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Madden NFL 22 Review – Zero-Sum Game

madden nfl 22 review
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Madden NFL 22 Review – Zero-Sum Game

Madden 22 on PlayStation 5

Generations of consoles have come and gone without Madden NFL 22 feeling like it has made a true generational leap. Personally, I believe the stagnation is more of a fault of the industry practices that have gone unquestioned now for decades, but regardless of where the fault for that lies, it exists. It’s amplified for the Madden franchise since it has been around for much longer than any other sports game.

The last two editions, this year and last, have solidified for me that I shouldn’t expect much from the Madden franchise anymore, even with new consoles and hardware. Madden has essentially become McDonald’s. You know what you’re going to get, and you either like it, or you don’t. There will hopefully be some new things added to the menu to mix things up from time to time, but you shouldn’t expect an overhaul any time soon.

For what it’s worth, though, I really do enjoy some of the new features that Madden 22 has brought this year. The most noticeable, by far is the addition of a game momentum meter and home-field advantage. While technically not new to EA-developed sports games, it existed in the NCAA series years ago, for dedicated Madden fans or people like me who don’t care about the NCAA, it’s going to feel fresh.

Under the umbrella of what is now being called “Dynamic Gameday” this feature adds a big bar at the top of your screen during games and as the game progresses, whichever team is making big plays more recently will start to push the bar in their favor like a virtual game of tug of war. As the bar progresses towards either the home or away team, they’ll receive perks, called M-Factors, that will benefit that team, such as unlimited stamina, blocking advantages, etc.

madden nfl 22 review

In addition, each home team has a unique M-Factor that is easily activated as long as they have a slight momentum advantage over the away team, giving the home team an actual edge.

The impact of M-Factors really clicked for me the first time on a short 4th and goal play on offense early in a game. The other team had the momentum and the lead. I could just kick the field goal as it would inch me closer on the scoreboard but it wouldn’t really help me much in momentum… or I could go for it. Not only would that give me the lead, but it will dramatically suck the momentum away from the opposing team in my favor. That’s what I did, and I was successful.

This choice presented far more risk than it normally would in previous Madden games. If I failed, not only would I come away with zero points, but the opposing team for making a big 4th down stop would also get a massive boost in their momentum, pulling them even further ahead in that regard than they already were.

A really nice touch is the crowd will berserk if the home team has strong momentum and, conversely, give you that pin-drop silence if the away team is running away with the game. In either direction, this also leads to in-game effects, such as wobbly screens and play art to mess with the team that’s losing the momentum war.

These decisions, which weren’t in the game until this year, alone make Madden 22 a far more interesting game than it has been in years. While their impact is more felt in single-player modes than online ones to keep the latter as balanced as it can be, it’s definitely something that enhances the Madden 22 overall.

In general, Franchise fans are the winner this year (finally). The Momentum Meter and Dynamic Gameday make the game grind more interesting, but also the mode itself received a smattering of additions. There’s just more to do in Franchise this year, in fact, I found it to be overload at times, and I’m generally a person that likes to micromanage everything.

madden nfl 22 review

Staff skill trees are a thing now, and they are advanced by picking up Staff Points by setting and achieving gameday goals, such as getting a certain amount of first downs or rushing yards. As you hit these goals, you’ll earn Staff Points that you can use to get perks for your coaches, like reducing injuries or getting an edge on GM activities such as trading and contracts.

The gameday goals work in tandem with updated gameplans in Madden 22. Prior to each game, you have the opportunity to gameplan for your opponent. You’ll enter a screen that breaks down key players and your opponent’s tendencies.

If the opposing QB loves throwing the deep ball, you can gameplan your defense to defend against it which will activate boosts for your secondary in defending deep passes. However, it comes with drawbacks such as negative boosts to defending short passes and runs.

You can set gameplans for both defense and offense pre-game, and at half-time in case you want to adjust your plan based on what is actually happening to you in-game. This also carries over to other modes like Ultimate Team.

That’s not all either, there are improvements to scouting coming in September, more cinematics which include post-game conversations with players and press conferences, and an overhaul of the mode’s hub to be more organized and look more appealing.

All of this is great for Franchise fans which constitute a large portion of Madden 22’s fan base, but at the end of the day, it’s still not enough to overcome the pile of issues that grows larger and larger with every passing year.

Madden 22’s core modes and gameplay are just overwhelmingly stale and the developers just don’t seem to have enough time to address everything all at once. It seems like a zero-sum game at this point, if Franchise gets attention one year as it has in Madden 22, something else has to suffer.

Madden Ultimate Team largely just benefits from the overall gameplay changes that were geared more towards Franchise players like momentum and gameplanning and that’s more or less it aside from some minor additions that largely only appeals to hardcore players of MUT.

I really wonder how long even those hardcore MUT players will stomach just having their progress reset every year for basically nothing. The only way it feels at least somewhat justified is if there are significant upgrades and changes to enjoy while you regrind, otherwise it just feels like a slap in the face and a money grab. Again, it’s hard to blame the developers, it’s just the nature of sports games in general right now but something needs to change about it if they care about seeing their game well-received by critics and the community. MUT was clearly not on the menu this season.

Face of the Franchise and The Yard are back… and that’s more or less all you can say about those modes too. Face of the Franchise is still just a shell of what Longshot, was and I question its existence entirely. It’s incredibly boring.

The Yard, introduced last year, could be cool and a really fun distraction (and perhaps an attraction) if it just went full bore into Arcade football, NFL Blitz style, minus the gratuitous violence, that won’t fly in 2021. As it stands, it’s just this weird hybrid of arcade and sim football that isn’t really landing.

The gameplay and AI in general also just feels ancient. Sure, there are some improvements to be a bit more realistic. Running and blocking felt noticeably better to me in Madden 22 with the tweaks that were made on those fronts, but frustrating elements that have existed for years now still remain.

The defensive AI is woeful and gets carved up by skilled players or higher-difficulty AIs. Breadbasket throws that just bounce off the receiver’s hands for no discernable reason, balls that are thrown right to the secondary that are somehow not interceptions, clunky movement in general that lead to miss tackles, and much more; these are problems that have existed in Madden for years, and still persist in Madden 22. In fact, it feels they are just accepted at this point as just part of what Madden 22 is, and that sucks.

Until something big changes, either a year where the developers are literally doing nothing else but working on the gameplay to make it finally feel more “next-gen” or, god-forbid, a year off to really just nail everything, Madden seems destined to just do this dance forever.

Some things are better, some things are the same, some things are still broken; it’s a guessing game each year what will be up or down, and in the end, it all ends up at the same result: a passable but uninspired football simulation.

Review Block

Madden 22

3.5
/ 5

Fair

Madden 22 Critic Review
Reviewer: Ed McGlone

Pros

  • Momentum meter spices the gameplay up quite a bit, especially for single-players.
  • Franchise continues to receive much needed updates.
  • Gameplans add another layer of interesting decision making.
  • Load times and visuals benefit greatly from current-gen consoles.

Cons

  • Face of the Franchise and The Yard are still in strange spots.
  • MUT is largely the same and the reset is nothing but pain.
  • Ancient animation, movement, and AI issues still exist.
Release Date
8/20/21
Developer
EA
Publisher
EA
Consoles
PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, PC, Stadia
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