Madden NFL 23: Specifications
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S.
price: $60 – $70 (varies by platform)
Release date: August 19, 2022
The annual Madden franchise finds itself in a unique situation with Madden NFL 23. John Madden, the legend of American football on and off the field, passed away just before the start of 2022. As such, this year’s game is the first Madden title since his death. EA Sports obviously wanted to pay tribute to the man, and the company did very well. However, the rest of the game seems to meander through the movements.
Madden NFL 23 sure feels like an authentic NFL experience, thanks in large part to the presentation and commentary during each game. However, player control feels mundane, and fits the same “Old Madden” stereotype that plagues the franchise every year. FieldSense’s new technology – Madden 23’s big innovation – is great when it works, but frustrating when it doesn’t. Unfortunately, the latter is often the case.
This year’s Madden edition isn’t bad, as it’s fun completing challenges in Ultimate Team, or leading custom characters to glory in Face Of The Franchise. The problem is that Madden 23 doesn’t have anything to make it stand out from its previous iterations, which puts a limited shelf life on that fun. Read on for the full Madden NFL 23 review.
Madden NFL 23 review: How to play
Veteran Madden players will run Madden NFL 23 and feel like they’re back on a bike for the first time in a year. This sense of familiarity is ultimately a good thing, as it allows players to join in with little effort. New fans of Madden will have a bigger learning curve, especially because of the new AI systems and animations, but the basic controls are easy enough. After a while, compiling the results engine against the CPU won’t be much of a chore.
The main addition to Madden NFL 23 is the aforementioned FieldSense, which is an overhaul of the core gameplay technology under the hood. FieldSense is supposed to add a new layer of realism to the experience, from the way the running back holds the ball, to the interactions between offensive and defensive players. There are brief moments when these aspirations are realized, but a lack of consistency weighs on the entire system.
Bandwidth processing is a perfect microcosm of FieldSense’s shortcomings. At times, the animation is smooth, with multiple defenders backing off the line of melee. Other times, the ball bearer appears to be moving off several objects before falling on its own. The FieldSense system looks great when it works, adding to the authenticity of the simulation. But when FieldSense isn’t working, it tears up any immersion you might have previously felt.
The passing game is more inconsistent, as the new ball shooting features aren’t as revolutionary as they are. Madden NFL 23 allows for “accurate” shooting of the pass, through a combination of completely meaningless button presses. It feels like a system designed for competitive Madden players: hold down the play button, while also pressing the shoulder button, while also pressing the button for the intended receiver, while also directing the pass with an analog stick. (This is really an option). However, for the casual fan, this system leads to more frustration than anything else. Watching the screen display the phrase “perfect accuracy” as the pass sails into the hands of an opposing player feels like a slap in the face.
Madden NFL 23 Review: Game Modes
Madden NFL 23 begins with a stunning tribute to John Madden, in the form of a pseudo-tutorial called the “Madden Legacy” game. Teams are broken down by conferences, NFC, and AFC, and the list is filled with some of Madden’s favorite players of all time (or so the game says). As a tutorial, it gets the job done. But as a tribute, it’s one of the best eulogies a video game has ever made. Madden Legacy isn’t worth the admission price alone, but it did incredibly well.
As for the rest of the game offerings, there are a few different options. You can choose from the “Play Now” display modes; Privilege mode that lets you manage the team as you progress through seasons; “Story Mode” is called the face of the franchise; and Madden Ultimate Team, a micro-transaction-based and card-based “team building” mode, which has been a focal point of the series for a while. You can also play some of these modes online.
None of these modes fundamentally change the way you play soccer, although some require an entirely team-based level, or a special focus for the young player. The Face of the Franchise is a neat little story, but the scenery’s dialogue is so unnatural that you’ll want to laugh, for all the wrong reasons. Other than that, none of these modes feel much different from what the Madden series has offered before.
Madden NFL 23 review: Presentation
Madden NFL 23 makes you feel like you are watching an authentic NFL game. The graphics, comments, and audience votes go a long way toward creating that feeling. The commentary in particular is top notch. Broadcasters Charles Davis and Brandon Godin both look so realistic, they seem to be in the room watching you.
However, the view of the game is not entirely perfect. For example: As a Philadelphia native, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd chanting “Let’s Go Eagles” more often during a game than “Eagles, Eagles!” But in Madden NFL 23, the former gets more play.
And audience shots don’t always match up, either. In one match I was winning by 15 points 10 seconds before the end of the game, but the camera was pointed at the fans of the other team, and I applauded and cheered as if they were about to win the Super Bowl. These are slight breaks in immersion (and Philly is admittedly a niche), but they are there nonetheless.
Madden NFL 23 review: Performance
I have no complaints about the overall performance of Madden NFL 23, outside of some long rosters load times. The actual football game runs smoothly most of the time, maintaining a stable frame rate and allowing players to feel the rhythm of the game. However, there are some thorny loopholes that occur on social media. Although I haven’t tried them myself, I can’t deny that other players might not be so lucky.
What surprised me the most was the lack of loading time between finalizing the team options and viewing the pitch. Madden NFL 23 loads every player, fan member, coach and field at an incredible speed, allowing players to jump straight into the action without having to sit through boring loading screens. In one match, I counted the seconds between the last button press and loading the entire pitch. I only got up to ‘three’, which is pretty impressive.
Madden NFL 23 review: The Verdict
I had fun with Madden NFL 23, but it’s the same kind of fun I’ve had in previous years. It’s a playful criticism of Madden at this point, but nothing really stands out in this year’s edition. It’s good old American football, portrayed as only Madden can do, but you already know what you’re going to get when you hit the start button.
However, there are some highlights of this reel. Madden Legacy is a homage worth playing many times over, as you can’t deny the love of the man behind the name. The sports show is as close as possible to the real thing anyone could want. After all, it’s the same old Madden, and anyone waiting for a revolution has to wait at least another year.