An In-depth Review of Madden 23
This year’s entry to the long-running EA franchise finds itself in a unique position. Does it have what it takes to turn things around for good? Or does it follow the same path of disappointment as its last two predecessors? Let’s look at how well Madden NFL 23 holds itself and find the answers to the question: what’s new in Madden 23 this year?
A tribute to the legend
As in the game cover, Madden NFL 23 focuses on the NFL legend John Madden for this year’s theme. The game starts with a walk along memory lane featuring NFL coach turned television commentator John Madden being back on the field for the opening game. This NFL legacy game also features superstars like Brett Favre, Randy Moss, and the original 1970 Oakland Coliseum. The game is truly a nostalgic paradise for older NFL fans.
What is new?
Madden 23 greets us with many new helpful tweaks and additions compared to the past few entries, such as the focal point of its marketing campaign, “Field Sense.” Field sense is not a single feature but a collection of multiple features relating to improving moving and playing on the field. As marketed, Madden 23 feels like a step up from its predecessors regarding that aspect. One of the main features of the newly introduced Field Sense is the new skill-based pass system. So far, this has been Madden 23’s most well-received and enjoyable improvement as it has removed some attribute-driven outcomes and granted the power of deciding to the player on the field. This allows skilled players to impale defenses and push forward without getting limited to the attributes for the first time in Madden history.
The amount of satisfaction you get from scoring turnovers using skill-based passing makes Madden 23 worth playing solely for this feature. Field sense adds a more responsive feel to other aspects, such as tackling and the physics-based defense, giving a much more nuanced look to Madden 22’s canned animations. This can be a double-edged sword as the new physics system sometimes results in ridiculous ragdoll animations and falls.
Pass rushing in Madden 23 feels amped up when making cuts with ball carries and punt returns. Kicks also have significantly improved as Field Sense allows skilled players to skewer through defenders, leaving them out of positions by easing off the sprint button. Game AI has been overhauled as well. AI actions seem much more intelligent and less unrealistic compared to previous entries. This more ingenious AI forces tight zone coverage, leading to small windows of opportunity. For this reason, Madden 23 feels more challenging than the series’ previous games.
Despite gameplay not being overhauled to a great extent, Madden 23 plays better than all previous entries on both PS5 and PC performance-wise. This makes Madden 23 the most stable version of all the entries in this franchise, at least while on the field. Despite being another mediocre pro football simulator, Madden 23 finally seems to be taking the correct path to redeem itself.
Are the improvements enough?
Unfortunately, despite these improvements, several other aspects of the game suffer from returning issues and new problems. Moment-to-moment gameplay still feels the same as its previous games in terms of game modes and progression. With EA having a monopoly being the only publisher allowed to make NFL games at this time, the future seems dark for Madden. And since the majority of the massive NFL audience buys the game no matter what, EA has absolutely no reason to make any drastic changes to the Madden franchise to improve its quality.
At this point, if you’re diving into a Madden game expecting some sort of massive overhaul of the previous entry, you’re in for a long train of disappointment. This franchise lacks vision in its design department, and some of the game modes and peripherals are unfathomable despite being one of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry.
More pay-to-win content
As joyful as it is to see ‘Madden Ultimate Team’ returning to the game, the mode is brimmed to the top with EA’s classic microtransactions and online play. Despite the free battle pass, this mode feels very pay-to-win, where one player can grind for 40 hours to buy a card that another player can purchase at any time. Even though completing missions and challenges allows you to earn cards more organically than previous entries to the franchise, free rewards are dispersed very unevenly. The reward screens are also buggy and sometimes show a purple screen similar to the loading screen instead of revealing reward information.
What about the game modes?
The Face of the franchise mode also seems similar to last year’s, seeing only subtle graphical improvements with no significant changes. Even though this mode is narratively heavy, it feels directionless. In Madden 23’s Face of the Franchise mode, the progression and upgrading of your player do not cover up for the lacking of writing and acting departments. Even though this mode shines the spotlight on knowing your role in the team and playing to the strengths of the selected player type as the key, there is not much weight to those decisions as you can reassign your skill upgrades and even change your player type later on.
The Face of the Franchise mode feels like the developers did not put much thought into the design and developed it merely to check a box, as it does not provide anything significant to the player. The 6V6 arcade mode, “The Yard,” returns in Madden 23 with zero changes whatsoever. For someone who doesn’t like simulation-heavy modes, this mode will give an experience similar to NFL streets.
Should you get Madden 23?
Most of the new design choices made in Madden 23 make sense and answer some existing problems. If you’ve loved Madden games for the last few years, you will love Madden 23 as well. But if you’ve been hoping Madden 23 will be a big reboot that will revitalize the franchise with a new overhauled look, you may skip Madden 23. Overall, Madden 23 provides nothing revolutionary, but it’s a step in the right direction.