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Madden NFL 21 - title

In a Nutshell


  • Throw out of sack animations
  • Blockers learn and adapt to pass rushers' moves
  • Kickoff blocking seems subtly improved
  • Less receiver motion-shifting on overthrown passes
  • Players will reach for extra yards
  • No longer shying away from social justice messaging
  • Could The Yard represent a strategy shift away from gambling in Ultimate Team?


  • Performance and framerate problems
  • Yet another arcade mode?!
  • No female faces, bodies, or voices in The Yard
  • No local multiplayer for The Yard?
  • Franchise "improvements" are nothing but a list of bug fixes
  • Tutorial doesn't explain new pass rush U.I.
  • Gameplay too fast
  • Not enough time before CPU snap to make defensive adjustments
  • Jump snap gone?
  • Conservative run modifier replaced with celebrations?!
  • Reaching for extra yards is outside of user's control
  • "Defensive Assist" abandons assignment?!
  • Incompetent zone coverage
  • Abysmal lose ball physics and A.I.
  • Referee models still absent
  • Still skips huddle-break
  • Still no option to enable accelerated clock in 2-minute warning
  • Can't re-do reps in Skill Trainer
  • Ultimate Team still a grind
  • New pre-game "hype" presentation
  • Soundtrack

Overall Impression : F
Franchise mode had to wait 2 months post-release for a patch

Madden NFL 21 - cover

EA Sports Tiburon

EA Sports / Electronic Arts

PC (via Steam or EA Origin),
PlayStation 4 < (via retail disc or PSN digital download),
XBox One (via retail disc or XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $60 USD + micro-transactions

Original release date:
28 August 2020

sports, gridiron football

ESRB Rating: E (for Everybody) for:
mild lyrics, in-game purchases, player interaction

MegaBearsFan's parental rating: 21 or older, for:
in-app real-money gambling, online chat

single player, local multiplayer,
up to 32-team online career

Official site:

In the past 2 years, EA has added 2 new arcade modes (Superstar KO, and now The Yard), on top of the existing [pay-to-win] arcade mode that has been in the game for a decade (Ultimate Team), and they've experimented with 2 new single-player career modes, but they refuse to make any substantial upgrades or improvements to the core Franchise mode. And they have the nerve to call this a "simulation" football game? And no, I do not consider Face of the Franchise to be a "Franchise Mode", no matter how EA may want to brand it.

Look, if Madden already had a deep, robust, and engaging Franchise Mode on par with the breadth and quality of the mode from 10-20 years ago, then I'd be perfectly fine with the team branching out and experimenting with new game modes. If the Franchise Mode were already so complete and robust that both EA's devs and the fan community were struggling to think of things to add or change, then all these other modes would feel more warranted. But that isn't the case. Franchise mode has been a half-baked, bug-riddled, experience since at least Madden 13. And the wishlists from consumers have plenty of ideas for EA to implement, ranging from hiring coordinators and assistant coaches, to off-season training camps, to position battles, to contract restructuring, to a more meaningful preseason and in-season scouting, and even relatively mundane and simple things like a weather forecast or a U.I. that shows us our player and team goals when we're actually in a match. Year after year, EA and Tiburon tell us that they "hear us" and are committed to improving Franchise Mode. But year after year, we get a "new feature" list that reads like an October patch log for last year's game.

Tiburon did not add anything to Franchise mode, but we got a whole other arcade mode.

In this regard, Madden 21 is the worst offender yet, because there is absolutely nothing new in the Franchise mode at the game's launch. We had to wait until October before EA even acknowledged that Franchise Mode exists in Madden 21, and for them to promise updates.

