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Madden NFL 22 - title

In a Nutshell


  • Finally, some forward momentum for Franchise!
  • Fatigue is cumulative over season
  • Risk of practice injuries
  • Pre-game prep for adverse weather
  • More varied and interesting Franchise storyline events


  • Home-field advantage and momentum features are next-gen exclusive
  • Demo "tutorial" does not explain any new features
  • College licenses irrelevant to Franchise
  • Skill Trainer and Drive Goals removed from Franchise
  • Losing progress in my single-player Franchise because of server disconnects
  • Frequent gameplay and U.I. glitches
  • Physics and A.I. has regressed
  • Defensive coverage assist only available in MUT?
  • CPU clock-management
  • Excessive major injuries
  • Repetitive commentary
  • Soundtrack
  • Ultimate Team still a grind
  • Online play still does not resemble football
  • Gameplay is too fast
  • Skips huddle-break
  • Depth chart does not show scheme fits
  • Robo QBs
  • Incompetent zone coverage
  • Abysmal lose ball physics and A.I.
  • Play Now Live ignores user's quarter length settings
  • Referee models absent
  • Pre-game "hype" presentation

Overall Impression : F
Gameplay regressions for last-gen versions
completely offset any gains in Franchise mode.

Madden NFL 22 - 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 (last-gen) | $70 USD (next-gen)

Original release date:
17 August 2021

sports, gridiron football

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

Play time:
unlimited hours

ESRB Rating: E (for Everybody) for:
Mild Lyrics, in-game purchases, online interactions

MegaBearsFan Parental Rating: Adults (21+) because of:
Selling un-regulated real-money gambling to minors.

Official site:

I knew it was a bad sign when the "tutorial" demo game for Madden 22 did not explain or tutorialize any new gameplay features at all. The reason is probably because there aren't any new gameplay features in Madden 22 -- at least not for the current-gen systems. If you want the advertised "home-field advantage" and momentum features, you need a PS5 or XBox Series X|S. Apparently, EA said this would be the case, but since I didn't pay too much attention to pre-release news, I wasn't aware of this fact when I bought my used copy of Madden 22 off of eBay a couple weeks after the game released. I remember reading that the "momentum" feature would not be in last-gen versions, but I thought that was a different feature from the Home-Field Advantage. I guess not. I still don't have a new console, so I'm stuck playing the inferior last-gen game.

I honestly don't see any technical reason why home-field advantage and momentum couldn't be included in the last-gen versions. It doesn't seem like it would be a technically demanding thing to include. I would be willing to bet that, since people complained about last year's next-gen game being identical to the last-gen versions, EA decided to just withhold features from last-gen this year in order to make the next-gen look like a legit improvement.

The heavily-promoted Home-Field Advantage feature was withheld from the last-gen versions,
even though I see no technical reason for why it couldn't have been included.

What EA failed to realize is that the complaint wasn't really that the next-gen games wasn't different from last-gen; the complaint was that EA wasn't doing anything with the hardware that they couldn't do in last-gen. Simply withholding features from last-gen that are perfectly possible to include from a technical standpoint does nothing to address the fundamental complaint that the next-gen game does not feel "next-gen" in any substantive way.

Personally, I actually thought that last year's next-gen version did have noticeably better player movement and overall game pacing in the one match that I was able to play on a friend's PS5. The higher framerate and more precise movement gave me a much greater sense of control. The improvement was most noticeable on inside running plays, in which I found it much easier to squeeze into the gaps for positive yards, instead of just ramming into the asses of my blockers, or right into backside pursuit. The problem was that the animation system and A.I. looked identical to last-gen, even if some of the physics and locomotion were better.

Frustratingly, many users seemed to complain about last year's next-gen version feeling "too slow", so I wouldn't be surprised if all of those subtle improvements were stripped out from this year's next-gen version. I guess I'll find out if / when I get a chance to play this year's next-gen version. If I do get to play the next-gen version, and notice that it does feel substantively different in any way, I'll be sure to update this review, or post an additional review of the next-gen version. So be sure to check back for that...

#FixMaddenFranchise movement finally forced token upgrades

Thankfully, the new Franchise features at least made it into the last-gen version; otherwise, there would be absolutely nothing new in the game at all. EA finally did make additions to Franchise, but the effort feels limp, and it came at the cost of removing some of my favorite features from this past generation of Madden Franchise modes.

Axis Football has been offering full coaching staffs (including position coaches) for years now.

Adding offensive and defensive coordinators has long been considered to be the bare minimum that EA could (and should) do to improve Madden's Franchise mode. We only get a head coach, offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, and some abstract "personnel" manager. If you were expecting a full slate of position coaches, as has been offered in Axis Football for the past few years, then you'll be disappointed. There's not even a special teams coordinator. Let alone a team doctor / medical staff or talent scouts (at least not when the game released).

