submit to reddit
Pin it
Axis Football 21 - title

In a Nutshell


  • Onfield interactions not dictated by prefab animations
  • Tighter zone coverage of underneath routes
  • New throw-on-run and throw-out-of-sack animations
  • Functional overtime rules
  • Full team-creation and customization
  • Customizable team play-call tendencies
  • Aimed passing with a mouse


  • Catching and pass defense still a crap shoot
  • Line play still stiff and robotic
  • Too many interceptions
  • Overtime does not allow ties
  • CPU clock-management
  • No stadium or playbook customization
  • Practice squad underdeveloped
  • No practice mode or tutorials
  • No instant replays

Overall Impression : D+ / C-
New customization features are paired with
subtle improvements to passing and pass defense

Axis Football 21 - cover

Axis Games

PC < (via Steam),
PlayStation 4 (COMING SOON!).
(< indicates platform(s) I played for review)


Original release date:
26 August 2021

simulation sports, gridiron football

1 or 2 players (local)

Play time:
indefinite hours

ESRB Rating: E (for Everyone) for:

Official site:

Axis Football is still a tough game to review. It's a very playable game that I support and recommend, but without Maximum Football to make Axis look better by comparison, it's a lot harder to overlook Axis' flaws, limitations, and lack of large-scale improvement. There's forward progress and noticeable changes, but still so many long-standing issues. The slow rate of progress is much more forgiveable than Madden, however, because the developers at Axis Games do not have access to hundreds of programmers and animators, or billions of dollars in cash. Progress is slow and steady, and that's pretty much all we can ask for given the company's limited resources.

If you're looking for a remarkably different game, then you'll be disappointed. Axis 21 feels largely identical to Axis 20, which felt largely identical to Axis 19 If you like Axis Football and are OK spending $30 to play more of it, then you'll get your money's worth.

Axis Football 2021 still looks and feels very similar to previous years.

Customization is the focus in 2021

The primary focus of development for Axis 21 seems to have been in its customization options. Previous iterations offered only limited options for customizing teams and uniforms, but Axis 21 has a much more extensive customization suite. Team uniforms and logos can be edited, and whole new uniforms can be created. Team playbooks and play-calling tendencies can be edited. Even the field is customizable.

About the only things that are missing from this customization suite are the ability to create or modify stadiums, and a playbook editor. Maybe we'll see those next year.

The customization suite is much more extensive this year.

This more advanced customization suite should hopefully draw in some of the crowd that got left in the dust when Maximum Football was canceled. If you're a fan of customizing teams and uniforms, and you haven't played Axis Football before, then 2021 might be the year to hop on the Axis Football bandwagon.

Another nice inclusion in this year's customization suite is the ability to update team rosters, which means I could modify my roster to match my roster from several seasons into Axis 20's Franchise Mode, instead of having to start over with the same initial roster that I've been using since 2018. It's a lot of work though to modify every player on my team (let alone the entire league), and I opted instead to just randomize my roster and go from there. Randomizing the roster is, I think, also a new feature in this year's game. I wish Axis would include the ability to import last year's Franchise rosters so that I can have a sense of continuity and progress between releases, without all the tedious busy-work on my end. Being able to import team customizations from year-to-year would also help reduce the prep work required by the user, and allow us to get right into enjoying the game.

Using the roster editor, I can re-create my team from last year, but it's a lot of busy-work.

Minor, but noticeable, improvements

Even though customization seems to have received the brunt of Axis' developers' attention, gameplay isn't completely without improvement. In fact, there's a lot of subtle improvements to animation and A.I. logic that makes the gameplay more smooth and dynamic for those with a keen eye for detail.

The most noticeable change this year is that QBs now have animations for throwing-on-the-run and for throwing out of sacks. This really helps make mobile quarterbacks feel more fluid and dynamic, without necessarily being overpowered. Passes thrown out of sacks will be very inaccurate, but they aren't all getting popped up into the air to be intercepted by defensive linemen and run in for scores, like in Madden 17.

QBs now have animations for throwing out of sacks.

There's also functional overtime rules now. It's about time! Axis 21 uses NFL-style hybrid sudden-death overtime rules. If the opening drive of overtime is a field goal, then the other team will have an opportunity to receive a kickoff and drive a single possession to score. Otherwise, the first score of overtime wins the game.