To be fair, The Yard isn't all that bad

Even though I'm frustrated to see yet another arcade mode that feels nothing like actual football (to the total exclusion of any Franchise mode updates), I have to admit that I'm more likely to play (and maybe even enjoy) The Yard more than Ultimate Team. The Yard is basically a modernized, but less-developed, version of EA's old NFL Street games. Despite still being a micro-transaction-fueled online-multiplayer-focused arcade mode, the fact that it is not built on a pay-to-win gambling architecture makes The Yard feel less cynically manipulative. It feels less like a brazen, anti-consumer scam, and more like a genuine attempt to make a fun game first, then stick an optional micro-transaction economy on top of it. It's still bad, and cynical, and exploitative (especially in the wake of Star Wars Squadrons, which was also published by EA, but had no micro-transactions at all), but it's less bad, less cynical, and less exploitative than the efforts EA has made in the past.

Can someone please double-check my math? Does this one uniform really cost $20?!

That being said, the cost of these purely cosmetic accessories is downright absurd. EA seems to think that a virtual helmet is somehow worth twenty dollars! Did somebody on the U.I. team fuck up and accidentally shift a decimal two places for these micro-transaction costs? 20 cents? Maybe. But 20 dollars? Are you fucking kidding me, EA?! $20 is what I expect to pay for an entire expansion pack, not for a single cosmetic novelty item.

The cynic in me believes that this exorbitant cost is a deliberate attempt by EA at sabotaging their own micro-transaction store. Maybe they think that if they jack up the prices ridiculously high for these cosmetics, nobody will be willing to pay for them. They could then go back to focusing on gambling and pay-to-win loot boxes and blame the consumers, "well we offered cosmetic-only micro-transactions, but you didn't want to buy them. Clearly the market prefers randomized 'surprise mechanics'."

I lost a game by 1 point because the scoreboard became unreadable,
and I didn't know if I should go for 1, 2, or 3 pt conversion.

My first impressions of The Yard were further hampered by several significant bugs. The most egregious was several instances in which the scoreboard overlay graphics became corrupted, and I couldn't read the score. With the weird scoring rules of The Yard, it's much harder to remember and track the current score in my head. In one of these occurrences, I scored a touchdown in my final drive, but was unsure of whether to go for 1, 2, or 3 because I couldn't remember exactly how far I was down. I went for 3 and failed to convert, only to lose by 1.

U.I. feedback in this mode is generally poor. It's not very intuitive what the rewards for a particular match or challenge are going to be. I frequently come back from a match and get no experience points, but get a skill point instead. I don't know why it sometimes gives skill points instead of experience. I thought skill points were supposed to be the reward for leveling up via experience.

Social justice is a big part of Madden 21's branding.

I also feel like The Yard presented a prime opportunity to add women to the game. It's self-described "backyard football", so there is absolutely no reason why women shouldn't be included. Having at least a couple token female faces, hairstyles, and voices, along with a female body archetype would have added some welcome extra diversity to the mode. Women like football, and women play Madden. They should have an opportunity to feel represented in the game, especially in a "backyard football" game mode. I've played backyard football in real life with quite a few women in my youth, and some of them were pretty damn good.

Heck, I even share any such women's feeling of not being adequately represented in The Yard. I didn't find a single face that looked like mine. The morph features also make hardly any difference at all. I couldn't even make my avatar a little bit chubby. I guess I finally get a taste of what it felt like for all the under-represented minorities who never got to see themselves in games in the past. Poetic justice, I suppose. In any case, I approve of the "End Racism" gear, and I chose the "solidarity" celebration whenever I score.

Regressives who might get offended by the lack of "white guy" faces in The Yard, or by the "SJW" gear in the game can fuck right off.

Why do I sometimes get a skill point instead of experience from a match?

That being said, I did notice some promising ... "improvements" (for lack of a better word) to core gameplay and animation while playing The Yard. Inaccurate passes would sail a couple yards over the head of a receiver, instead of missing by a mile. In past years, a similarly-positioned pass would result in the receiver shifting or being given a speed burst to make the catch. Not so this year. It would be nice if the receiver would at least put a hand out as if to try to catch the pass. The other side of the coin, however, is that defensive backs still get speed bursts to allow them to break up passes or make interceptions, which completely negates a receiver's position advantage on otherwise accurate passes. Madden 21 thus, retains the long-standing problem in the series of too many cheap interceptions.

