The release of Madden 21 on next-gen kind of came and went without much fanfare. Now with another year to improve and innovate does Madden 22 give gamers a true next-gen experience along with the solid balance of simulation and arcade football that EA’s seeking? Or is it just another three and out?
Being the second installment of Madden on the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X|S, there aren’t any huge leaps in the on-the-field graphics this time around. The biggest changes come with long-awaited face scans and hair style upgrades to various players.
As far as presentation goes, Next-Gen Stats make their presence more known early and often this time around in multiple aspects. Black and neon green is the name of the game everywhere you look in Madden 22’s menus and broadcast package.
Now, I will say I am a huge fan of the upgrade they’ve made to the pre-game presentation that now focuses more on the quarterback battle between the two teams — even if one of them happens to be Drew Lock — instead of highlighting every starter on each team. And the Next-Gen Stats integration is well utilized, and gives us a preview of the jump in stats Madden 22 has made.
With gameplay, let’s start with player movement as that will continue to be a huge topic with people. It’s tough to get used to not being able to zip around and change directions on a dime as your mind wants to do a lot of things quicker than the player you’re controlling is able to pull off. But what can I say, I love the payoff of being able to accelerate at just the right time and watch my player break free from a defender. That’s when you truly notice the speed demons on the field from the average joes.
The difficulty in not everybody being a prime LeSean McCoy with their change of direction, along with the limited range users have to make plays on balls, can ultimately be frustrating. But you’re definitely still rewarded for taking proper angles on balls to make plays.
Now let’s talk about the passing game. If you like to stop the pass or like defense in general, as the game currently stands, you’re going to have a tough time. Although a patch should hopefully be deployed fairly soon after the official launch, sadly where the game stands now is being one of the most offensively slanted titles in some time.
The canned two-man animations between receiver and cornerback do seem to be toned down which is good. I also feel like I have more control over my receiver instead of the game basically moving me out the way to get picked off. But that’s about one of the few things that makes sense here.
Playing man defense, I noticed more so than zone how limited the user, and especially the computer, is with the next-gen movements trying to defend receivers in space, as they seem to get stuck in quicksand with no urgency to get themselves out. In and Out routes seem to get open whenever you want them to, unless they throw it really late and you don’t sell out in your adjustments to stop it.
Two Man Under and Cover 1 against streaks are both automatic big plays or touchdowns if your opponent has a smidge of speed on the outside because safeties are so laughably bad — I’ll get to more on this in a second — that they act as if they forgot what assignment they had and start to freestyle towards the middle of the field. So because of the huge issues with man, I can see many favoring zone defense until they at least fix the terrible safety play whenever they have a deep blue assignment.
Now playing zone… (sigh) Playing zone hasn’t been great either — maybe it’s engage eight’s time to shine!
I’m going to point out immediately that Cover 2 currently is straight broken as the safety play is even worse than man, but I don’t see something this core to football being broken for too long.
Also guys play the flats like it’s Madden 10 all over again, meaning not at all, and defenders don’t make any adjustments to receivers coming into their zone and just leave them wide open constantly.
[penci_blockquote style=”style-1″ align=”left” author=””][The] running game feels smooth, and you feel like you earn every yard you get.[/penci_blockquote]
As for the pressure you receive in the pocket, unless the pass rusher utilizes a special move and succeeds instantly, which is nice that they do now, or a miscommunication along the offensive line happens, I felt the amount of time I had in the pocket was a huge concern. As more often than not rushers would just get themselves blocked and be ok with it. I could sit back in the pocket forever having a good ol’ time until I found somebody I wanted to bless with my pass
Adding to the laundry list of issues, the new play art is a huge distraction. I see what they were going for with this, but it’s too much and makes everything harder to read quickly.
Moving on to the running game, it feels smooth and you feel like you earn every yard you get. If you see a hole it won’t be there for long, and I love seeing all the new animations with the improved tackling. I feel a great deal of them make sense when you take into account where the defender and ball carrier were at the point of contact
Yea there’s still obvious missed block assignments on zone runs letting linebackers get in the backfield, but that’s to be expected. That said, defenders are way more responsive recognizing runs, staying off of blocks and again finishing tackles where it doesn’t seem overpowered either way.
I will say though, the most concerning thing is AI defenders seem to struggle terribly against running quarterbacks. They don’t recognize they’re running until they’re well past the line of scrimmage, giving up huge runs consistently.
Playing against the computer, I’ve noticed a difference as well with how the computer quarterbacks. They’re more aggressive than before, especially playing against a Pat Mahomes or Tom Brady, as you’ll get a healthy diet of deep passes early and often. There does seem to be accuracy issues with non-accurate quarterbacks playing the computer more so than against a human, notably if they try and throw something they shouldn’t under pressure or on the run which I can appreciate.
