same ones depending on your position. This makes some sense I suppose, but what if I want to do rushing training with my QB? They need more variety through the many weeks of a season, and the mini-games aren’t the only things you’ll be tiring of.

Madden 24 Skeletons and Animations

Managing your day-to-day schedule starts off as a fun aside, but you soon realise that many of these are much the same week-on-week, leaving you to make selections that give you some performance boosts, or a shot of extra cred, but which add little to the experience. They’re certainly not thrilling, and become a tiresome activity that you’d rather skip over, if it wasn’t for the on-field benefits.

Superstar extends into Showdown, the replacement for the arcade-orientated The Yard. You can take your created player into these three-on-three bouts, gaining XP for your character as well as a bunch of exclusive rewards in the shape of ridiculously eye-catching outfits. It’s fine, as far as these things go, but I wasn’t a fan of The Yard, and this is much the same. That said, it does feel as though the back-and-forth between teams is tighter here, with the first to score 21 the winner and a decent level of risk and reward to your decisions.

Finally, we come to Franchise mode, and anyone hoping for an all-new, fresh experience here might as well wait for Madden 25. There have been some key enhancements though, and amongst them is the inclusion of those mini-games, both in training camp at the start of each season, and throughout the course of your week-on-week, with which you can work on specific player’s progression. Once again, you’re tied into specific types for specific positions, when all players should be able to benefit from each in different ways, even if this somewhat bends the truth of what it’s representing.

Besides that, the development team have added new commisioner tools to make things easier for those running their own leagues, changed up the trade setup, with extra slots available for those big deals, and enhanced the draft generators that keep bringing through both generational talent and ’99’ prospects as you embark on multi-year franchises. They’re certainly welcome additions, but it still feels as though Franchise is not the priority, with the key issues from recent years – unrealistic stats and dodgy AI decisions – still present and correct.

Madden 24 McCaffrey

Madden 24 doesn’t help itself by still being a pretty shonky experience. While the games themselves are largely problem free, the menus lag, stutter and even hard crash through each of the modes, leaving the Xbox Series X performance on the wrong side of disappointing. For one of EA’s premiere titles you wonder how or why this seems to be a recurring problem, and it seems to be affecting all of the platforms at launch.

That continues at times on the field, and while there’s been a huge amount of work done on having the players animate in a naturalistic way, there’s still those moments where the players interact with each other, or with others on the sideline – particularly the incredibly poorly-defined cameramen – and they bounce around or stumble in an unnatural way. It pulls you out of the action and serves as a reminder that this remains a video game that hasn’t found all the answers to a series of complicated questions.

Still, they have improved the way that runners are picked up by defenders, and where runners choose their routes, meaning that the ground game is working better than ever on both sides of the ball. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly elicited far fewer throw-your-controller-moments than it used to. That’s the story with Madden 24, a year where game engine improvements have kept the team’s focus firmly on the field, when perhaps an eye should have been cast over bug squashing and looking for some truly new ideas.

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