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Madden NFL 24 - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Token training camp
  • Coaches have deeper, specialized skill trees
  • Running QBs don't fumble every time they're tackled
  • On-field referees
  • Female referee models
  • More options to relocate to international cities
  • Fewer bugs and glitches?

WHAT I DISLIKE

  • Under-the-hood engine upgrades are barely noticeable
  • Training Camp drills lack risk/reward and are exploitable for free XP
  • No Training Camp drills for OLs
  • Training camp drills reset gameplans
  • QBs drop back and take sacks
  • Awful DB and LB play
  • Too many injuries to OLs and DLs; not enough at other positions
  • CPU teams still can't manage progressive fatigue!
  • No huddle
  • Weather has little effect on gameplay
  • Some of my favorite plays are gone from the playbooks
  • Can't spectate CPU-vs-CPU Franchise matches
  • Multiple Skill Trainer drills are broken
  • Assets for Superstar and Superstar Showdown take up space on HDD
  • Booted out of a games because the connection to EA servers is lost
  • So many ads for in-game purchases
  • Pay-to-win, Ultimate Team mode
  • Selling un-regulated real-money gambling to minors

Overall Impression : D-
The one new thing is Training Camp drills,
and they couldn't even get that right!

Madden NFL 24 - cover

Developer:
EA Sports Tiburon

Publisher:
EA Sports / Electronic Arts

Platforms:
PC (via EA Origin, Steam, or Epic Store),
PlayStation 4 | 5 < (via retail disc or PSN digital download),
XBox One | S | X (via retail disc or XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $70 USD | $60 USD (last-gen) | $100 USD for All-Madden edition

Original release date:
19 August 2022

Genre:
sports, gridiron football

Player(s):
single player, local multiplayer,
up to 32-team online career

Play time:
unlimited hours

ESRB Rating: E (for everyone) for:
mild lyrics, online interactions, in-app purchases
MegaBearsFan Parental Rating: adults (21+) because of:
real-money gambling features

Official site:
www.ea.com/games/madden-nfl/madden-nfl-23

Last year, I gave Madden 23 a scolding initial review due to an excess of bugs and A.I. problems, including the broken Interception A.I. slider that resulted in every QB getting picked off 5 times a game. However, after a couple months, many of the most egregious issues with the game had been fixed by EA, and I came to realize that I was still playing the game long after I have usually given up on it in previous years. And dare I say, I might even have been kinda sorta liking it.

In particular, I praised the game for actually taking critical feedback of previous years' games to heart and iterating and improving on old ideas that hadn't quite worked out. Targeted passing, tackle battle, throw-out-of-sack animations, and in-season college scouting were all mechanics that were introduced in recent years, but which weren't well-received in their debut games. Instead of completely abandoning those features, EA actually seems to have looked at the criticisms, re-examined those mechanics at fundamental levels, and improved them such that they all are both better-playing game mechanics, and also more closely model the sport of football. Further, the new motivations and tags feature managed to add a tiny degree of humanity to the player rosters, making the players feel slightly more like actual people with their own wants and desires, and less like simple commodities to be bought, sold, and traded by the old, rich, white men who run the NFL.

It seemed like EA and Tiburon were finally putting a degree of thought and effort into the game.

I eventually started to come around to kinda sorta liking Madden 23.

So if Madden 23 ended up being moderately successful at iterating on older ideas and actually making them work better, without really introducing a whole lot that was genuinely new, then I was open to the idea of Madden 24 potentially doing the same thing. If there's not very much new, but the stuff that is old just works better, then I might actually be willing to give Madden 24 a fairly positive review. And this seems to be the approach that EA and Tiburon took with Madden 24 ... except that it doesn't work better.

A patch for last year's game?

Almost everything new to Madden 24's gameplay takes the form of subtle, barely-noticeable upgrades to the "Fieldsense" and tackle physics mechanics introduced in last year's game. In Franchise, there are a few tweaks to free agency and trade mechanics, and coaching skill trees have been expanded. That's pretty much it!

This is little more than a $70 patch for Madden 23.

And ... OK ... that could be fine. I've long asked for EA and Tiburon to take a few years to rebuild Madden's fundamentals, instead of shoe-horning in new features that further complicate the mechanics and code base. If that results in a much better football game at fundamental levels, then it would be worth it. But this isn't better fundamental football. It's incremental, barely-noticeable upgrades over last year's game.

