Madden NFL 23 tries, I’ll give it that. EA Sports definitely wanted to show its community that it took a lot of the concerns from the past few years, both on and off the field, and make improvements in a number of areas. And after the response to Madden 22, they had to.
That game felt like a step back in both modes and gameplay. This year feels like a move to make amends with a community that feels unheard and abandoned in a lot of ways, but is it enough to actually turn the tides for the franchise around?
Madden NFL 23 Review
The big new feature for gameplay in Madden 23 is the branded “Field Sense” system that brings a number of changes on the field…for current-gen console players, at least. If you are on PC or last gen, you’ll still have the same gameplay you’ve had for years.
The ability to “hit everything” and see different animations play out no matter where the ball handler and defenders are, is amazing to witness. Seeing different ways ball carriers fall to the ground depending on where the second defender comes from truly shows what current-gen gaming is all about
Like with Target Passing in Madden 18, Madden 23 has introduced another mechanic that attempts to give those willing to try it a different and advantageous way to pass the ball. I’m truly interested in the lasting power of this as it’s fun to experiment and see just how far away from the receiver you can throw a pass, but again I wonder how many people will use this or stay with the classic passing as they may find this too hard to consistently use past the first month of the game’s cycle.
Now, the player movement is really great. The 360 cuts you’re able to perform really opens up the open field game, and I’ve had a blast making hard cuts on a dime with agile players against aggressive defenders. In previous years I’ve found it harder to make these types of moves consistently and get tackled with ease, but holding the left trigger while you cut has definitely opened up more creativity in the open field for the average gamer to make highlight reel plays
In our time with the game, I do have to give a shoutout to the ball physics. It removes some of the ridiculous in-traffic catches that the ball would wrap through defenders, but also creates incredible catches or interceptions because of the ball getting dislodged in traffic.
Welcome To The Pass Parade
In the passing game, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. If you aren’t familiar with route combinations and are picking plays at random, you’re going to struggle as the learning curve is a bit high because of the obstacles somebody just beginning to play the game will face. If a defender is barreling down on you, you’re either subjected to being sucked into a sack when you thought you had more time or your quarterback’s accuracy takes a noticeable hit when you throw because of the pressure, as passes will land in random spots sometimes right in the defender’s path to get intercepted, which adds another layer to a potential problem I’ll go over.
The most in-your-face thing about Madden 23 after playing even just one game is how effective the pass rush is at getting to the quarterback. The game completely eliminates users dropping super deep (which is good) because outside rushers will get after the quarterback instantly. Even if you try to emulate what a quarterback would do, the game will not let you sit in the pocket forever and will hold close to the average time to throw a quarterback has in the NFL and less if your offensive line isn’t up to par. Something that I do hope is addressed is how well the defensive line disengages against running quarterbacks, limiting their effectiveness as well.
Now, gamers not used to just how fast real quarterbacks have to, and do, get rid of the ball will have a huge problem with how effective the pass rush is. So, I’m curious if this will get patched in an upcoming update to lessen the furiousness of the pass rush before they drive many of the gamers away who just want to play backyard football with their favorite quarterback.
With the running game, you truly have to get the numbers advantage to have consistent success on the ground.
Man defense is probably going to be the name of the game as it currently stands. Now don’t get me wrong, obvious mismatches will still be exploited, but because of the aggressive of defenders in both man and zone, you’re going to really need to know your angles and when to throw at the right time to consistently succeed against man defense. This also means because of how effective man defense is, you’re going to get pressured a lot and you might find yourself becoming frustrated quickly if you aren’t aware of how to beat man defense right away with the pressure that will surely be coming in your face.
Zone defense isn’t as effective as man defense. That said, the aggression of the defenders, if the ball is in striking distance, will have you think twice if you want to fit that ball into that corner route or throw it into the flats if you see a cornerback lurking. And because of the effective pass rush, zone defense can thrive, but also has more room to be exploited by common zone beaters and such if you get enough time to execute properly.
With the running game, you truly have to get the numbers advantage to have consistent success on the ground. Because the defenders will block shed consistently and meet you behind or at the line constantly if you don’t have the slightest idea where you’re going, the game won’t hand you five-yard gains on any consistent level. I’d rather it’s up to the gamer to find the consistent four-to-five yard run plays than up to the defense to find run defense to avoid getting run over if their defensive structure is already sound. I believe we have found that here so far.
As far as user-controlling defenders, I haven’t had any superman type interceptions where I shouldn’t even have gotten a finger on the ball, you have to know your angles well to make plays on the ball. The game doesn’t have defenders making plays on the ball intended 15-20 yards deeper down the field and even if you’re in the immediate area, if you are not in the path of the ball, you will not make a play on the ball.
Franchise Mode Gets Some Love
When you start up a franchise, the menus are pretty much the same, besides a slightly updated first page.
But besides that, the biggest overhaul to franchise mode that you will feel throughout everything you do off the field is player motivation. This shapes who wants to re-sign with your team, and even deciding if they want to go to your team or not in the brand new free agency hub screen as well. Sometimes they could be all about the money, some players you just aren’t going to get because of where you’re located. It’s an interesting dynamic added to the mix instead of all the best players going to who offers the most money. And I love that a player’s motivations for choosing a team can change over time.