In general, I thought that movements looked a lot more fluid when playing The Yard. Tackles looked cleaner. Receivers run better routes. Defenders perform better in their assignments. And so forth.

Inaccurate passes are more likely to be slightly overthrown, instead of wildly off-target.

I wonder if stripping down the gameplay to 6-on-6 may have improved the performance of the underlying physics engine? Removing all the lineman, and all the collisions and interactions in the trenches that come with them, may free up more of the console's CPU resources to more precisely calculate the individual players' movement and positioning. It probably also helps with pathfinding and other aspects of player A.I. that may allow the CPU-controlled players to do a better job on their respective play assignment (on both offense and defense). This mode just has so much less for the CPU to consider.

In fact, I even noticed that The Yard seems to resist gang tackles. Even in opportunities in which a dog pile or scrum could happen, defenders would usually just stop or jump over or side-step around a one-on-one tackle animation, rather than attempting to pile on. And it isn't even a case of the extra players being shifted or warped out of the way (as was the case in earlier versions of Madden). They're actually playing animations of the extraneous defenders intentionally avoiding the hit, instead of "cleaning up" the tackle.

DBs still get speed bursts to jump routes,
and receivers and DBs still clip through each other.

A second defender will still make a consecutive-hit or simultaneous tackle in some instances, but it was rare. To my surprise, I never once noticed a defender avoid involving himself in a tackle that ended up being broken (another big problem in past iterations of Madden). It's as if the game knows whether the tackle will be a success, and it disables the extra collision if it won't have an impact on the play, but allows the extra collision if it might impact the play.

It's as if Tiburon took away or disabled as many potential interactions as they could practically get away with in order to give a maximum feeling of precision and control to this scaled-down game mode. And it actually works.

So all-in-all, I admit that The Yard isn't bad. Aside from the aforementioned bugs, the mode plays well enough. If it ends up supplanting Ultimate Team as the arcade or casual player's mode of choice, I think that might actually be an improvement to Madden as a product. It's still just simply not something that I'm going to care to play. If it had a local multiplayer mode, I might play it with a friend who doesn't actually care much about football, but liked NFL Blitz back in the day. Or I might have played it with my kid and some of her friends. But The Yard is never going to supplant my interest or desire for a robust simulation Franchise mode.

Less than token effort

Speaking of a "robust simulation Franchise mode", here is a complete list of what was changed in Madden 21's "classic" Franchise Mode for the game's launch:

  • The new X-Factors make their way into Franchise. More details on X-Factors in Madden NFL 21 coming soon!
  • Franchise has an expanded Wild Card Playoff round to match the real-life NFL which now features 3 games for each conference instead of 2.
  • Updated all rookie contract amounts to be more authentic to the actual Draft rookie contracts for all 7 rounds
  • Retuned every position's available Abilities to better consider in-game effectiveness of the ability and archetype authenticity. Also made the 2nd ability unlock for most positions 85 OVR (was 80 OVR in Madden NFL 20.)
  • Fixed multiple cases in logic of players considered for a Dev Trait upgrade at the end of the season not checking the correct stat types.
  • Updates to all team back-end depth chart philosophies so they match the team's scheme.
  • Added position-specific Offensive Lineman archetype progression buckets for OT, OG, and C to capture variance in OVR formulas based on positional expectations. Previously, all OL were pulling from the same progression bucket.
  • Fixed issue where defensive playbooks and schemes for our fictional coaches would be misaligned (e.g. 3-4 playbook with a 4-3 scheme.)

The only actual new feature here is a change to the playoff structure that represents a change made by the actual NFL. Everything else is a fix to something that was in Madden 20, but which didn't work correctly or needed re-tuning. They're bug fixes and balance tuning. That's it. It's stuff that we should see in the 30-day patch of last year's game; not the result of a year's worth of work on a new installation of the game that they expect the public to pay $60 for.

The only new feature in Franchise Mode is the extra wild card playoff game added by the NFL back in the summer.

