Madden NFL 24 Review
Last year, for the first time in forever, I took the year off from Madden. Sure, there were some big changes in my life but I was just so tired of the same old Madden yearly release cycle. I hit a wall. I didn’t have it in me to grind out another year on the virtual gridiron. After the year hiatus, it’s nice to be back. The break did me some good as I am enjoying Madden NFL 24 so far. I will say; however, if you have come to this review looking for insights from a hardcore yearly Madden player, you’ve come to the wrong place. My “hardcore” Madden days are long behind me. But if you want the perspective of someone who has been a lifelong fan of the franchise but skipped last year, you’ve come to the right place.
While I am enjoying my return to the Madden-verse, I have to admit, I expected a little more. Most of the modes from the past few years are here and they play out largely the same. Franchise, MUT, and Superstar are all back. It’s clear EA Sports is all about yearly incremental changes. That is fine, I have come to terms with it and recognize EA Sports isn’t ready to alienate their fan base any time soon with sweeping changes. They have a good thing going, sell a metric f*ck ton of copies and its popularity continues to rise. Yet still, it does feel a bit bare-bones.
If It Ain’t Broke…
I will say the Franchise mode does feel complete, Madden Ultimate Team is as addictive as ever and I am shockingly loving Superstar mode. I say shockingly because I just haven’t been a fan of EA Sports’ previous attempts at creating a Madden single-player story experience. As for the gameplay, it’s smooth and refined. Yet there just isn’t much “new” here. No new modes, it visually looks identical to previous Madden games, and I am just not seeing a lot of innovation this time around. In previous years, development teams took bold new chances. Some paid off, some did not. It doesn’t feel like the team took any chances with this installment in the franchise. It just feels safe.
Despite the approach this year, games are entertaining and intense. Passing has hit that sweet spot and the running game certainly appears balanced. There are new passing mechanics as there seems to be every year, but if you prefer classic controls, Madden 24 has you covered. Receivers react as they should (for the most part) and I didn’t see a lot of repeat animations. The offensive line seems to be picking up those nano blitzes better than ever. Exploits seem minimal… so far.
On the other side of the ball, tackling feels good, and collisions don’t always look the same. The lack of repetitive animations is noticeable and this is apparently due to EA Sports FieldSENSE technology. It’s all about creating more realism with tackling animations that respond to the size and strength of players. It’s EA Sports’ attempt at making every collision a unique experience and for the most part, they pulled it off. Every game featured some kind of new tackling animation. Not to mention, intercepting balls remains as challenging as ever and the corners close the gap quickly. Post routes are especially challenging to pull off this year. The defensive line doesn’t get the same kind of penetration as they have in previous games unless you are Aaron Donald, but that is okay. I despise playing games that feature 10 plus QB sacks. It’s authentically Madden and players will feel right at home.
Put Me in Coach
In previous years, I spent nearly all my time in Ultimate Team and Franchise mode. This year has seen a shift. I am really digging Superstar mode. Granted, there isn’t much in the way of innovation. Once again, you step into the shoes of an up-and-coming football player aspiring for greatness in the NFL. The narrative is familiar and predictable. Yet you spend more time on the field playing and developing your player. I play Madden to play football, not watch cheesy cut scenes between an agent and GM. The weekly drills and other extras that allow you to build XP, credibility, and skill points do start to feel like a chore after a while. Yet the gameplay and progressions system is spot on.
Madden’s money-making mode Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) returns and once again, it doesn’t look like a lot of changes were made. Not to mention the menus and UI are laggy. While the games themselves are fine, the MUT menu feels clunky and slow to respond. I am not sure what is going on but EA Sports needs to patch that quickly. It’s a rather large annoyance. Otherwise, MUT remains a grind-a-thon and there are plenty of opportunities to dump a boatload of cash into this mode. As with MUT every year, it grows as the season progresses and what feels like an empty mode right now, will quickly become packed with challenges and events.
Finally, Franchise mode feels complete at launch. That was one of my main gripes 2 or 3 years ago. It was simply unfinished. This isn’t the case this year. There is a lot of depth to the mode and the dev team has done a great job capturing all the intricacies of managing an NFL team over multiple seasons. If you just want to skip everything and play the games, you can do that. For those who enjoy scouting, drafting, and contract negotiations, Franchise has you covered. If you want to join a Franchise league with friends and draft teams, you can absolutely do that too. Overall, I have no real complaints with Franchise and am pretty happy with what we get here.
While the visuals seem very familiar, EA Sports has introduced “EA SPORTS SAPIEN technology” where player models boast enhanced animations, smoother movements, and a more lifelike physique. Maybe if I played last year’s Madden I might be able to tell. Otherwise, it looks like the same game to me. Sure, it feels great and I don’t have any real concerns with the animations, but from the naked eye, it sure doesn’t look like much has changed in the visuals department. This suggests to me the team at EA has perhaps maxed out the hardware capabilities of the Xbox Series X.
The soundtrack is disappointing. I get it, a large portion of the Madden community loves hip-hop. In previous years we would get hip-hop songs, but we would also get alternative rock songs, some country, some pop songs, etc. There was at least some variety. This soundtrack leans towards a limited range of mainstream tracks, an overabundance of rap tunes, and just a lack of variety. Maybe it will grow on me but right now, this soundtrack is flat-out underwhelming.
Madden NFL 24 continues EA Sports’ legacy of making smaller more incremental yearly changes to its beloved franchise. While there doesn’t seem much in the way of “new” this time around and Ultimate Team suffers from some awful UI performance issues, the gameplay is silky smooth and all the fan-favorite modes return with notable improvements. If you’ve been away from the franchise for a few years, you’ll like what you see here, but for those hardcore folks who eat and breathe a steady diet of Madden, is this really that much better than NFL 23?
***An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher***
- Silky smooth gameplay
- Superstar mode is addictive
- Animations don’t repeat much
- Franchise mode is complete
- Soundtrack stinks
- Lack of innovation
- Madden plays it safe
- MUT UI glitchy