Supposedly, blockers are supposed to be smarter at picking who to block. Defenders are supposed to be able break on short routes, and supposedly can't make blind interceptions anymore. There's supposed to be new fumble recovery animations. The biggest supposed change is that defenses are supposed to be able to adjust better to the user's play-calling. But I just don't see much -- if any -- difference in any of these areas.

It's the same wonky physics that can be completely canceled if the game choses an incompatible animation, or which allows the ball to magnetically attach to players' hands.

It's the same play-calling logic that is overly-reliant on passing the ball 20+ yards down the field.

It's the same blocking and defensive logic that can be easily exploited with money plays or hot routes, and which never learns or adjusts to what the user is doing.

CPU QBs still run around and take massive sacks.

It's the same cheating, rubber-band A.I. that inflates scores and stats, and which isn't properly balanced for full-length, 15-minute quarters.

It's the same idiotic team-building logic that causes CPU-controlled teams to release their MVP franchise QB and then use up even more cap space to sign 5 over-paid, mediocre replacements.

It's full of the same stupid shit like quarterbacks dropping deeper into the pocket and taking 15 yard sacks against blitzes, defenses being completely incapable of defending inside-breaking routes, linemen being unable to block outside running plays, and all the same stuff that has been frustrating gamers for years.

And every one of those things listed above is something that was supposed to have been improved in this year's game. But I don't notice much -- if any -- difference.

Oh, and CPU teams still can't properly manage progressive fatigue! If you leave the feature on, then by week 16, 17, or 18, and for the entire playoffs and SuperBowl, CPU running backs will be too fatigued to play in any games. This feature has been in the game for -- what? -- 3 years now, and CPU teams still can't figure out to rest their starters in practice late in the season to preserve their fatigue?! How is this still a problem?!

In fact, about the only things that I notice that seem different about the on-field action is that there are now referees on the field again. And hey! One of the refs in each game is even a woman! So there's finally some tiny amount of gender representation in Madden. And the other change that I've noticed is that players like to push and shove each other around a lot more after plays, but the new refs never bother throwing flags for personal fouls.

Referees are back on the field, and there's even a few variations of women referees.

Oh, and I guess running quarterbacks are better at holding onto the football. So I'm a lot more secure in running designed QB runs, options, and bootleg scrambles with the likes of Lamar Jackson or Justin Fields. So that's something, I guess...

Coaching culture

To be fair to Madden 24, the expanded coaching skill trees are actually a decent upgrade. I complained last year that the skill trees were shallow and didn't differentiate or specialize the coaches. Perhaps somebody at Tiburon read my review and took that complaint to heart because coaches in Madden 24 now have 3 skill trees, and those trees (and their associated abilities) are dependent on the coach's preferred offensive or defensive schemes. Different coaches actually do feel a little bit different from one another, and actually do have different effects on the team's play style and abilities. Wanting to change schemes might actually make it worthwhile to fire a coordinator and replace him with a coordinator that runs your new scheme.

Coaches have deeper and more specialized skill trees.

I still wish that Madden would follow Axis Football's lead and add position coaches, a team doctor, training staffs, and so forth, each with their own financial costs and perks. That would allow teams to promote from within the organization, and gives owners more things to spend money on. And if those coaches could have their own sets of motivations, tags, and goals (like what the players have), then that would add another tiny dose of humanity to the game. But sadly, that hasn't happened yet. There's still just a head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators, and a nebulous "Personnel" skill tree that can't be hired or fired.

I'm also still disappointed that the college scouts are so disposable. You don't actually spend money to hire them, nor is their any cost or drawback to firing a scout. So you never have to be clever about how you use your scouts. You just look at what positions you want to draft, and pick the combination of scouts that gives you the most information about those positions. It's just more mindless busy-work at the beginning of every season.

So again, Axis Football still has Madden beat in this one, specific department.

More Franchise options?

Other than that, every other update to Franchise feels kind of ... superficial.

We can add more players or draft picks to trade proposals. OK cool, whatever. But we still can't actually negotiate with the other team, nor is there anyway to get a better feel for what they're willing to accept without actually submitting the offer. Nor can we trade for conditional draft picks, offer guaranteed money to players, or offer them performance incentives.

