Thank you to Electronic Arts for providing the early review copy.
Earlier in the week, I posted my first impressions on Madden 21. For the most part, things were mixed. It had the enjoyable game play that you know and love from Madden but there wasn’t much innovation from previous games and there were a few bugs. I stayed fairly light on my first impressions article, so today I will be going into much deeper detail on the strengths and weaknesses of Madden 21.
The Yard is Madden’s newest game mode which introduces 6v6 backyard style football. The Yard is a ton of fun. My first couple games on The Yard took place at F.O.B Field and I had no problems there. It is completely what you would expect from backyard football. It is fast paced, trick plays are common and most rules go completely out the window. However, the mode broke on me after I unlocked the second field. Players went invisible and the ball couldn’t be hiked. You can see what I mean in the video below. Thankfully, this bug was quickly patched as noted in the most recent patch notes.
But seriously, The Yard is a ton of fun. I haven’t even gotten the opportunity to play it with my friends but here is a taste of what I was able to do with the AI teammates.
Face of The Franchise: Rise to Fame starts out with a ton of a promise but its quality unfortunately fades as the game continues. High School and College play out similar to how all of Longshot did in Madden 18 and 19 but things change after that. I am going to show a video of how conversations are handled earlier on in the game in case you never played Longshot. After that I will have another video showing how conversations are handled once you are drafted. It is clear that they had to decide whether they wanted to give you the option to pick any team in the NFL or force you to play for a set team which would stick to a more cookie cutter story. Having coaches and players for every NFL team record dialogue would be very expensive and time consuming. Unfortunately, the switch from voiced characters to text boxes takes some time to get used to. You do have your character narrating your journey but it isn’t enough in my opinion. I really wish they forced you onto a set team similar to Longshot because the story is not worth caring about once you join the NFL.
On top of this, the story isn’t that great prior to the NFL Draft. The writing choices for what happens on signing day is unrealistic and it just feel odd. The story also doesn’t adapt to how you perform in the actual games. For example, in my first college game, our offense scored 70 points but then the coach says that he can’t decide on who the starter should be and that they will run a two QB offense which will be dependent on the opponent. In the very next scene, Rich Eisen mocks the QB situation saying that neither one is good enough considering the fact that the coach can’t make a decision between them. However, playing in a USC uniform felt really nice. It is a great reminder that we all want NCAA to return back into the world of video games. As I said earlier, the quality really drops once you get drafted. I got selected by the Chicago Bears and had my first chance to start in a NFL game after Mitchell Trubisky got injured. I ended up winning and went to a press conference scene where I answered some basic questions (with no voiced dialogue besides a narration). At the end, they asked me which player I thought was more valuable to the team. My options were Allen Robinson (who was the player I selected to be my mentor) and Khalil Mack. In 2019, Allen Robinson had close to 100 catches and over 1000 yards but anyone who follows football knows how much of a monster Khalil Mack is. So obviously I selected Khalil Mack. Instantly after that press conference, I got a notification saying that Allen Robinson has been traded away because management agreed that Khalil Mack was more valuable. A fourth round rookie who just finished playing his first game accidentally convinced his team to trade away their best receiver because he said that one of the best players in the league was more valuable than a top 15 receiver. Allen Robinson then texts you getting mad at you, like your character said something wrong. Look at their contracts and tell me who is more valuable. After your second game, a sports commentator mocks you by saying that your character isn’t playing as well as a certain other character that I won’t name for spoiler reasons. This scene just doesn’t make any sense in my play through considering both games were that I played in were blow out wins. The only way this can have some logic is if the other player had an MVP caliber season (trust me, he didn’t). In my second season of the NFL, Allen Robinson reaches out to our character on social media saying that he would love to be able to play with us one day. We get the option to pick between two players and he ends up back on our team the next day. Allen Robinson proceeds to ask for help learning the playbook saying that he is struggling learning all the new plays even though he knew them all under a year ago. Its obvious that Madden isn’t able to detect that he was on the team. I know some people disliked Longshot because they felt like their wasn’t enough weight to your actions but I would prefer a fleshed out story that makes sense rather then what we got here.