With gameday momentum, I’ll admit, when I first heard about the meters and M-Factors in Madden 22, I thought it was the lamest thing ever. It just felt too “arcadey” to me. But after playing numerous games online and benefiting — and not benefiting — from these different perks in each stadium, I was surprised how much I love them. The most important part was they didn’t feel too overpowered. It reminds me of the good ol’ days of NCAA 14. Sure some teams have better ones than others, but I love the addition of it. Playing in online leagues and online with this is going to be a lot of fun all year long.
Before Madden 21, the fan base pretty much forced EA’s hand to give Franchise Mode some T.L.C, and this is its first full showing of the fruits of their labor. While I’m not a huge fan of the user interface this time around as it’s clunky, the layout of it isn’t as smooth, and I’m still second guessing myself where things are, there’s plenty to love about the improved mode.
They finally expanded the coaching staff again beyond just the head coach to now feature an offensive and defensive coordinator along with a player personnel department. You can develop these coaches by way of Talent Trees that give you boosts to the team that employs that coach. It’s a nice way to give a wide range of coaches a different feel from one another.
Another big addition is the weekly strategy hub, which is a more of a week-to-week specific gameplan system to give your players XP. This was a welcomed change from the old way of getting gold in a drill once, and you were set for the year.
The best part of it is the next-gen stat tracking the game gives you to view through this screen. Being able to view a player’s passing chart broken down by short, medium, and deep passing numbers in a video game is wild to me and I’m glad this is possible. Also, the play calling report that breaks things down into down and distances and what they prefer calling is a major highlight.
Yet sadly the most exciting new Franchise feature — scouting — isn’t ready at launch but a live update is scheduled for some time in September, and I’m definitely looking forward to when it goes live.
Madden 22 seems to think it’s the late 90’s again
Now let’s talk about more stats, and what happens when you simulate seasons offline. I’ll just start by saying the fact that players are given an additional game makes the numbers that quarterbacks are putting up even more disappointing.
There were 12 quarterbacks who reached 4,000 last year with 5-6 hovering around 3,800. Yet, in Madden 22, the top guy would barely reach 4,000. And, again, this is with one extra game. I don’t understand this. The biggest reason for this is that quarterbacks’ yards per attempt are amazingly low across the board, which leads to receivers averaging 10-12 yards per catch. The good thing is it doesn’t appear to affect sacks or interceptions by defenders.
But what’s funny is Madden 22 seems to think it’s the late 90’s again, and the bell cow running back is still going strong considering the amount of carries and yards these guys are putting up constantly.
As Franchise Mode currently stands, implementing next gen stats into the day-to-day grind is genius, and the mode as a whole has received a new coat of paint, rearranged everything, and added small things here and there that fans of the mode will love. But until the scouting is live it’s tough to fully gauge the mode as a whole, but I like the upgrades they have made and it wasn’t just lip service that they heard us and wanted to do something about it.
Face of the Franchise is back and an improvement over last year’s installment. Cut scenes are less cringy somehow so they deserve kudos for that. Road To the Draft is an excellent addition to the mode, taking us through the process of what it’s like to be a prospect on such a high level, and what his journey would look like on the road to being drafted.
The Rich Eisen Show and the other podcast that would play after a game or cut scene were great and I just wished they were in the actual Franchise mode.
One thing that annoyed me though, was I was drafted as a QB to the New York Jets who, as you know, just drafted one. That didn’t make sense to me at all.
With The Yard, players have a new challenge-based solo campaign that gives you something extra to do, and the integration between Face of the Franchise and The Yard is clutch for players of these two modes.
Lastly, Superstar KO is largely unchanged, but they now have the ability to play with NFL Teams and their playbooks for a 3 vs. 3 or 2 vs. 2 game.
Madden 22 Review Verdict
Despite Madden in recent years not being thought of very highly, a new console generation rose expectations even higher for the latest release of the franchise. And with Madden 22, it makes enough improvements to the presentation and the continued addition of Next Gen Stats to keep the game fresh for longer. And an improved franchise mode will keep a bunch of gamers happy that have felt neglected for so long.
Now if the glaring issues with coverage are fixed quickly, this is a fine 2nd installment for Madden 22 and an improvement over last year’s game. But, as it stands currently, the gameplay is holding it back from being the game the turns things around for the series.
Madden 22 Review
From a modes standpoint, Madden 22 does a lot of great things. Unfortunately, the gameplay keeps the game as mediocre as it comes.