This year’s Madden release is a reviewer’s worst nightmare: an annual update that feels better than ever when actually playing a game, but seems totally stuck and mildly stagnant when it’s back in its metaphorical dressing room. Whether this year’s game is for you all depends on why you’re considering buying Madden 24, so let’s take a look at what’s what.
Firstly as mentioned above, the action on the field feels fantastic. New blocking mechanics mean your running game and picking up yards after a catch are far more lifelike, giving channels to aim for and run into that just never seemed possible before. Receiving passes also feels more polished this year as well, with receivers catching passes in their stride and continuing their run in a way that hasn’t been quite so smooth before. Last year’s tweak to passing is still around too, giving a more skilful approach to flinging the ball into just the right spot, be that slightly closer to or further ahead of your receiver than the average AI-controlled effort. It all adds up to the games being challenging but really good fun, and if you just want to grab this and play games over and over with friends or work through a standard season of on-field action, you can rest assured you’ll get exactly what you want out of this.
You might, however, wonder what’s new with the presentation. While several other sport titles are really using the latest generation of consoles to ramp up the realism of their TV-style presentation there doesn’t seem to be a lot of movement on the Madden side of things. The commentary is ok, if not a little janky and over-familiar now, but the visual side of things doesn’t really do enough to make you feel like you’re sat on a Sunday night with a real game in front of you. It’s hardly game-breaking, but you’d think that after years of similar presentation someone somewhere on the development team could start to bring about some more real-looking graphics.
Game modes are more or less what you’d expect with Ultimate Team being very similar to last year’s version, which is great news if you spent a lot of time building up your team and collecting the various packs of cards to bring your team up to a winning standard. It’s still going to benefit you if you’re willing to throw your own cash into your team (something likely to put off many people hoping to play casually), but by this point if you’re an Ultimate Team obsessive you’re either used to that or have come to accept the slower nature of building your team through slightly more organic methods.
Superstar makes a nice return though, making a bit of a change to the game’s story telling mode. Here you’re taking your future legend from a reasonably decent player hoping to get drafted into a top team, right up to the Superbowl MVP with the whole of the NFL at your feet. It’s a deep, long-lasting mode that has some fun progression to be had, sadly wrapped up in some rather dry plot delivery that means most things between the games and on-field activities don’t feel overly interesting. With some development over the next 12 months this could be a really great mode in the future – it’s still worth a go in my opinion, but don’t expect to be bowled over by it all just yet.
If you get bored of the standard Superstar mode, you could always drop back into Superstar Showdown, a super-quick new version of The Yard from previous Madden games. These 3-on-3 games have moved indoors to a neon-flooded warehouse type affair, and while there’s some fun new moves and options to carry out taunts and emotes during the game, it’s not much more than a new splash of (very colourful) paint on an old game mode. That said it will contribute to you improving your Superstar player, so it sits nicely alongside to give you a bit of variety while building your legend up.
But here’s something interesting: after spending a good chunk of time with Madden 24 I decided to try something, and fired up Madden 23 to try it out. Despite the underwhelming feel of Madden 24, it’s difficult to go back. The tweaks to gameplay are the biggest reason; as I mentioned earlier the on-field action is the best it’s ever felt, and considering that’s where I spend most of my time I’d say that’s a pretty decent reasons for upgrading to this year’s release. It’d just be really nice if the rest of the game could get the same care and attention as the core gameplay, because if it did I reckon we’d see a genuinely special game.
Reviewed on PS5