One of the largest and most common criticisms of the recent Madden NFL entries has been that the game simply doesn’t change enough on a year-to-year basis. After things came to a head in 2020, developer EA Tiburon made some big changes to the formula, introducing a new physics engine, passing mechanics, and changes to Franchise Mode, making it seem like Madden was on the uptick.
However, things feel like they’ve come to a bit of a stop with Madden NFL 24. Where Madden NFL 21, 22, and 23 all aimed to address big complaints levied at the series, the latest entry in the iconic series has kind of slowed things down to a crawl.
After going hands-on with the game over the past week, Madden NFL 24 feels like more of a disappointment than previous games. While the return of mini-games and new changes to animations and AI are welcome, the newest game doesn’t often do enough to make itself stand out in an annual franchise.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Electronic Arts. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Madden NFL 24: What’s good
When it comes to the Madden NFL franchise and the best Xbox games as a whole, the first thing many people notice is how a game looks. In this regard, Madden NFL 24 is an absolute stunner.
The game looks the best that the series has ever looked, and especially when it comes to modern consoles like the Xbox Series X, the game looks so good that it can sometimes feel like you’re really watching an NFL game.
Similar to last year, the broadcast and commentary, crowd noise and reactions, and even things like the first down markers being moved on the sideline all make the game feel incredibly lifelike.
Madden NFL 24
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Install Size: 50.2 GB
Playtime: ~20 hours
Release date: August 15, 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC (Steam), PS5, PS4
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Following a few years of big upgrades to the animations in the Madden franchise, Madden NFL 24 instead opts to finetune some of its existing systems. Namely, the FieldSENSE gameplay system that was introduced into the franchise last year has seen some big tweaks.
According to EA Tiburon, they’ve added in and adjusted over 1,700 tackle animations, including some new types of tackles, and it shows. Tackles in the game feel and look a lot more like their real-life counterparts. If you’re controlling a highly rated enough defender, sometimes tackles will even lift players completely off their feet, resulting in some impressive-looking hits.
Similar to last year, it also does feel like less of a crapshoot on whether or not you will be able to tackle someone. Rating and defensive skills matter more than they have in the past, and it shows.
The passing game has also been tweaked a bit in Madden NFL 24. After a big overhaul last year that introduced an entirely new system, Skill Based Passing 2.0 has been introduced, and makes things a bit more accurate in some departments.
Much like its name suggests, Skill-Based Passing is a way for people to play the game with a bit more control. Instead of simply pressing a button to make a pass, you can have more control over where the ball goes and how much touch is on it, resulting in some spectacular plays.
Last year, this helped shake Madden NFL 23 in a big way, and I felt like it genuinely revitalized the gameplay. This year, it’s been tweaked a bit to be more in sync with catching animations, making the passing game look relatively smooth. New animations have also been included, like Patrick Mahomes’ iconic diving pass, allowing players to perform some acrobatic throws if they want to risk it.
Like it did in Madden NFL 23, Skill-Based Passing still feels like an incredibly new way to play. Having to be more reliant on your own skills and feel for a pass makes any given game feel much more realistic.
Instead of just mindlessly pressing the same buttons every play, there’s a bit more thrill to trying to deliver a pinpoint strike over a leaping safety’s arms or fit a ball in between two cornerbacks.
A handful of other tweaks to core gameplay have been added to Madden NFL 24, too. The “Tactical Blocking System” was introduced in an effort to make the play of a team’s offensive and defensive line more physical and feature improved movements. While I didn’t notice any big changes, there were a handful of times when some big blocks would open up holes in the running game, or players would execute an impressively animated double team, which shows the system is working as intended.
Outside of gameplay changes, EA Tiburon has also implemented a new skeleton for its in-game player models. The “Sapien Technology” built players from the ground up and is said to offer better animation, smoother movements, and more realistic bodies. To its credit, animations and player movement feel better in Madden NFL 24 than in past years. While it’s not a huge advancement, having an entirely new system in place for the future could be better as future games are released.
When it comes to game modes, Madden NFL 24 features the same classic selections that fans have come to know and love, including the return of the beloved mini-games from years past.
Much like it sounds like, mini-games allow players to take part in a handful of special games that can help upgrade your players or simply be done for fun. In total, 26 mini-games have been added into the game, including passing drills that task you with hitting targets, avoiding tacklers as a running back, or perfectly nailing field goals and punts.
While the game mode itself may not feel like much, it is a welcome addition. For years, fans have been unhappy that Madden has continued to seemingly go away from more of the arcade nature of its early iterations. There’s not a ton of progress or rewards to be earned in mini-games, but they’re still fun to play and a good way to experience some of the game without committing to some other modes.
Speaking of other game modes, Franchise Mode continues to see some big overhauls in the years since fans all but begged EA Tiburon to address the mode. This year, Training Camp returns, allowing players to play through mini-games to improve teams and prepare for a new season. New commissioner settings have also been added, as have new draft generators, which shake up each draft class for those who will be simulating years into the future.
Ultimate Team — probably the most popular mode in the game — is also back, although there aren’t a ton of new features added to the mode. In that regard, it feels like more of a transition year for both Ultimate Team and Franchise Mode. Although Franchise did get some tweaks, none have been as big as in years past, with the focus seeming to be on zeroing in on what makes the modes fun and going from there.
Madden NFL 24: What could use some work
This year may have been a year of tuning up some of the problems found in the Madden franchise, but Madden NFL 24 is still disappointingly filled with a few of its familiar issues. Glitches and bugs happening during gameplay have long been something fans love to joke about on social media.
While some of these can be explained away due to the nature of video games, it is still extremely frustrating to have the same problems pop up year after year. Players randomly falling, not registering tackles, or even just completely flying away in the most extreme cases have been in the game for years, and that continues here.
Outside of gameplay, the general interface of Madden NFL 24 seems to have taken a big hit, too. Menu navigation — specifically in modes like Ultimate Team, Franchise, and Superstar — feels downright unresponsive at times, with big bouts of input lag plaguing the way players get through different menus as of now. It may not sound like a big issue, but for a mode like Superstar or Franchise Mode that requires a ton of menu navigation, it can become a nuisance fast.
Speaking of Superstar, the mode formerly known as Face of the Franchise continues to falter. To EA Tiburon’s credit, they have consistently tried to update and enhance the mode and offer up a worthwhile storyline to experience, but every year, the mode feels more of a tacked-on addition than something worth diving fully into.
Getting to experience the NFL Combine via a few mini-games was a fun time, but things quickly devolve back into the same format as it has been for years.
Likewise, the Superstar Showdown mode (which replaces The Yard) is another mode that should be much more fun than it ends up being. The 3v3/6v6 mode often feels too reliant on your player avatar and the many upgrades you have to make to ever feel like something that can be played for hours on end.
Madden NFL 24: Should you play it?
At the end of the day, Madden NFL 24 plays like many Madden games of years past. New animations and tweaks make the game more realistic than ever, but issues that have been persisting for years continue to pop back time and time again.
The return of mini-games is great but doesn’t feel implemented well enough to be the only big new addition to the game. If you’re a fan of the sport and want to play it in video game form, however, there’s no other feasible alternative, making this the only option out there.
For some, like myself, the love of football and the joy of playing sports games is enough to overcome some of the issues. With that being said, it is a bit disappointing to see the Madden franchise falter a bit, just as it seemed to be getting better and better with each new game.