Madden 21's Franchise Mode isn't even worth talking about. EA didn't bother putting any effort into developing the mode, so I'm not putting any effort into playing or reviewing it. Instead, I'll refer you to the review of Madden 20, since the Franchise Modes are identical, plus or minus some balance tuning and a bug fix here or there.

So when I started hearing in early September that EA would be releasing a patch that would update Franchise Mode (effectively delivering the mode post-release, after everybody's already paid $60 for it), I shelved any plans to review Madden 21 until that patch. I instead focused my time on the indie football games, Maximum Football 2020 and Axis Football 2020, since those developers actually, you know, made an effort.

Even after this November update, Madden 21's Franchise is still barely worth talking about. There's nothing really big here. The November Franchise patch basically represents the token attention that the mode should have been given in time for the game's release in August. It's a handful of back-end logic improvements that are long overdue. It's mostly stuff that most Franchise players (outside of the hardcore ones) might not even notice. The meatier upgrades seem to be waiting for Madden 22, and another $60 investment from consumers. Go figure.

As of the November patch, the game now tracks and displays historic player stats --
something that was in the game 10-15 years ago.

Another patch with additional franchise improvements is expected in January. Gamers are basically expected to pay $60 for an NFL-licensed football game at the start of the season, and then wait until the NFL season is already over before they get to see that $60 investment reflected in Franchise Mode. And that's assuming that the upgrades added in January will be substantial enough for anybody to consider it worth a $60 investment. I don't know, because we still don't know what EA is planning for that update.

Skill Trainer isn't what it used to be

Even the tutorials are starting to feel neglected and obsolete. The current Skill Trainer mode was introduced in Madden 16 or Madden 17, and remains one of the best features of modern Madden. It not only teaches Madden's gameplay controls and mechanics, but it also serves as a simple "Football 101" primer, teaching some basic concepts of how route concepts work, how coverages work, how a QB or RB reads a defense, and so forth.

But every year, the Skill Trainer loses some of its polish as EA barely puts any effort into it. Sure, EA will highlight new features in the Skill Trainer, and mostly updates the tutorials as controls change, but they haven't changed how the tutorials themselves work. As subtle mechanical changes pile up, the Skill Trainer's basic gameplay tutorials have become more and more like crap shoots, with little-to-no feedback on what (if anything) you might be doing wrong.

Do I get shrugged off this tackle because I missed an input? Or because of an unlucky animation draw?

As it stands now, the Skill Trainer largely serves to highlight how obtuse and animation-driven Madden's gameplay is. I might try a RB drill and perform a dodge move, only to be tackled anyway. Or I might try a tackle drill, only to have the CPU runner shrug off my tackle and walk into the end zone. Did I miss the input or timing window? If so, what was the correct input or timing window? Or did I do everything perfect and just got unlucky with a bad random animation that I actually had no control over?

For tackling, earlier iterations of Madden projected a little cone out in front of the defender to show the range of diving tackles versus break-down tackles. This cone disappeared a year or two ago, so now this tutorial has no indication of how close you should be when attempting to make a tackle.

What did I do wrong?

I bring these Skill Trainer complaints up because a.) they've been nagging on me for a couple years now, and b.) I tried to use the Skill Trainer to figure out how all the new pass rush mechanics work. It wasn't very helpful.

I have to "roll" the right stick? Is this a Street Fighter move? When do I execute this "roll" on the right stick? Is it before contact with the blocker? During the block engagement animation? Will there be some prompt or other on-screen indication telling me when is the optimal time to use a special move? I tried it, spun out of the block, and sacked the QB, but the game said I didn't perform the move. What did I do wrong?

More importantly, what the heck do these little U.I. indicators above the defensive lineman and below the offensive linemen mean? Is the meter above the defender's head some charge up mechanic like the X-Factors or like the old 2k special move charge-ups? Is it a fatigue meter? What are these little black and orange dots below the blocker? Do they tell me which move to perform and in what direction I should attempt a special move? Do they relate to the blocker's ratings? Is the orange dot good for the blocker, or good for the defender? The pass rush tutorial in the Skill Trainer does not explain any of this! Nor did the demo game that I played while waiting for Madden to install. These pass rush controls are Madden 21's big new gameplay feature, and they didn't bother to explain anywhere in the game how it works!