One thing that is different from the NFL, however, is that Axis 21's overtime rules do not allow for tied games -- not even in the regular season. An extra period will be added indefinitely until somebody scores. This is necessary for playoff games, which must have a winner, but it can drag out regular season games for too long, can inflate stats and scores, and can dramatically increase the odds of injury to exhausted players. I've already seen several exhibition and regular season games go into double overtime, and it really feels unnecessary. I'm a firm believer that a tied game is a perfectly valid result for a hard-fought defensive struggle in which neither team seemed to have an edge. This is especially true in an NFL-style Franchise that has 16 games, as opposed to the 11 or 12 of a college season, in which each game is that much more precious.

There's actual functional overtime rules now!

There's also been some improvements to defensive zone coverage A.I. that prevents certain route concepts and combinations from being open every single time. Instead of 2 defenders in overlapping zones both covering the same receiver and letting the other go free, they will more likely split up and each take a different receiver based on priorities. It's still entirely possible to confuse the CPU defense, but you'll have to do it with hot routes instead of out-of-the-box plays. It's a subtle change. You might not notice exactly why there aren't as many large gaps in zones, but you will probably notice that zone coverage is much tighter, and the throwing windows are much narrower.

Armchair quarterbacks will have a new tool for hitting the narrower gaps in zone coverages, since Axis 21 now allows QBs to anticipate where the receiver's route will take him, and throw prior to making the cut. In previous years, if the user presses the throw button before a receiver makes a cut on, say a curl route or out route, the QB will chuck the ball up in the direction the receiver is running, as if that receiver was running a streak or fly route. This would wreak havoc on the short and intermediate passing game because throws that were supposed to go to an underneath route would often get thrown up directly to the bailing corner or safety that the whole route is designed to beat.

QBs can now anticipate cuts in the receiver's routes when throwing timing routes.

Now, if I press the throw button just before the receiver makes his cut, the QB will correctly lead the pass in the direction that the receiver is supposed to go. This makes curls, outs, ins, and other timing-based routes much more viable, and it represents one of the biggest gameplay improvements that this series has made so far.

It seems a bit finicky. I still have times where the QB throws the ball over the top of a curl route. I'm not sure if my timing is off, or if maybe my QB's accuracy or intelligence rating influences whether he throws the correct route or not. Curl routes in particular are still dangerous throws in Axis 21, since DBs are a bit too good at jumping the routes and intercepting the passes, even if they're giving the receiver a few yards of cushion. This route anticipation is a valuable new tool, but I still have to be careful with it, as it will still occasionally behave in unpredictable ways. Hopefully, this is stuff that can be ironed out in patches.

The outside run is still overpowered
in favor of the human user.

Issues old and new

Even with those animation and logic improvements, a lot of frustrating exploits and A.I. limitations remain. The outside running game is still ridiculously overpowered with a speedy back (A- speed or faster), and the A.I. is completely unable to make any meaningful adjustments to try to stop it. They won't adjust their play-calling, or shift their linebackers or safeties to wider alignments to play the run -- let alone pull a safety out of his zone assignment to play contain (which is what I do to shut down the CPU's outside running game). This has been a long-standing issue with Axis.

The CPU is also still not great at clock-management. I think the developers have said that they've made improvements to the clock-management logic, but I haven't noticed much of an improvement. The CPU will still call a timeout late in a tied game after failing to convert a third down, even if they intend to punt on 4th anyway. This only serves to prevent me from having to use my own timeout, and burns that CPU timeout so that it isn't available if they get the ball back later.

I also noticed that the CPU does not take timeouts at all as overtime expires. I guess this isn't that important, since the game won't end in a tie, an extra period will just be appended, and play will resume as if it were a regular quarter break.

There's also a few new bugs that I hope the developers will fix in patches. The biggest new problem (that wasn't present in previous years) is that my CPU-controlled DBs have this frustrating habit of attempting diving tackles as the CPU receivers catch deep passes. The diving tackles frequently whif, and my DB gives up an easy walk-in TD to the receiver. This is a problem that is, effectively, just as bad as the safeties letting themselves get burnt deep, which was a major problem in the game a couple years ago.

My safeties have a frustrating habit of missing dive tackles and giving up walk-in TDs.

Axis did add the CPU offense's personnel package back to the play-call U.I. (it was missing in last year's game), but there is now a bug that prevents the on-field defensive play art from moving to line up with the defenders as I make defensive shifts. I shift my linebackers and safeties almost every play, so the on-field play art can get very confusing if I'm switching control to another player and don't recall what his specific assignment was supposed to be.

And despite the addition of depth chart positions for kick returners, there is still no button to call a fair catch or kneel in the endzone for a touchback. There's also still annoying A.I. issues with loose ball situations, especially with regard to un-fielded punts. Players on both the return team and the punting team will try to pick up the ball, but they never seem to be able to get a hold of it, and they just kick it around. Thankfully, the play is blown dead as soon as the first player (from either team) touches the ball, so I'm not throwing my controller in frustration because my return team is fumbling punts and giving away free turnovers or safeties. Still, I'd like to see this aspect of special teams improved.

