Welcome to Madden 21: The Yard. This new mode is Madden’s latest effort at creating a football experience that is more inviting and entertaining for players of all skill levels. Dust off your cleats and let’s check out what’s happening in The Yard.
Avatar and Gear
First up is creating your avatar. You can customize your face, have different haircuts and beard styles. Your body type can be gut over the belt, or monster arms, or huge legs. Basically you can make any type of player you want.
All different kinds of visors, cleats, sleeves, and mouthguards are available. You can even wear your jersey tucked like Zeke at Ohio State. The only glaring omission is tattoos. EA will be adding more equipment throughout the year.
Position and Prototype
Each game you will decide where you line up on the field. Your strategy and prototype choice makes a difference. It doesn’t dictate how you play but where you play. You can line up at QB, WR to the right, left, or even the center snapping the ball (who still can go out for a pass). For example, you can choose to play the QB position but choosing a WR or RB prototype would change your strategy since you wouldn’t be able to pass as well and your scrambling ability would be enhanced. You can equip a WR prototype and then double pass behind the line of scrimmage to a QB prototype who can throw the ball.
Prototypes are about how you play the game. They’re based on NFL stars which determine your play style on the field boosting your stats and granting your avatar unique abilities. You don’t see the ratings of these prototypes. They are based on the various superstar abilities you choose (and unlock) and skills (speed, catch tackle, etc) you have leveled up for that prototype choice.
There are different prototypes for QB, WR, and RB they coincide with the archetypes in Madden and come with baked-in X-Factors. So for QB, you have Truzz (scrambling QB), as well as prototypes for Pocket Passers or Power Run QBs. For example, Truzz comes with the First One Free X-factor ability. The prototype selection you choose comes along with modifiers as well. Choosing Truzz gives you boosts to throwing power and carry. Also, it sets your height and weight, which for Truzz is 6’2 215 lbs. So regardless of your avatar size, that’s what you will be your on-field size once you load into The Yard.
The more you play with these prototypes the more you level up the skills for them. The more challenges you complete in and out of The Yard the more superstar abilities you unlock to use in your prototype selections.
Your Team and Squads
Build Your Team
After you select your position and prototype it’s time to build your team. There are two ways to do that in Madden 21 The Yard.
Auto Assigned: You are matched up with players that are picked by the CPU. It’s for people who want to jump right into the action and no go through the team selection process.
Draft: You draft your own team of NFL legends. Each player in a 2v2 or 3v3 has a chance to select a computer-controlled “partner” to bring into the game with them. They will only be able to control their player or the partner they selected in the game. You get a choice of 4 or 5 different players from various skill positions to select from. You don’t see ratings for these players but what level they are dictates how well they will play on the field.
It’s best to choose a level 11 linebacker over a level 7 WR even for playing WR since all players will play both ways offense and defense. In most cases you want to go with the higher level player. Under the hood defensive players have rating adjustments so they are able to play on offense and vice versa for offensive players who play defense.
Challenges & Progression
Madden 21 The Yard Underground
Final Thoughts on Madden 21 The Yard
Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan as it just felt like a mess of ideas and guys were playing around with crazy plays and colors. But the more I played it and better understood the gameplay I started to enjoy it.
Defense is tough to play, it’s designed to be offense-oriented. You can pick the ball off but it’s definitely more skewed to the offensive receiver to come down with contested catches.
The Yard has its own game style. Which I found to be somewhere between arcade and competitive. It’s meant to be fun but there is differently some user skill in how you put together your team but also how you understand how to use the player’s abilities, crazy plays, and laterals. There are unique rules and penalties to the mode. Delay of Game, Pass Interference, and Illegal Contact and all are completely user-driven and none of them can be committed by the AI or a dice roll.
I liked the additional animations added where players will put the ball behind their backs on moves. Make no-look one-hand catches. I also liked that after touchdowns you can go for 1, 2 or 3 points (from increasingly further away) which adds a ton of strategy to the game.
For the target demographic, I believe the yard will bring in new players to the game and be a major success with young madden fans. It’s fast, fun, and entertaining but I’m not sure if there is enough here for the hardcore player.