Worse yet, the coaches use shallow skill trees. There's only two mutually exclusive branches for each coach, so they can't really be customized or specialized all that much. The mechanic feels very similar to what was offered in NCAA Football 14, almost 10 years ago. Honestly, I didn't care for the coach skill trees in NCAA 14 much either -- and for largely the same reasons. The skill trees of both Madden 22 and NCAA 14 do very little to differentiate the style and personality of the coaches, and eventually, they all end up with the same upgrades and abilities anyway. Especially in the case of offensive coordinators who have an entire skill branch dedicated to boosting stats for fullbacks. What teams in the NFL still have dedicated fullbacks? How many Franchise users would even bother taking that particular skill?

Coach skill trees in Madden are as shallow as the skill trees in NCAA Football 14.

The new focus on coaching staffs comes along with some new weekly prep mechanics that I was actually stupid enough to be excited about before the game came out. The weekly training using Madden's Skill Trainer has been replaced with a dramatically dumbed-down version. Instead of selecting a specific offensive and defensive concept to focus on and then actually practice that concept in the Skill Trainer in preparation for the game, I only get a handful of more broad categories. I'm not choosing to work specifically on the Dagger concept or going through progressions against a Cover 2 defense. Instead, I get to chose to focus on inside run, outside run, deep pass, medium pass, short pass, and blitz counters, and that is it.

Once I've made my selection, there is no playable practice for me to actually learn the concepts that my team is supposedly practicing. This is a real shame because practicing concepts in the Skill Trainer in preparation for Franchise games was a great way of integrating this otherwise under-utilized teaching tool into the Franchise game mode by giving the user an actual activity to do as part of the game prep. Not only does it help the user practice and get better at playing Madden, but it also taught real football concepts that helps the user become a better, more knowledgeable fan of real-life football. In Madden 22 all that is just gone, and there's no actual activities for the user to participate in for game prep.

The Skill Trainer concept drills have been replaced with a dumbed-down gameplanning interface.

While on the topic of features that I enjoyed, which were stripped away from Franchise mode this year, drive goals have also apparently been removed. This reduces the amount of experience that players can acquire in games, and makes it especially hard to progress reserve players during the reduced-length preseason. I was hoping that the focus on weekly gameplanning might lead to more robust drive goals functionality, like maybe being able to set them myself as part of weekly prep, and during timeout or halftime adjustments. Or maybe even scripting my opening drive(s) and practicing those scripted plays during the week leading up to the game. Nope. It's just gone.

Each coach gets to set a goal for each matchup.

I do get to set a specific goal for each of the head coach and coordinators, so it's especially disappointing to see that drive goals are completely gone. At the very least, the drive goals could be derived from my chosen gameday goals, even if I'm not choosing them directly.

The one and only new feature of Franchise Mode that actually seems to be a net positive addition to the game is a new progressive fatigue system. Players now accumulate fatigue over the course of the season. Allowing the cumulative fatigue to drop too low increasing the chances of injuries -- even during practices!

As a coach, I now have to chose whether to practice in half-pads or full-pads, with full-pad practices giving more experience and greater skill boosts to players, but at the risk of players sustaining injuries in practice. The idea of setting a practice intensity, by the way, is also an idea stolen from Axis Football. What Madden does allow me to do, which Axis does not, is to set whether I give more reps to starters, backups, or split reps evenly between starters and backups. Giving more reps to one unit or the other gives additional experience and bonuses to that unit (on top of the bonuses from full-pad intensity), but also increases their fatigue and risk of injury.

Axis Football allows users to set practice intensity,
which provides boosts to attributes, at the cost of team morale and injury chance.

This is one of the most coach-like aspects of strategy that Madden has offered in a long time, and it works well in practice. It's about the only thing that Madden 22 does right.

But even this good idea is marred with problems. I think the idea here is that fatigue and nagging injuries are supposed to accumulate over the course of the season. The problem, however, seems to be that nobody told the gameplay programmers this. Even with the injury slider set to a measly 25, I'm seeing multiple major injuries every week of my Franchise. It has completely depleted my roster within just a few weeks, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it. Players aren't pulling hammies or twisting ankles or stubbing fingers and coming out for a few plays or a quarter or the game; they're breaking collarbones and tearing ligaments and going on IR.

Injuries sustained in practice are also more annoying than they should be. The injured players always seem to be out for the game. There's no option to let them play through the injury with decreased performance and a higher risk of a more serious injury. Nope, they are just out.

The in-season regional scouting is another Madden 22 feature that seems copied wholesale from Axis.

And speaking of ideas stolen from Axis Football, another highly-advertised feature of Madden 22's Franchise Mode is something that wasn't even included in the vanilla release, and which is supposed to be added at some point post-release. The in-season regional scouting feature looks like it was copied verbatim from Axis Football 2020, with the same regional northeast, southeast, midwest, and western scouts. I can't review this part of Franchise because it isn't actually in the game yet. Ah, the wonders of games as "live services": they're never actually finished. It's true that Madden's scouting was in dire need of an overhaul, but it's hard to feel impressed by a feature that is so clearly derivative -- especially since it's derivative of a low-budget independent game with only a few coders working on it.