There is now a depth chart position for kick and punt returners, as well as stat tracking.

Still waiting for Axis to take that big leap forward

There's also not a whole lot new in Franchise mode. Again, the big focus here is customization.

The game now allows the user to select an NFL-style conference and division alignment, complete with playoff and championship. Users can also swap out which teams are in which divisions, and we can do the same thing with the initial tiers of the tiered league.

Franchise can now be structured with an NFL-style division format.

Personally, I'm still playing the tiered league for my Franchise. I think it gives Axis Football a unique feel and identity. But I also bought a used copy of Madden 22 to try out the new Franchise features, so I'm already getting my NFL fix from that game. If you're skipping Madden, yet want an NFL experience, then this option is here for you in Axis Football 2021.

The Franchise mode will even let you customize teams during a Franchise in progress. You don't have to do all the busy-work of customizing all the teams or rosters up front, before starting to play the game. You can customize relevant stuff piecemeal as you play.

Other than that, I haven't really noticed much new in Franchise mode this year. Kick and punt returners can be assigned in the depth chart, and the game now tracks return stats for those players. Still no depth chart positions or meaningful mechanics for longsnappers, holders, return gunners, or other specialists though.

Still waiting for this promised overhaul.

Prior to the release of Axis 2020, the developers had promised on Twitter that they would be rebuilding player movement and animation from the ground up. So far, we haven't seen the promised overhaul. Maybe it's taking them multiple years to fully implement it, and Axis 2022 will be the breakout game that we've been waiting for. In the meantime, Axis Football 2021 is just another incrementally upgraded version of the same game we've been playing since Axis Football 2019.