Other new additions like player tag descriptors help fix some of the wonky trades you will find in franchise mode. There are now active negotiations in free agency which limits the amount of offers you’re able to send out to players during the beginning stages of free agency. This aims to keep the top guys from all going to two/three teams and makes you really prioritize who you want to attack first.
And for you, “Capologists” out there, being able to create custom contracts with different preset structures is a dream come true, allowing you to structure your cap in a way where you’re not getting hit all in the same season and rollover your cap space to the next year to time up when your finally going to spend like crazy in free agency is very exciting. There are still some issues with free agency and contracts as it still feels a bit too easy to re-sign everyone and have a team full of All-Pro players quicker than the average rebuild effort.
Now when you simulate stats for the season, they seem to be out of whack slightly. 18 guys in real life had 200 or more carries in the NFL, where in one simulation I counted almost 30 and it’s always been in the high 20s. And I’m not even going to count the crazy amount of 1,000-yard receivers that simulating the season spits out. Multiple teams had three guys break 1,000 yards receiving, and the Buccaneers had four of them once. I truly hope for a day where, based on league trends and such, we can get an amazing simulation engine out of the box.
Lastly, I like how the player tags work hand in hand with the trades you get offered and the player’s team’s draft picks as I haven’t seen anything crazy that directly conflicted with a team’s position so far. Oh, and Madden 23 finally adds a trade finder which is an underrated addition.
Obviously though, the mode isn’t perfect, and there are a few problems still. One of the biggest annoyances, for us anyway, is a lack of improvements to relocation options. Despite being promised to players by developers two years ago, relocation options remain the exact same. From locations to nicknames to jerseys to stadiums, there’s nothing new here. It’s something fans continue to ask for yet remains untouched. Again, it was specifically mentioned as something being improved back in 2020.
Another frustration is the max contracts still being seven years. As NFL contracts continue to get to unheard-of levels, Madden remains behind in the ability to offer massive deals like what Pat Mahomes got from Kansas City. If Madden is going to remain the exclusive sim on the market, it needs to improve contract offering mechanics to allow these ultra-long-term deals to be made.
Ultimate Team is back again as the same microtransaction-filled mode that it’s always been. While there are options to grind out solo without spending money, it’s pushed so much that you feel like you have to spend extra cash just to “enjoy” the mode. Load into any game? Pushes for Ultimate Team. Quit a game and head back to the main menu? How about some MUT packs!
As with everything Ultimate Team – or any collectible card game modes in full-price games – I’d just avoid it and play something else.
A Nice Base For Face of the Franchise
Face of the Franchise returns with a new addition to the position listings, cornerback.
Creating your player results in the same limited customization suite that’s been around for years. It’s the most barebones player creator in any of the major sports titles, and it’s getting quite embarrassing to see the same face selections and other options year over year.
Within the mode, it’s far less in-your-face campy as it has been, which is nice. There are a lot fewer cutscenes this time around. In their place is a system of selecting what you’ll do, making upgrades, and playing games.
Player lock is finally a feature as you’ll just focus on your performances on the field rather than worrying about the whole team. It gives you a sense of connection to the player on the field that hasn’t been there in prior versions.
It’s not as deep as the career modes in NBA 2K, MLB The Show, or even NHL. But it’s better than it has been, that’s for sure. Hopefully, EA Sports uses what’s good here as the foundation for adding new features moving forward, especially with College Football on the horizon and a hopeful link between the two coming.
The overall Madden 23 presentation is, arguably, the most lackluster area of the game. On the positive, player and coach models received a nice upgrade this year and look better than ever. But that’s really where the positives with the presentation end.
Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis return yet again as the commentary team full of the same repeated lines as years past. Sure, there are some new lines in the game, but most are what you’ve heard for years now with the same lack of emotion and feel that we’ve gotten used to when playing. Even the crowd sound lacks the same emotion you’d find in an NFL stadium.
The score bug and in-game overlays are ok, but it would be nice to finally have official broadcast branding within the game.
Madden NFL 23 Review Verdict
The last thing anyone wants to hear from a Madden NFL 23 review is that the game is a “step in the right direction”. Of course, you’re going to see and hear that from so many other reviews because the game does have some noticeable improvements in areas like franchise mode and gameplay. But it’s still not where the game should be in 2022.
Ultimate Team still feels like a scam to me and modes like Superstar KO and The Yard are just there to check a box for casual gamers.
The new passing mechanics are tough to master, and that makes it more fun for sure. And some of the other gameplay changes and mechanics add more of a new feel to it all on the field.
There’s still plenty missing that will certainly stop long-time players from coming back after a bit. But, if you’ve stayed away from the series the last few years, Madden 23 may be the game worth picking up to get you back into it. Because at the end of the day, it’s not a bad game.
Want to talk more about our Madden NFL 23 review with other sports gamers? Join the official SGO Discord server!
Madden NFL 23 Review
Madden NFL 23 is a game that does quite a bit to make on-field play more fun than in years past. And even with its shortcomings, it’s finally starting to turn into the game fans have been hoping for some time.