Once again, it’s MADDEN SZN and you know what that means! Another year to compare current entries in the series with ones from 2000’s and 2010’s. You’ve done it, I’ve done it. “The best Franchise Mode is from 2011 and today’s sucks!” Well, to prepare for this season of Madden, I played Madden 11 and Madden 08 (both are entities I loved when I was younger). What I can say is that sometimes you have to take the nostalgia goggles off, and realize that EA has put in some WORK to make sure that Madden 23 feels right. With some big additions to franchise mode, a fresh take with their Face of the Franchise, and many more modes, Madden 23 is a step up from last year and shows so much more promise than I’ve felt in almost 10 years.
Let’s begin with the Madden Legacy Game that kicks off Madden 23. This game is full of players that John Madden loved to watch. These include such names as Jason Taylor, Tom Brady, Mike Vrabel, Ricky Williams, Ray Lewis, and more. During the game you’ll hear about John Madden’s career and some of the amazing things he did for the game of football. Along with that you’ll hear clips about some of the players as they walk on the field or make a big play. This whole Legacy Game was such a great way to honor the man who made Madden possible. Just a side note: if you’ve never played with the new Skill-Based Passing system, you may just struggle a bit against these Legendary players.
Franchise Mode has gotten a major facelift, giving us new menu options and ways to control the team. For my review I played a Franchise Career as the owner of the Miami Dolphins. I went to work getting Free Agents (FA for the rest of this review) to find that some FA’s did not want to come to my team because of our Championship status or distance from that player’s home. Other times, the fact we have no income tax and they could be at the top of our depth charts drew them in pretty easily. These are the new Motivation Tags that have been included in Madden 23. These, just like some of the emails or notes in the 2010’s games, give the players and free agents more personality. I attempted to snag Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency in the preseason. He loved the Big Market of Miami. He disliked that he would technically be the third best Wide Receiver (WR) on my team behind Hill and Waddle. Then he was pretty average about the Historic Championships. I ended up getting him to come to Miami, but in the end, it’s because his love for the Miami market was more than his hatred for being 3rd on the depth chart.
Alongside the Motivations are the new player tags. Jaylen Waddle has the “Day 1 Starter” tag. This put Waddle above similarly rated players on the depth chart and because of that teams are unlikely to draft a replacement for the player. These are neat for figuring out how to build your team. It feels like a new layer of depth for the General Manager aspect that Franchise can bring for fans. You have tags like Mentor, Bridge Player, Future Starter, QB of the Future, and more. Each of these can help guide you in who should get cut at the end of the preseason. If you see a player with the tag future starter or mentor, you might want to keep them over players with no tags around the same overall level. It’s a fun addition to the new Franchise.
Scouting started getting worked on back in Madden 22, so some of the scouting areas will look familiar. However, you can see that scouting is now much more fully fleshed out. The scouts can now bring you much more information specific to the groups you’re trying to scout. They also tell you the strengths and weaknesses of each region. While scouting isn’t my favorite part of franchise mode, I very much appreciate the time put into this area.
The trade logic finally feels a bit more realistic to me. Gone are the days of me getting a first round pick for a 78 overall Cornerback (CB) just because a team needs one. Gone are the days of me getting a franchise Left Guard (LG) because the AI doesn’t realize linemen are important. Here are the days of trying your best to come up with a deal and stakes actually being involved. You have to think through value and get something fair before the AI will accept it. I felt like it added quite a bit of fun to the overall trade system for Franchise Mode.
Overall, I feel like Franchise Mode is the best it’s been in a while, but then again, our standards got quite low there for a while. I’m pleased to see such a jump from Madden 22 to Madden 23. It seems like EA Sports has been listening to some of the wants of the community. Here’s to an even better Franchise Mode in Madden 24.
It wouldn’t be a Madden game, however, without its fair share of glitches and just plain weird things happening. During my time playing, there were a few times that during a fumble, the players would celebrate the fumble and not jump on it. While I have seen this before in live action NFL Football, I don’t think it’s on purpose. While running slants, I have encountered Linebackers (LBs) and CB’s teleporting slightly to make the play on the ball. During Face of the Franchise mode in practice, I encountered a situation where all of the players except for me and a few others were the coordinator. So we had six or seven of the same coordinator all listening to the original coordinator talking. Every once in a while, we had a running back who fell through a tackle for an extra four to five yards for no reason. These have sadly become the norm for Madden, and every year we get new ones when others go away. None of these glitches really hurt my gameplay experience so far even with a teleporting CB now and then. However, it is something to take note of so you know what to expect.
Speaking of Face of the Franchise, we got a brand new story to play through. This time, your goal is to reach the 99 Club. You start in year five of your career. At this point you have mostly been a backup player and this year you’re looking for a new home and a way to make a name for yourself. I chose to play as a Quarterback (QB) because I love controlling the flow of the game. You get your pick of the 32 NFL teams with the understanding that you have to choose between a place you can start now or a place for you to learn behind someone and get better. I chose to jump off the deep end and I took my talents to Seattle to play for Pete and the Seahawks.