Franchise, Superstar Knock Out, and Ultimate Team don’t have any major changes unfortunately. Electronic Arts came out and recently said that Madden 21 post launch and Madden 22 will have a lot of new stuff for franchise after fans were outraged (as they should be) over the lack of new content between previous entries of Madden. Ultimate Team has ability caps, which adds a new layer of customization to your team. Superstar Knock Out plays similar to how it did in Madden 20 and is a lot of fun.
You can judge for your self based off the videos on this post, but I didn’t see any major enhancements over Madden 20. I am curious as to how the next-generation upgrades will look. If you want to read about how to get the next-generation version for free, click here.
Game play in the normal modes feel slightly slower then Madden 20 and I like that. There are some updates to Skill Stick which adds another level to the game play. The new skill stick allows for more fluid movement when you are in the open field. Pass rushers now have a budget of how many moves can be performed before running out of stamina. The changes to pass rushing will definitely take some time to get used to but it is a much better system compared to the button smashing that we are all used to. Tackling and the AI have both also seen solid improvements according to the change log. Unfortunately, it is pretty hard for me to tell how much better the tackling has been since it has been some time since I have played Madden 20.
I unfortunately ran into my fair share of bugs and technical issues but I was playing on an early build of the game and most of the issues have been fixed. 2020 has been a crazy year for developers with everyone having to work from home, so some issues are expected.
My biggest issue was the bug on The Yard that caused players to become invisible but that was patched during the 8/25 update as mentioned earlier. I had choppy FPS (frames per second) during Face of the Franchise on the home high school field. However, this issue went away once I got to the State Championship game. My screen froze after completing my first Face of the Franchise NFL game. I still heard music but I had to restart my game to continue playing. There was also a text bug that can be seen in the photo that I posted above containing Allen Robinson.
The soundtrack and the in-game audio from on the field is great. Unfortunately, everything about the audio isn’t perfect. There is one glaring issue that hasn’t been addressed. The announcers are dreadful. I have no problems with Brandon Gaudin or Charles Davis. It is just the amount of stuff they say that shouldn’t be said during a game. I understand this is a minor issue but it is still something that needs to be discussed. In an exhibition preseason game, I was up around 40 points. I threw another touchdown with minutes left in the final quarter and the announcer says something along the lines of how he hates to say it but that he thinks that the touchdown will just about end things. It was very obvious that a third string quarterback was not about to score over 40 points in the final two minutes of a preseason game. Early in my Face of the Franchise play through, I already had scored two touchdowns in a high school game. During the 4th quarter, I completed a screen pass that went for a first down and the announcer said “QB2 erupts for his first big play of the game. He decided to run and picked up the first down.” In a later game, I threw a ten yard slant that got broken up. The announcer goes “He tried to go long on first down but all it results in is a long walk back to the huddle.” The final thing I wrote about in my notes about the announcers was the fact that at one point, they reacted negatively to my QB kneeling with a minute left in the game. For some reason, they saw it as a run for negative one yards and congratulated the defense rather than seeing it as a game clinching play. I understand that these are very minor things that you hear while playing, think about for a few seconds, and then continue playing but someone still needs to talk about it. This has been one of my pet peeves with Madden for years and the AI really needs to be updated for the announcers.
In the grand scheme of everything, this is a Madden game. For fans of the series who love playing online, there is nothing here that should convince you not to buy this game. If you know you are going to play it all year long, go buy yourself a copy because the game is a lot of fun. If you are someone who only likes to play franchise, I would recommend waiting for a sale or just waiting for Madden 22 because there aren’t really any changes in that department. If you just want to play some football to scratch that itch and know you will stop playing after a month or two, I defiantly recommend checking out EA Play Pro. You are essentially renting Madden 21 (and a ton of other great games). Madden 21 isn’t a step down from Madden 20 but with The Yard being the only new bright spot, it isn’t really enough to push the score to anything higher then what it was during previous years.