Madden NFL 22 officially launches this Friday, but you may be seeing reviews for the latest football game from EA Sports hitting now as those who pre-ordered the MVP or Dynasty editions get access to the game. We’re not ready to render our final verdict of the latest effort from EA Tiburon, but I have put several hours into the game and can provide some early thoughts.
This year, Madden focuses on making the atmosphere of the game feel more true to life. In that regard, the title is largely successful. New spectator animations deliver a stronger sense of realism and presence, and the remastered crowd sound makes those big moments in games feel more impactful. Not only that, but the modifiers that the new momentum meter and home-field advantage add give appropriate boosts most of the time. Improved blocking makes the running game more effective, and I like the increased catching responsiveness for the passing game.
Franchise mode also introduces some noteworthy improvements, including new skill trees for four coaches on your staff. I also like the weekly game planning that grants boosts depending on which strategies and focuses you choose for offense and defense, as well as the ability to decide how intense you want practice to be in the lead up to the game. It’s still not the full step that fans wanted going into Madden NFL 21, but with all of the changes from last year’s post-launch updates added in, plus a promised scouting update tentatively scheduled for next month, the mode is slowly getting there.
The single-player story mode, Face of the Franchise is, quite frankly, an unfinished mess at this juncture. Already-awkward story cutscenes are made even worse as character voice lines don’t properly fire off, sometimes leaving the two people in the conversation just staring at each other. Other times, the voice lines repeat or continue playing from previous scenes in the subsequent one.
The glitches aren’t isolated to the off-the-field action, however. In one training sequence, the players outright didn’t spawn, causing the ball to drop harmlessly to the field, ending the drill (Silver lining: I was playing as a linebacker and my goal was to prevent the first down, so I at least got credit for succeeding). Another time, I was participating in a 6v6 tournament in New York at the start of the mode, but each player’s feet were glitched out, resulting in horrific contortions and a sometimes abysmal framerate.
The biggest glitch came in my player’s first game in the NFL. After a bit of build-up, my character was thrilled to take the field for his new team, the Los Angeles Chargers, against the Washington Football Team. After watching the Chargers take the field with my character in tow, the camera awkwardly cut to an empty tunnel. After sitting on the shot for far too long, Madden NFL 22 put me into the game, which suddenly became a Chargers-vs.-Chargers mirror-match in the Washington Football Team’s stadium. I guess the Washington Football Team was just busy that day. That particular bug never happened again, but it’s still indicative of the current overall state of the mode.
When Face of the Franchise works, it’s largely enjoyable. Carrying my character from college football standout to NFL star is rewarding, and I like being able to choose which side activities to take part in to earn specific boosts, but I’m not a fan of how menu-driven it all is. Most choices are done through text messages, and narrative beats are often delivered in the form of voicemails from your agent or brand manager that play over cutscenes of your player just sitting on his couch. Whether you’re talking MLB The Shows’ Road to the Show or NBA 2K’s My Career, the single-player career modes are right up there with Franchise as my destination mode, so I’ll always find the fun in these situations and scenarios, but Madden NFL 22’s Face of the Franchise is lacking.
While I’ve spent most of my time in Face of the Franchise and standard Franchise mode, I’m planning on taking more snaps in The Yard and the myriad other modes before coming to my final verdict. Stay tuned for that full review later this week.
Madden NFL 22 launches this Friday, August 20 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC. For more on what’s new in this year’s entry, check out our final preview of the game from last week.