Other Game Reviews I've Published

>Observer_>Observer_12 Minutes12 Minutes
35mm35mmAce Combat 7Ace Combat 7
ADR1FTADR1FTAlan WakeAlan Wake
Alan Wake 2Alan Wake 2Alien: IsolationAlien: Isolation
Alone In The DarkAlone In The DarkAmnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: a Machine for Pigs
Amnesia: RebirthAmnesia: RebirthAmnesia: The BunkerAmnesia: The Bunker
Amnesia: the Dark DescentAmnesia: the Dark DescentAmong the SleepAmong the Sleep
Assassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: ValhallaAssassin's Creed: Valhalla
Atomic SocietyAtomic SocietyAxis Football 18Axis Football 18
Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2020Axis Football 2020
Axis Football 2021Axis Football 2021Axis Football 2023Axis Football 2023
Axis Football 2024Axis Football 2024Back to the Future Episode OneBack to the Future Episode One
Backbreaker FootballBackbreaker FootballBanishedBanished
Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham CityBattlefield 1Battlefield 1
Blair WitchBlair WitchBloodborneBloodborne
Bloodborne: the Old HuntersBloodborne: the Old HuntersCall of Duty World War IICall of Duty World War II
CatherineCatherineCities SkylinesCities Skylines
Cities Skylines IICities Skylines IICities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: After Dark
Cities Skylines: AirportsCities Skylines: AirportsCities Skylines: CampusCities Skylines: Campus
Cities Skylines: Financial Districts + World TourCities Skylines: Financial Districts + World TourCities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Green Cities
Cities Skylines: Hotels & RetreatsCities Skylines: Hotels & RetreatsCities Skylines: IndustriesCities Skylines: Industries
Cities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: Natural Disasters
Cities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: Plazas & PromenadesCities Skylines: Plazas & Promenades
Cities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: Sunset HarborCities Skylines: Sunset Harbor
Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4CitiesXL & Cities XXLCitiesXL & Cities XXL
ControlControlCrusader Kings IIICrusader Kings III
Dark SoulsDark SoulsDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLC
Dark Souls IIDark Souls IIDark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Dark Souls IIIDark Souls IIIDark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel
Dark Souls III: the Ringed CityDark Souls III: the Ringed CityDarker SkiesDarker Skies
Dawn of ManDawn of ManDead Space (2023)Dead Space (2023)
Dead Space 2Dead Space 2Death StrandingDeath Stranding
Death's GambitDeath's GambitDeliver Us The MoonDeliver Us The Moon
Demon's SoulsDemon's SoulsDemon's Souls (PS5)Demon's Souls (PS5)
Devil May Cry 5Devil May Cry 5Disco ElysiumDisco Elysium
DmC (Devil May Cry)DmC (Devil May Cry)DOOM (2016)DOOM (2016)
DreadOutDreadOutElden RingElden Ring
Endling: Extinction Is ForeverEndling: Extinction Is ForeverEvent [0]Event [0]
F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)Fallout 4Fallout 4
Fallout ShelterFallout ShelterFar Cry PrimalFar Cry Primal
Final Fantasy VII RemakeFinal Fantasy VII RemakeFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XVFirewatchFirewatch
Five Nights at Freddy'sFive Nights at Freddy'sGame of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)
Ghost of TsushimaGhost of TsushimaGod of War (2018)God of War (2018)
God of War IIIGod of War IIIGone HomeGone Home
Gran Turismo 7Gran Turismo 7Grand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V
Green Hell VRGreen Hell VRHell Let LooseHell Let Loose
Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade: Senua's SacrificeHer StoryHer Story
HumankindHumankindImagine EarthImagine Earth
Kayak VR MirageKayak VR MirageKingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: Deliverance
L.A. NoireL.A. NoireLayers Of Fear 2Layers Of Fear 2
Legend BowlLegend BowlLetters To A Friend: FarewellLetters To A Friend: Farewell
Lifeless PlanetLifeless PlanetLollipop ChainsawLollipop Chainsaw
Mad MaxMad MaxMadden NFL 11Madden NFL 11
Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 13
Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 16
Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 18
Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 20Madden NFL 20
Madden NFL 21Madden NFL 21Madden NFL 22Madden NFL 22
Madden NFL 23Madden NFL 23Madden NFL 24Madden NFL 24
MADiSONMADiSONMars Rover LandingMars Rover Landing
Marvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-Man 2Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesMarvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesMaster of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaster of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2019Maximum Football 2019
Maximum Football2020Maximum Football2020Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMetal Gear Solid V: the Phantom Pain
MiasmataMiasmataMiddle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMonster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter: World
Moons of MadnessMoons of MadnessNCAA Football 11NCAA Football 11
NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 13NCAA Football 13
NFL Pro EraNFL Pro EraNiohNioh
No Man's SkyNo Man's SkyObservationObservation
Outer WildsOuter WildsOuter Wilds: Echoes of the EyeOuter Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
OutlastOutlastPacific DrivePacific Drive
Papers, PleasePapers, PleasePortal 2Portal 2
Red Dead RedemptionRed Dead RedemptionRed Dead Redemption IIRed Dead Redemption II
Resident Evil 2Resident Evil 2Resident Evil 3Resident Evil 3
Resident Evil RemasteredResident Evil RemasteredResident Evil VII: BiohazardResident Evil VII: Biohazard
Resident Evil VIII VillageResident Evil VIII VillageReturn of the Obra DinnReturn of the Obra Dinn
Rock Band 3Rock Band 3Room 404Room 404
Sekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSettlement SurvivalSettlement Survival
Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Sid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization V
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & Kings
Sid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering StormSid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the Room
Silent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered Memories
Silent Hill: The Short MessageSilent Hill: The Short MessageSilicon DreamsSilicon Dreams
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Song of HorrorSong of HorrorSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of Time
Spider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsStar Trek ResurgenceStar Trek Resurgence
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars SquadronsStar Wars Squadrons
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
Stranded DeepStranded DeepStrayStray
TacomaTacomaThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2The Callisto ProtocolThe Callisto Protocol
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC
The Evil WithinThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2
The Last GuardianThe Last GuardianThe Last of UsThe Last of Us
The Last of Us Part IIThe Last of Us Part IIThe Outer WorldsThe Outer Worlds
The SaboteurThe SaboteurThe SwapperThe Swapper
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5U-BoatU-Boat
Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil WarUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Until DawnUntil DawnVirginiaVirginia
VisageVisageWhat Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch

Contribute Comment


We'll incarnate your avatar from the services below.
PlayStation Network Steam Xbox LIVE Facebook MySpace Pinterest Twitter YouTube deviantART LiveJournal

  • Comment
  • Preview

Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

Check out my YouTube content at

Follow me on Twitter at:


If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:

FTC guidelines require me to disclose that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made by clicking on Amazon product links on this site. All Amazon Associate links are for products relevant to the given blog post, and are usually posted because I recommend the product.

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

Random Post

The Colbert Threatdown attacks geeks: comics and video games on notice, and a little on helmet-to-helmet collisionsThe Colbert Threatdown attacks geeks: comics and video games on notice, and a little on helmet-to-helmet collisions05/08/2011 Last Friday night, the Colbert Report aired the following Threat Down segment: The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c ThreatDown - Superman, Madden NFL 12 & Glee Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive It's definitely not the first time that Colbert has has let...

Month List

Recent Comments

Comment RSS