Also, you can still exploit the CPU trade A.I. by trading away all the players you're going to cut at the end of preseason and getting a stockpile of free 6th or 7th-round picks. You can then use those extra picks as capital later in the season if you ever want to trade for something more valuable. And now that there's more slots in trades, this is even more exploitable than ever! Honestly, the CPU should not even be willing to trade for players in the final 2 weeks of preseason unless that player is going to be a starter. They should know to just wait and pick up anybody they want or need from the free agent pool.

And speaking of trades, the trade deadline still comes and goes with absolutely no fanfare at all. There should definitely be a prompt on the Franchise hub to remind the user that the trade deadline is coming up.

Players don't get impatient if you pass over them for contract negotiations,
so what's the point of lifting the old restrictions on when players can be re-signed?

Instead of some players having their re-sign options become available as the season progresses, every player in the final year of their contract can re-sign at any time during the year. This gives more flexibility to users, and lets you prioritize the better players first. But it also makes the whole thing feel even more shallow and mindless than it was before. It wasn't like players would get tired of waiting and have their morale drop, or become a locker room distraction, or demand a trade if you keep passing them over for contract negotiations. You could just wait till later in the season to re-sign everybody. So this is practically identical to last year and makes absolutely no difference to me whatsoever. I honestly don't understand why this needed to change, or why anybody should care.

Similarly, you can now chose to relocate your team at any time during the season, which now happens instantaneously. There's a few more exotic options for cities to choose from, such as Honolulu, Anchorage, or international cities such as Paris, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires. But other than that, everything is the same. You're still limited in your choices for stadiums, logos, and uniforms. So again, I don't see this as being different at all.

EA advertised a new suite of commissioner tools, but none of them are particularly valuable to me. I'm sure some multiplayer leagues will use them. I might play around with the trade and free agency difficulty options, and maybe the progression and regression sliders.

The Packers signed a veteran QB who is only 2 points better than Jordan Love.

As commissioner, we still can't force ties for CPU matches in Franchise, nor can we specify if we want a win to be a close game or a blowout. Commissioners still can't adjust CPU depth charts either. This means the user cannot force CPU teams to sub deeper into their roster late in preseason games, and it also means that when the CPU Packers sign 72-overall Teddy Bridgewater to play ahead of 70-overall Jordan Love, I can't do anything about it other than to edit the players' ratings to make Love the better player.

Weren't player tags supposed to fix this sort of nonsense?! Jordan Love has the "QB of the Future" tag on him. Why are they signing a veteran to play ahead of him, if that veteran is only a tiny, marginal improvement? Hell, Teddy Bridgewater doesn't even have the "Mentor" tag, which would be the only thing that would make this decision make sense to me. Instead, Bridgewater has the "Bridge QB" tag, which (because Bridgewater is the starter) overrides Love's "QB of the Future" tag, and causes the Packers to draft a new quarterback anyway. Not only is Madden ignoring its player tags, but the player tags are actively fighting against one another!

Commissioners can't force injuries, or alter the frequency of injuries per position.

As for other opportunities to give commissioners more control: I wish we had more control over injuries. For one thing, the Injured Reserve still doesn't work correctly or match up with current NFL rules. There's still far too many injuries to offensive and defensive linemen, and not enough injuries to other position groups. And the commissioner can't modify injury frequency or severity for each position group, nor edit the injury status of individual players. The best I can do is modify players' injury ratings and then hope that RNJesus does the rest. But for some reason, this game refuses to let quarterbacks get hurt, so even with an injury rating of 1, Aaron Rodgers still finished the entire season with the Jets, and is still in the running for MVP, even though I forced the Jets to have a 4-win season.

And when you're on the field, there are still too many injury cutscenes that show the player leaving the field to the locker room tunnel, even if it's just a minor cramp and he'll come back 5 plays later. The game has other animations for the player getting stretched out on the sideline, but it rarely uses them. Instead, it insists on showing us linemen jogging to the locker room 10 times per game, only to come back on the next possession.

Cutscenes of players rehabing a minor injury on the sideline occur maybe once every 10 matches,
but the cutscene of jogging into the locker room happens about 10 times every match!

Since there really isn't a whole lot new to talk about (either positive or negative), I do also want to mention something that's been bothering me for a few years, which I haven't talked about before. That is, the inability of users to spectate CPU-vs-CPU matches in Franchise mode. I get why Tiburon might not want to let users play CPU games (even though we used to be able to do that in older Madden games), but we should at least be able to spectate them. We can spectate our own games using the SuperSim feature, so the technology is there to let users spectate entire CPU games.