Is there a tutorial that explains what
these meters and dots mean?

Since EA has focused on making the Skill Trainer more of a mini-game, instead of a training tool, if you fail a rep, you can't simply repeat it to try to figure out what you did wrong and get the inputs or timing correct. You have to start the entire tutorial or drill all over again. If the specific control or mechanic is the 12th rep in a series of tutorial drills, you have to repeat the first 11 before you can retry the one you failed. There's also no demonstrations of the particular mechanic that show the correct input sequences, correct timings, or the positioning of players required to properly execute the mechanic. These are the sorts of refinements that I expected from the Skill Trainer over the years, but which EA has completely neglected to implement in the 5 or so years that the Skill Trainer has been in the game.

Did I do this "one-step cut" move correctly? The game says "no", but it won't tell me what I did wrong, nor does the game demonstrate how to do it correctly. Worst of all, it's the last tutorial in the running moves tutorial, which means if I want to practice it, I have to do the basic jukes, spins, and dives all over again.

2K's tutorials weren't perfect either, but their basketball tutorials at least included demonstrations of what the specific move was supposed to look like to help give the user an idea of the timing and of what you might be doing wrong.

Barely escaping the sack

Since the Skill Trainer, demo game, controller mapping menu, and in-game tutorials were of no help, I eventually searched on the internet for what the heck all the pass rush U.I. stuff means. Apparently, the meter on top of the rusher is a stamina meter of sorts. It shows how many times the player can use pass rush moves. Once he runs out, he'll automatically fail any attempt at a pass rush move. Each defensive player will recharge one point on the meter each play.

Not only did the demo game refuse to give me any instructions on how to use pass rush features,
it apparently hadn't even installed the controller layouts yet, so I couldn't even look up what button does what.

The idea here seems to be to try to force defensive play-callers to rotate personnel and move defenders around to different positions along the line. Subbing out a pass rusher who has exhausted all his moves, and replacing him with a fresh rusher should allow you to more consistently apply pressure to the quarterback, especially on long, sustained drives. OK, fine, that's nice. I thought the existing stamina system that's been in the game for 20 years was already supposed to do that.

The orange dots below each side of an offensive lineman tell you how good that blocker is at negating pass rush moves to that side, from that specific defender. If the lineman has no notches on his left side, then he should be more vulnerable to moves by that defender against his left side. This seems to be intended to encourage defense to try to position its best pass rushers in gaps for which the offense is weakest. It also is supposed to encourage the offense to use double teams and slide protection to try to protect the vulnerable gaps.

Even the best pass rushers will get thrown to the ground if they deplete their meter,
or if they repeatedly use the same moves against the same side of the same blocker.

All of this was in last year's game -- just without the fancy meters. The only difference is that now the U.I. is telling you before the snap that a pass rush against a specific gap is likely to be successful. It feels kind of artificial.

The one area in which this mechanic has some real promise is that the blockers are supposed to get better at countering certain pass rush moves as the game goes on. If you repeatedly use the same club move, for example, against the same side of the same offensive lineman, he'll earn more points towards protecting that side as the game goes on. Players and teams learning the opponent's tendencies during the game and reacting to counter those tendencies is something that I (and many other simulation football fans) have requested for years. This is one tiny step in that direction.

I wish this were tied into some kind of in-game adjustment mechanic where the user can coach up his players during timeouts, at halftime, or during possession changes in order to counter what the opponent is doing. It would also be nice to be able to recognize and react to the opponent's preferred pass rush moves during the weekly preparation of Franchise Mode. But this is a start, I guess.

This year's throw out of sack mechanic works better than a similar mechanic from Madden 17.

