Madden 23 review – the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer (2024)

Madden 23 review – the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer (1)

Madden 23 review – the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer (2)

August 22, 2022 7:03 am ET

I’m gonna preface this review by saying up front that I am no professional Madden player. I enjoy some good ol’ footbawl as much as any other American (even with my beloved Steelers performance last season), but when it comes to the Madden games, I just haven’t had any interest. Sure I’d play with friends whenever I came over to their place, crack open some beers and laugh at the many, many funny bugs and glitches previous games had. Other than that, though? Madden games haven’t truly held my interest for several years. “Would Madden 23 change that?” was the burning question in my mind as I loaded it up on my PS5.

Booting up the game, after a lengthy install, of course, you’re asked to select your passing type. There’s a new “flick” type of passing that utilizes the sticks to offer more pinpoint accuracy. For example, when you lob a pass you can dictate where you want the ball to actually land within a radial marker, allowing you to move it around defenders and force them into a guessing game on whether the ball would fly straight to the middle or hit the outside. While interesting, after a few tries, I ended up just going back to the legacy system because it felt like the hit-detection was too finicky (or perhaps I am too old.)

Madden 23 review – the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer (3)

Maybe I’m just old but the skill-based passing system didn’t really do it for me.

After selecting your pass type, you’re treated to a “John Madden Legacy Game,” featuring a selection of players from all eras of football — Tom Brady, Deion Sanders, and so on. On both sides, the coaches are younger versions of John Madden, ripped straight out of the ‘70s — sideburns and all. While you play the game, the commentators share some history of John Madden’s legacy during the downtime, starting with his career as an Eagle before his knee injury took him out during training camp.

I really enjoyed this feature, even as a casual football fan. Football is a rich tapestry of history, with each and every team having wonderful moments to look back on (except the Browns) and there is arguably no more famous personality in football than Madden himself — I may not be a football fanatic, but I love watching some Secret Base to learn the history of the sport (I highly recommend this series on the Atlanta Falcons. Love ya, Jon and Alex.)

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That is absolutely someone who stepped out of a time portal from the ‘70s. Or my High School chemistry teacher, either one.

After enjoying the neat little tribute, I hopped immediately into Face of the Franchise to give the story mode a spin. I didn’t notice any major bugs, and it immediately felt more streamlined than the previous Face of the Franchise modes. Fewer cutscenes, more choices, and the intermission ‘training camp’ style tutorials really felt good to complete. There are a few unrealistic nuances though.

In the spirit of Breaking Madden, I threw six interceptions in a row to see if I’d get benched or traded, or even if I could see my coaches burst a blood vessel. None of that happened — I was still the ‘rising star’ and starting QB for the next game. The commentators ripped into me though, so that was funny. I also noticed that Heinz Stadium still exists in-game (it recently was renamed to Acrisure Stadium since Heinz declined to renew its contract) which is a little strange — I’m sure you could have made the change before launch, y’all.

Madden 23 review – the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer (5)

Strange facial mo-cap and animations lead to a very weird experience in Face of the Franchise.

The graphics in Madden 23 look crisp at first glance, although a deeper look reveals there are some mesh clipping issues with jerseys, hair and towels. The series has always had this issue with certain static meshes looking stiff as a board, but also player models, jerseys, and more don’t look right for some reason. Jerseys look stretched while also looking clumped somehow, and the mocap for facial features looks wrong. It’s not just the mo-cap though, it’s also player animations — on more than one occasion I’ve seen players take unbelievably large steps or clip through the ground to reach a target destination.

AI difficulty seems to have been ratcheted up several notches this year. In previous entries of Madden, on normal (or ‘pro’) difficulty, you could arguably win by utilizing solid bullet passes mixed in with a relatively normal rush game — boring, but effective. My first game in Madden 23 saw me giving the Bengals of all teams two picks in a row off short-range bullet passes. I tried to move slightly out of pocket one time to throw a wide lob and got sacked nearly immediately, with the screen showing me the absolutely annoying ‘Who Dey’ buff activated.

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I hate the ‘Who Dey’ chant. Apologies to any Bengals fans reading this for their choice in team.

I appreciate the idea of a difficulty increase because being forced to make meaningful decisions is the core function of being a quarterback. However, it’s hard to tell if it’s strictly a difficulty increase that’s intentional or if it’s a series of bugs working against me. Another moment in the game saw a player who was practically half the field away teleport in front of my receiver to pick me off, leading me to believe that it’s more of the latter than the former.

It got frustrating to the point that I had to go into the settings and turn the CPU slider for Interceptions down to 0 — and I still was getting picked every couple of plays. I’m not great at Madden, but I’m not this bad against the computer — and it’s not just me, either, as the official Reddit is full of players experiencing the same issues.

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The clothing textures look so strange. Why is ‘69’ (nice) so stretched and simultaneously crumpled together?

After dipping into Face of the Franchise, I decided to give regular ol’ Franchise mode a shot. The difference between the two, if you’ve never played Madden before, is that Franchise mode gives you the opportunity to play as either a general manager (Head Coach mode) or an actual suit-and-tie owner (Owner mode) serving as the “simulation mode.” You can also play as a player, but it’s so close to Face of the Franchise that I didn’t bother.

One of the new features in Franchise mode is Motivations. Motivations influence whether or not your player decides to re-sign with you, or if you try to recruit a player through Free Agency. The higher up a Motivation, the more likely the player will or will not sign with you. This does offer some deeper customization thoughts and considerations, so it’s definitely a good addition to the game, but I did notice that a lot of teams were having trouble losing star players to Free Agency, a bug that has been well documented already.

This bug, unfortunately, ruins Franchise mode once you get past the first season. Imagine star players just up and leaving their team en masse and you can imagine what kind of chaos this introduces (although it is pretty funny). Despite this game-breaking bug, EA has come out and stated that there isn’t a Day 1 patch planned to fix the issue.

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Something in this image isn’t right.

Here’s the problem with Madden 23 — while it definitely took some measures to improve upon its lagging game modes in previous years, it’s not enough. Look at pretty much any other modern sports sim game and you can find a bullet list of features that just aren’t available in here. My personal problem: why can’t I create my own custom team? I love the Steelers but I’d rather create my own team of doofuses to lose to the Chiefs, thank you very much.

Madden 23 will not make me into a yearly customer, I’m sad to say. While it felt like a step up from previous entries in some ways, it isn’t enough to really impress me. One time my internet cut out, and the game straight up hard-crashed my PS5 while it tried to connect to EA servers. Although that appears to be the only fatal bug I could find, which is a breath of fresh air compared to Madden 21, which used to crash my system if I looked at it wrong.

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Madden scowling and posing while trap music plays in the background is such a surreal experience that I couldn’t help but laugh.

The music selection is pretty good this time around, and I actually didn’t turn off the tracks right away, but it still felt like this game was more barebones than previous entries. Face of the Franchise is streamlined, which is a good change — playing through some rookie years in college is not the point of playing an NFL-based story mode, in my opinion, and that’s thankfully absent.

But aside from that change, there’s not much meat on the bones here. There are only so many times you can enjoy the Madden tribute game before you get bored. The Yard, an alternate game mode that debuted in Madden 21 and became seriously popular with fans, is now demoted to a menu hidden behind another menu. Madden 23 may be a step in the right direction, but it’s equivalent to gaining a yard or two when you’re third and ten. Here’s hoping that Madden ‘24 gains a little more ground.

Written by Junior Miyai on behalf of GLHF.

Madden 23 review – the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer (2024)
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