I wouldn't mind being able to watch my upcoming opponents' match to see what their play-calling looks like and how their players perform. But no, other teams' games aren't important enough to let the user watch. Oh, and what if you got eliminated from the playoffs and want to spectate the SuperBowl? You know, the most important game of the entire football year? Well too bad. The SuperBowl isn't important enough to let the user watch either. If I wanna watch the Madden SuperBowl, I guess I'll have to play in it.

As Commissioner, I have frustratingly little control over how the season unfolds!

Nostalgic mini-games

So is there anything actually new in Madden 24? Well, depending on how you define "new", then yes, there is one major new feature. Training Camp mini-games have finally returned. In fact, some of the mini-games are pulled verbatim out of Madden 2006, and the mini-game menu specifically refers to being nostalgic about the old feature. However, as is the case with so many Madden releases, this new feature is good on paper, but the actual execution is idiotic.

Training Camp mini-game are back, seemingly for no other reason than nostalgia.

In order to explain this, I have to talk about how these training camp mini-games worked back in the days of Madden 2006. Each mini-game could be played at any difficulty level, and the harder difficulty levels earned more ability points for the player. If you played a mini-game at a low difficulty level, and earned a medal, you could challenge a more difficult level to get more ability points. But if you fail, you'll lose some or all of the ability points that you gained from completing the lower level. There was a risk and reward element based on the user's skill level, and the ratings of the actual player being used for the drill.

If you weren't very good at a particular drill, then maybe you stick to "Rookie" or "Veteran" difficulty levels, take your bronze or silver medal, and walk away with a couple ability points. Alternatively, if you actually are pretty good at the drill, but the player you are trying to upgrade has poor stats and fails too many dice rolls, then you might also want to stick to the easier difficulty levels and accept a bronze or silver medal, rather than pushing for gold on the "All-Madden" level.

Furthermore, the drills in Madden 2006 could only be played once! You couldn't pause and restart the drill if you fail a rep. Quitting the drill would forfeit it and sacrifice any chance at earning ability points.

It was a good system that tested user skill, while still staying true to the player's individual ratings, and offered a strategic, risk-reward decision.

There is no risk/reward element in the new mini-games.

Fast forward almost 20 years to Madden 24, and none of these elements of risk/reward are present. You can pause the game and restart the drill at any time if you fail a single rep or see that you aren't on track to earn a gold medal. You can even retry the drill after it is over with no penalty. If you want to grind retries until you get a gold medal and maximum experience points, you can. They game doesn't do anything to prevent or discourage this, other than wasting the user's time.

You also can't play the mini-games on different difficulty settings, so there is no risk/reward element of challenging harder difficulties to earn more experience. There are harder versions of some drills. For example, a passing drill might have a harder version in which there are more DBs on the field to make the holes in coverage smaller. But even if you want to challenge the harder versions of the mini-game, they don't grant any additional experience. So why would you bother playing the harder mini-game and risk getting less experience, when you can simply play the easier version of the same mini-game for the same reward? It's such bad game design!

Between the triviality of grinding maximum experience from these drills, and the loosey-goosey rules for re-signing players during the season, it seems like the only consistent design philosophy of Madden 24 is its aversion to asking the user to make meaningful or difficult decisions.

Also, some of the more popular drills from the older games are gone. The DB Swat drill and QB Pocket Presence drills are both absent. The DB Swat mini-game has been replaced with other DB mini-games that feel like even more of a crap shoot.

There are bugs and design flaws with
running drills with focus players in Weekly Training.

Worse still, even though the Training Camp mini-games are the one new thing that was added to Franchise, EA couldn't even be bothered to make it work correctly! Playing a mini-game drill during the Weekly Training in Franchise Mode will reset your chosen gameplan specializations. If you don't go back through the entire Weekly Training process flow after doing all your training camp drills, you won't get the gameplanning ratings buffs that you wanted, nor will you have access to the correct plays in the "Gameplan" section of the play-call menu during a match.