I also want to give Tiburon and EA credit for doing something that they rarely do: learning from past mistakes and successfully iterating on a specific gameplay mechanic. It took them four years to do it, but Tiburon finally came up with a better "throw out of sack" system than the one that debuted in Madden 17. Players of Madden 17 complained that the strip sack mechanics lead to too many fumbles, and the throw out of sack mechanic lead to too many lame ducks that could be picked off by defensive linemen and returned for touchdowns. They weren't wrong, but in my opinion, the response to that should have been to call shorter routes and get rid of the ball before the pass rush gets to the QB. Instead, Tiburon nerfed the strip sack and throw out of sack mechanic to the point that QBs were tucking the ball whenever they got hit, even if they were halfway through their throwing motion.

This time, however, the ball doesn't pop up into the air as soon as the QB is hit. He will instead continue his throwing motion and will be much more likely to drive the ball into the ground for a harmless incompletion. This allows effective pass rushers to consistently disrupt passing plays on every drive, without necessarily accumulating ridiculous sack counts or triggering excessive turnovers. It actually works surprisingly well and seems to so far be a strict improvement over the Madden 17 system. The mechanic could still use some tuning, as I still feel like 4 and 5-man pass rush packages generate too many sacks.

Pass rush X-Factors still lead to excessive sacks.

I still wish that pass rush X-Factors would be changed to further reduce the number of sacks. I believe that the X-Factor should charge up as the pass rusher pressures the QB (rather than needing to get a sack to enter "the zone"). After so many QB pressures, the superstar pass rusher should get a bonus towards pass rush moves until his next sack, at which point the X-Factor should reset. This would also allow superstar pass rushers to actually benefit from their X-Factor ability without having to rack up multiple sacks in a single game. It would also be nice if Madden would track QB hurries and QB hits as a defensive stat so that pass rushers can be appropriately recognized for disrupting plays, even if they are not piling up tackles for loss, sacks, or forced fumbles.

The last small gameplay improvement is that players are a little bit more aware of their position on the field and the situation. They will now reach the ball for extra yards, especially when close to the first down marker or goalline. Unfortunately, there is not a button on the controller to trigger this (especially since EA removed the "conservative" run modifier and replaced it with a useless dedicated "celebration" button). It's completely outside of the user's control, which means there's no risk / reward element to trying to use it. It's just one more way that the game can manipulate the outcome of plays and games, because Madden is ultimately in complete control over whether your player will attempt to reach for that first down or score. For instance, I've never seen a player reaching for the first down marker while running out of bounds; only if they are being tackled. If the game doesn't want to give you that first down or score, then it can simply chose not to, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Players can reach for extra yards, but whether they do so is completely outside of user control.

Also, unfortunate for the game is that the philosophy of situational awareness does not extend to other areas of gameplay. QBs will still happily dump passes into the flats on 4th and long plays, rather than trying a desperate throw downfield in the hopes of a receiver making a play. Receivers don't seem to be any more likely to try to drag their feet for catches, and will still routinely select animations that take them out of bounds when they could have easily stayed in bounds. Players still bend down to try to pick up every fumble instead of simply falling on the ball to secure it, and the player who fumbles still makes absolutely no effort to recover his own fumble. And so on.

There's other areas in which Madden 21's gameplay has remained stagnant or even regressed. I'm annoyed that the "jump the snap" feature is gone, especially considering the focus this year on line play. Even if Tiburon thought the mechanic was unbalanced, I would have preferred that they come up with some kind of offensive counter-play, instead of simply removing the mechanic. The mechanic seems to still exist on punt and field goal plays so that it remains possible to block such plays, but there's no longer any risk of going offsides.

QBs fumble too often on designed runs.

Running quarterbacks also seem to fumble the ball far too frequently. This is true even for mobile quarterbacks executing designed runs. If I'm too afraid to run read options with Lamar Jackson or Russel Wilson, I'm certainly not going to bother trying such plays with the likes of Mitch Trubisky.

Defensive zone coverage is also still a complete joke. Defenders in zone just stand around and do not react to receivers entering, running through, or leaving their zone. This makes it way too easy to complete passes against zone defenses, especially in the middle of the field. I can adjust the depth of zones, but the option of 0 yards is too shallow, and 5 yards gives too much of a cushion. Despite the new pass rush and throw out of sack mechanics, CPU QBs have uncanny accuracy. I've seen QBs like Matt Stafford and Jared Goff complete almost 90% of their passes if I don't consistently throw 5 or 6-man pressure packages at them.