Runners seem to always fall forward,
sometimes through defenders.

Last-gen regression

In addition to withholding new gameplay features from the last-gen version of the game, I feel that the on-field gameplay may have actually regressed in some ways. Player movement feels even more jerky and imprecise. Slight movements on the left analog stick cause the runner to practically stop and juke, instead of just veering or cutting in the requested direction. If I wanted to juke, I would use the right analog stick to juke. This jerky movement makes running the ball much harder than it needs to be (even though it's pretty easy overall), since it's so hard to hit holes (especially on inside running plays). Yeah sure, it's still easy to gain 4 or more yards per carry, but I'm consistently feeling the frustration of missed opportunities because I couldn't quite maneuver the runner into the open hole.

Running seems too easy in large part because ball-carriers are almost always falling forward, even if there are 2 or 3 other defenders right there to clean up the tackle and push the ball-carrier back. The extra defenders don't add on to the tackle or clean up the play. They just stand there and watch the running back fall forward for an extra 5 yards. Sometimes, the ball-carrier will even clip right through those defenders as he's falling forward.

Motion-shifting is also back in full force for receivers and defensive backs -- especially when the ball is thrown behind receivers running across the field. This is particularly frustrating because I thought that last year's game made solid steps forward in this particular area. Motion-shifting receivers to catch these passes that are slightly or moderately off-target just completely negates the whole reason to have inaccurate throws to begin with.

Receivers are motion-shifting to catch off-target passes.

Since a QB can miss a receiver by 5 or more yards, only to have the catch made a motion-shifting receiver, QB completion percentages are way up. "Robo QBs" is usually a problem that shows up in late-season patches every year, but in Madden 22, it's present right from launch. Even middling QBs are completing 80+% of their passes. The only way to slow down a CPU passing game is with sacks, and so sack numbers are once again inflated because CPU QBs will (once or twice a game) stand in the pocket and backpedal to let the human pass rush sack him for a huge loss.

And it's not like motion shifting and Robo QBs are even necessary for the CPU to efficiently pass the ball. Defensive pass coverage is the worst its ever been. I have my user Reaction Time and Pass Coverage sliders both at 100, and the CPU QB Accuracy and WR Catching sliders around 40, and I'm still getting torched by the likes of Joe Burrow and Jared Goff for 80% completions, 400+ yards, and 4 TDs.

It doesn't seem to matter what plays I call, or which defender I control, or how I play my given defender. I can only control 1 defender on the field at a time, and even if I play my role perfectly, a DB on the other side of the field will blow a coverage and allow a gimme completion. It's so immensely frustrating!

These problems weren't in Madden 20 or 21, which has me wondering: did EA deliberately break the procedural physics and A.I. systems for last-gen in order to make next-gen look better by comparison?

Animation mirroring is even more rampant than ever.

There's even obvious, stupid animation errors happening almost every play. Every play, all my inside linebackers will perform the exact same pre-play animations at the exact same time. I've also seen corners mirror each other's animations pre-snap as well. You cannot possibly get me to believe that nobody in EA's development teams or quality control noticed this animation-mirroring issue. It happens every play! And of course, once the play starts, there's still all the same animation mirroring at the line of scrimmage, with multiple pancakes happening at the exact same time with the exact same animation, or offensive linemen being thrown to the side by rushers at the exact same time with the exact same animation.

Madden 22 on the PS4 is easily the worst on-field gameplay experience that I've had with a Madden game since maybe Madden 11 (with its awful Pro-Tak system). Even the commentary (which has been solid the past few years) has regressed, with the commentators repeating the same color commentary 3, 4, or 5 plays in a row. The game looks bad, sounds bad, and plays worse.

One step forward; two steps back

While it's nice to finally see EA give some long-overdue attention to Franchise mode, the improvements really don't feel particularly inspired. Madden 22 isn't doing anything that other games, including the indie Axis Football and decade-old NCAA Football games, weren't already doing. Yet these minor improvements would likely have been enough for me to give a tacit recommendation to Madden 22 if not for the fact that features feel deliberately withheld from the last-gen version of the game, my favorite features of recent Madden franchise modes have been ripped out, and that the actual on-field gameplay seems to have somehow regressed, undoing the last 2 or 3 years' worth of progress. And that doesn't even take bugs into consideration!

As it stands, the last-gen version of Madden 22 is quite possibly the worst Madden that has ever been released. Both Madden 20 and Madden 21 played better, and Madden 22's Franchise mode isn't doing anything that I can't get from Axis Football.

I cannot help but wonder if EA deliberately sabotaged the last-gen version of Madden 22 in order to sell more of the next-gen copies, by ripping out features, disabling physics, not addressing glitches, and not fixing any legacy gameplay issues.

This game can't even correctly match up teams with their logos!

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