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(Pocket-lint) – The popularity of American football has had its ups and downs in the UK over the years, from the sport first being reported on our screens in the early 80s to the current overload of everything anything related to American football. One thing, however, has remained constant: the success of EA Sport’s Madden series of games.
Since the 90s, the game has spread to almost all consoles and formats, starting with 16-bit machines. And he always went by the name of John Madden, arguably the greatest coach and commentator the sport has ever known. Indeed, its name is almost as synonymous with the football video game as it is with the real-life equivalent. There have been a handful of competitors over the decades, but they’ve mostly fallen by the wayside.
Sadly, Madden himself passed away late last year. Thus, this latest installment in EA’s eternal series is the first to bear its name since and therefore has something to live up to. The big question is whether he will be.
When Madden NFL 23 began development, the team could not know under what circumstances it would be released. However, she did a great job paying tribute to the trainer in the form of the John Madden Legacy Game.
The rest seems more evolutionary than revolutionary, however. There aren’t many changes or additions that make it significantly different from its predecessor. The new features aren’t revolutionary either.
The “Face of the Franchise” mode has improved a lot, while the graphical presentation is better than ever. And, let’s face it, Madden has always played a decent game of football anyway, so on-field antics are as fun as ever.
So while it’s nothing new, it’s still a lot of fun to play, even for a UK fan who has stuck with the sport when national broadcasters haven’t.
Madden NFL 23 review: The series moves forward a yard at a time
- The face of the franchise has improved a lot
- The graphic presentation is excellent
- The sound is as good as the appearance.
- FieldSense is more of a gimmick than a major asset
- He is very familiar.
Tribute to a legend
At the first loading of the game, the nods to the legend of the title are not lacking. Along with a video celebrating his career and the birth of the game franchise, there’s a legacy game to play. You can choose between NFC or AFC legends to take control, each featuring Madden as the head coach from a few of his most famous eras.
Once complete, the game is exactly what we’ve been waiting for for years. You’re faced with a neat but relatively basic menu screen, with a few modes you can jump into. You can play any of the games, of course, locally and online, or jump into Franchise and Face of the Franchise modes.
The latter is one of the few modes that has been improved the most this year, with many new cinematics and the option to play either in a league season or in the court (Madden’s 6v6 match). You can again create a custom player and choose a position on the pitch, but the flow of a season is more intuitive and quicker to learn.
The authoring tools are also better. Last year it felt like we were getting a pretty weird player character, straight out of an 80s horror movie, but the options this time around allowed us to create a character that looks much more like other scanned players in the game.
The other modes are very similar. Ultimate Team is still great fun, but we think you have to be a die-hard fan to get the most out of it and, dare we say it, be willing to invest some real money into the game.
New game features
Arguably the biggest new addition to the field is FieldSense, a new game system that uses AI and new animations to make the game more realistic and impactful. It gives receivers more fluidity, defenders more counter-attacks and additional ways to take down an opponent. At least, if you play the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S versions.
In truth, unless you’re a true Madden games fanatic, you might not notice the gameplay differences. And, in fact, some of them don’t always work the way you’d like anyway.
What’s most notable is the new skill-based passing system that has been added. In addition to the endless button-press passes we’ve all used for many years, an optional precision reticle can be added to make QB throws more accurate (or less, as is often the case). This doesn’t change much, since the same buttons seem to work as before, but it does allow for finer adjustment depending on your skill level.
Other than that, the game is similar to what it was before, except for one key thing: the presentation.
Under the Friday night lights
This year’s Madden game is spectacular. Not only are the graphics crisp and almost realistic on current-gen consoles, but they come with the best presentation of the series yet.
The announcers – Charles Davis and Brandon Gaudin – are as authentic as they come, while the outtakes and pre-game set-up are superb. So much so that even after seeing the same sequence several times, we tend to leave it on to motivate ourselves.
The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S’ SSD storage keeps load times to a minimum, which also aids a smooth experience, while the character models are great even outside of the mechanics creation of a player. The new animations also help improve the visual aspect of the game, and not just in terms of gameplay.
The audio is also rich and bombastic, with pitch-appropriate shouting and great crowd effects. You will definitely need a surround sound system for this game, that’s for sure.
This may not be a huge leap forward for the series, but the game looks like it’s up to snuff…on current-gen machines, anyway.
Madden NFL 23 may not be as groundbreaking or as packed with new features as many would have hoped, but it’s still a quality football game and the John Madden Legacy Game is a fitting homage to the great man himself. But don’t expect an avalanche of new features year after year.
Written by Rik Henderson.