And, of course, there are no mini-game drills for offensive linemen. I get that there aren't a whole lot of mechanics for playing as offensive linemen, but there's still possibilities for offensive linemen to have drills, even if they are less skill-based and more knowledge-based. They could have reverted to something akin to the Hat Count or ID the Mike Skill Trainer drills, where the goal is to simply read the defense and gain yards or 1st Downs. Or just play the running back drill with actual linemen (instead of dummies), more defenders, and score points based on how many yards the running back gains. Or just go with the simple bench press or cone drill mini-games, which Tiburon actually did bring back for Superstar Mode's Draft Combine, but which aren't available in Franchise at all. There were options, and Tiburon just didn't bother.

If I choose an offensive lineman as one of my focus players, then it's unclear to me whether I'm actually giving up potential experience. I'm not sure if the lineman will get "simulated" drill experience, or if he only gets the base focus experience. So unless I have the extra focus player slots unlocked on my coach's skill tree, trying to focus on offensive linemen will (as far as I can tell) forfeit total XP gain. To make up for this, I could increase the global experience gain of offensive linemen in the Franchise slider settings. But of course, this will give every offensive lineman more experience, not just the ones being focused in weekly training.

Offensive linemen cannot play Training Camp drills, even though there are potential mini-games they could do.

Paying $70 again to play more Madden 23?

So yeah, basically EA is charging us $70 again for the privilege of playing more Madden 23, but with mini-games. Oh, and I guess they changed the name of the Face Of The Franchise mode and are calling it "Superstar Mode" again (for no other reason than to appeal to nostalgia). Whatever. I'm here for Franchise mode and have little-to-no interest in Face Of The Franchise or Superstar.

Curiously, EA also removed The Yard, and replaced it with yet another multiplayer mini-game. This is a bit of a shame because I actually kind of liked The Yard. I probably would have played more of it if I had friends to play against (instead of internet randos or the CPU). The fact that I still don't have friends to play this game with means I'm even less inclined to play this new 3v3 online game mode. These silly arcade modes should just be a stand-alone, free-to-play game. I hate that I only want to play Franchise, yet this crap still has to be installed on my system and take up so much damned hard disk space with all these stupid assets! (like all the stadiums and glow-in-the-dark neon uniforms)

Other than that, most of my praise and criticism of Madden 23 still applies to Madden 24. I'm still frustrated by how the No Huddle takes away any chance the defense has at choosing a play or making pre-play adjustments. Weather still has little-to-no effect on matches. I hate how booth reviews are spoiled by the play-call screen popping up before the referee has announced the result of the review. I still have connection problems with EA's servers that boot me out of my single-player Franchise. And, of course, the game still features Ultimate Team and is still selling un-regulated gambling to minors.

All these stupid assets for game modes that I don't play just eat up space on my PS5's hard drive.

At the very least, I'm not seeing nearly as many frustrating bugs and glitches this year. So Madden 24 seems to be a lot more polished compared to the release of Madden 23. But then again, I waited a week and bought the game used off eBay (as I do every year, in order to avoid giving EA my money). And even then, I didn't get around to playing it until more than a week later. So I missed any of the launch day bugs that might have been patched within those first few weeks.

Maybe the changes to this year's game will just take a while for me to start noticing? Maybe in a few months, I'll realize that I'm still playing, that I'm actually having a little bit of fun, and I'll start to come around to Madden 24, the way I did with Madden 23. If I do start to change my mind about Madden 24, I'll be sure to post about it. In the meantime, I would recommend sticking with Madden 23, unless you really want that new Superstar Mode. In which case, you'll have to find a different review, because Superstar just isn't my thing.

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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 Twilight Zone VRThe Twilight Zone VRThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansions
The Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThis War of MineThis War of Mine
This War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little OnesTomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)
Total War: AttilaTotal War: AttilaTotal War: Rome IITotal War: Rome II
Total War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai
TrineTrineTropico 5Tropico 5
U-BoatU-BoatUltimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil War
Uncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUntil DawnUntil Dawn
VirginiaVirginiaVisageVisage
What Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch 

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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.

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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...

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Does an indie football game actually have a better Franchise mode than Madden?Does an indie football game actually have a better Franchise mode than Madden?10/31/2019 Well, the football video game price wars have apparently begun. Unfortunately, however, the prices are not shifting in the direction I'd like. Instead of EA being forced by competition to drop the price of Madden to something reasonable, like $30 (as they had to do in 2004 to compete with ESPN NFL 2k5's budget price of $20),...

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