Defenders also still get locked into swat or catch animations that prevent them from appropriately reacting to the play if the receiver actually catches the pass. This allows receivers to break away for big gains.

The poor defensive A.I. is exaccerbated by the fact that the "Defensive Assist" button has been changed to force the user player to run to the line of scrimmage and attempt to play man coverage against a tight end or back, even if he was supposed to be in zone or deep coverage. This means that using the feature will run a user-controlled safety or linebacker out of his designed assignment and towards the line of scrimmage. If you were supposed to be in a hook zone or deep zone, then this can be devastating, as it will almost certainly give up a big play. The CPU won't even take over if you don't press any buttons (as used to be the case). Now, your player will just stand still if you don't press anything. I'm not sure if this is a bug, or if this is a deliberate (but undocumented) change by the developers.

Defensive assist doesn't work the way it used to, and it ignores your designed assignment.
I'm supposed to be in deep zone [LEFT], but holding "defensive assist" abandons the zone [RIGHT].

These changes combine to make playing defensive zone coverage much harder. If you aren't an elite defensive user with lightning-fast reflexes, then the loss of these basic assist features means you're even more at the mercy of Madden 21's poor defensive A.I. than in previous years. And you'll be in coverage a lot, since the CPU is still incompetent at running the ball, except for their one or two breakaway runs that the game gives them almost every match.

And it seems like a recent patch also disabled the in-play defensive play art, which means if you didn't have your assignment memorized from the play-call screen, or you lose track of the man you're supposed to be covering in a bunch, you're screwed.

The entire game is further hampered by consistent performance problems, especially as the game gets into the 3rd and 4th quarters. The game will drop frames, or it will lock up for a second during a play. This usually happens to me at exactly the moment in which I need to make a button input, but the game doesn't register the button input, and I blow the play. For example, the game will hang at the moment that I'm supposed to chose to hand off or throw on an RPO, it will fail to register my input, and I get dragged down in the backfield. Or it will hang right after the play fake on a play action pass, causing me to miss narrow pass windows or take a sack instead of throwing downfield to a wide open receiver. And yes, the game still lags during the kick meter, which has caused me to miss several potentially game-winning field goals or extra points.

All these performance problems happen despite the fact that I am playing on a PS4 Pro. I, personally, would happily accept less shiny helmets if it would mean that the game would actually run smoothly and not drop my inputs. On field gameplay is already too fast for my tastes, so missing the window for key inputs because of performance issues makes the game borderline unplayable.

Already competing with 2K's un-released arcade game?

It looks like EA is pre-emptively trying to compete with 2K's upcoming NFL-licensed arcade game. For us simulation football fans, it's probably the most disappointing Madden ever, in that EA didn't even bother to include token Franchise mode improvements until almost 3 months after release (and half-way through the NFL season). That being said, The Yard isn't bad. If it were a stand-alone $30 or $40 game with local multiplayer (which is something that NFL Street actually provided), I might even play The Yard with friends.

I think it's telling that the best new game mode that EA has added to Madden in the past 15 years happens to be the game mode that is the most divorced from simulation NFL football. It's as if EA themselves are trying to make the case that they are the ones who should have the "arcade NFL" license, and the "simulation NFL" license should go to a different company that actually gives a damn about simulation sports.

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Comments (1) -

12/03/2020 09:27:49 #

I'm a few weeks late with this comment, I'm only now just catching up with my RSS feed. I just wanted to say I appreciate your detailed and thoughtful review and your support for progressive / social justice voices in the video game community, especially for a football game like Madden which, unfortunately, has a fanbase -- like that of live football -  that tends to lean toward regressive cultures of toxic masculinity, racism and sexism. As much as EA dropped the ball with this entry it's nice they are at least on the right side of history for social issues.

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