Two plays — that’s all Madden needed to get me frustrated with the newest iteration of the series, Madden NFL 22.
For my first game of Madden I wanted to play out a popular Super Bowl pick, Chiefs vs. Packers. Naturally, I chose the Chiefs. Who doesn’t want to take the video game version of Patrick Mahomes for a spin? Dude’s electric. I was on defense for the first series and promptly gave up a touchdown to Aaron Rodgers’ Packers. No biggie. I’ve never been great at defense, haven’t played Madden in a hot second, and, c’mon, he’s Aaron freakin’ Rodgers.
Now it was my turn to march down the field. I called a shotgun pass play intended to hit Tyreek Hill 10-15 yards downfield. As soon as the ball was snapped, my controller vibrated with pressure from the defense. Must be the game bugging out, I thought. No way the defense could already be in my face. And almost immediately I was sacked. What the hell happened?
Well, my line simply didn’t want to block. Both my left tackle and left guard stood straight up after the snap and made no attempts to block the defenders that instantly blew by them. They spun around half-heartedly, with the animation making them look like they were floating in place, as Green Bay pass rushers flew by them and into my certainly not clean pocket. Look, I know the Chiefs’ offensive line is what did them in during last season’s Super Bowl. But an 82 LT and a 84 LG? They’re no scrubs. This was simply Madden’s poorly made and inauthentic gameplay rearing its ugly head.
On the next play I tried a fake snap in a desperate attempt to draw a defender offsides and get some easy yards after the sack. The result — a false start penalty, 2nd & 23. I was already tired of Madden NFL 22 and I hadn’t even thrown a pass yet.
The same ol’ Madden gameplay persisted throughout the rest of the game and the rest of my time with Madden 22. Bad pursuit angles resulting in easy jukes and missed tackles, linebackers doing the same exact pre-snap animation at the same exact time, defensive backs unable to catch balls that hit them square in the hands, players clipping through one another, more combined interceptions than touchdowns. Even though the last Madden I played was Madden NFL 17, I hadn’t expected the game to improve all that much in five years. But that didn’t stop a part of me from hoping that this one would be… I don’t know, at least a little less broken.
EA must know their game is in shambles. The full game has been free to play this weekend and the MVP edition is 25% off, bringing it from a hundred bucks to $75. With all the excitement that surrounds the NFL’s opening weekend, they’re clearly hoping enough consumers — those who hadn’t already blindly bought the game just like they did Madden NFL 21 a year ago — get caught up in the moment, look past the game’s faults, and purchase it. After all the bad press Madden received during its launch last month, EA is clearly trying to conjure up some positive publicity to drown out the unflattering reviews.
A common criticism of each new Madden is that they’re simply a $60 roster update with no substantial changes to the gameplay. While this is a very surface level assessment, it’s also… extremely true. Madden 22 feels no different from Madden 17, which felt no different from Madden 13, which — you see what I’m saying. This franchise is staler than the month-old half-loaf of wheat bread chilling in the back of my pantry.
Competition breeds innovation, and everyone knows that Madden hasn’t seen competition in a decade and a half. We’ll have to wait even longer for 2K’s upcoming arcade-style NFL game as it was recently delayed past March of 2022. With the way games face multiple delays before launch nowadays, who knows if 2K’s football will even release by the end of next year.
A couple of years ago, YouTuber SOFTDRINKTV did a retrospective on ESPN NFL 2K5 and examined what made it great and why the series is no longer around. The gameplay was closer to realistic football than Madden has ever been, Chris Berman and the ESPN content added to the immersion, and NFL 2K5 even had a first-person mode. Madden has the same terrible animation-ridden gameplay today as it did a decade ago and still produces games that are inferior to one that came out 17 years ago.
No end is in sight. Last year, the NFL and EA agreed to an extension of their deal until 2026, meaning we can’t reasonably expect a simulation football experience until the latter half of the decade. Some folks will continue abstaining from EA’s lackluster football games. Others, like me, will keep holding out just a sliver of hope that this Madden is the one to finally turn the series around — only to end up more disappointed than a Jets fan each Sunday.
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