When you get to the city of your choice, you meet all of the side characters from the story. From PR to coaching, you’ll be able to have conversations that we mostly only see in movies. I chose to do a lot in the community and work on my image with social media. That did take away from some of my study time, but I felt confident I could beat Drew Lock and Geno Smith for the starting job. I loved this new take on Face of the Franchise as last year felt a bit stale going from college to the pros and hoping you got drafted by a team you actually liked. With the choices of Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Halfback, Linebacker, and Cornerback; there’s plenty to try and lots of teams to try and compete for in the NFL. Can you make it to 99?
Now, let’s talk about some gameplay. The new FieldSENSE logic is a lot of fun, but it takes some getting used to. As I mentioned in the Madden Legacy Game section, if you’ve not played with the new skill-based passing, you’ll do what I did and make Tom Brady look like a chump. Once I practiced a bit with it, I got the hang of it, but it adds a new layer of depth to the passing game. Speaking of the passing game, thank goodness that passing was retooled. Finally I don’t have to worry about a QB throwing 80 yards on their back foot during a sack. In Madden 23, if you’re running the wrong way, your throw will have less accuracy and power. If you’re in the middle of getting sacked, you’re not throwing it deep. It makes it feel a lot more realistic. There are two types of skill based passing: Precision and Power passing. Each will be for different types of players, but both are fun to try out. If you don’t like either though, the original passing system is still available. This is something I feel is a step in the right direction for the franchise. Don’t take away options to play, add to the game you have already.
There are brand new animations for WR’s vs CB’s, injuries, general tackle animations, and brand new celebration screens for touchdowns. I very much enjoy the new animations for touchdowns specifically because it looks like something you’d see Sunday afternoon on the TV. Having the player’s name on a bold banner saying touchdown. While some celebrations aren’t there yet (here’s hoping they add Jaylen Waddle’s Waddle), there are some new celebrations such as the gritty, backflips, and more.
Generally, I’m an offense-first Madden player. For the past few years, I generally sim’d the defensive plays to get back on offense. However, Madden 23 has me playing defense again. The new hit stick animations and the WR vs CB animations, it’s been very similar to the Ray Lewis hit stick years of Madden. I actually got two hit stick forced fumbles in one game and I felt like I was on cloud nine.
The final two modes to talk about are The Yard and MUT, I personally don’t play a lot of these modes, but I generally give it a shot for the first few weeks after launch before the pay wall comes into form (I can’t justify the bundles personally and then get stomped online). So let’s give a brief synopsis of things I noticed in my time with these modes in Madden 23.
The Yard has been combined in the tab with Face of the Franchise in case you go looking for the streetball mode. You use the same avatar that you created for Face of the Franchise. With H2H and Live Events, I’m sure that EA will have plenty of things to do in these modes just like last year. I liked the new locations for the games, and there are plenty of plays to try out and ways to get points. My first game I ended up winning 29-9 because of a last minute interception by CeeDee Lamb.
Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) begins with a build your team tutorial. These tutorial missions aren’t hard to do, and they reward you with some good base cards. Once you get into the main MUT screens, it’s time for your grinding to start. You can grind the solo’s and get the free packs that they provide. Or you could just spend money and get all the packs available. MUT doesn’t tend to change drastically from Madden to Madden, so if you liked MUT in Madden 22, you should have no problem enjoying MUT in Madden 23.
Quick little Miami Dolphins corner moment. While playing through a franchise as the Miami Dolphins I noticed some things that I felt like specifically Dolphins fans will enjoy. Tyreek Hill is FAST. And when I say fast, I mean, FAST. Waddle is also very quick leading to some wide-open plays for Tua. The offensive line is still horrible in regards to Madden, so be ready to run around like a mad-man. It’s been fun getting to know the new players and see some of what we might see from the Dolphins this year.
Madden 23 does a great job of honoring the late great John Madden by providing the best Madden in a long time. Are there still ways to improve? Of course there are plenty of ways to make Franchise more exciting. More stories to tell through Face of the Franchise (maybe a story of someone who went to the CFL or XFL before getting a chance in the NFL)? More places and rules for the Yard. Plenty of ways to maximize competitive play for MUT. For the most part though, you can tell EA Sports have been listening to their fanbase and are giving more ways to play and chances to be more immersed in football. Madden NFL 23 is available on PS4™, PS5™, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and PC and launches on August 19, 2022.
Madden NFL 23
Building off the momentum of Madden 22; Madden NFL 23 brings fresh looks to both Franchise Mode and Face of the Franchise while keeping the train rolling with The Yard and MUT. While there are still some buggy moments, Madden NFL 23 is worth picking up especially for those who haven’t played an installment in the series for a while.