Madden 22, the latest offering from EA’s long-running Madden franchise, was released on August 17, 2021, and we don’t really need to tell you what Madden is, as we all know what we’re getting into here.
Rather than bore you to tears with expository writing about how great the grass looks and other boring crap like that, let’s get you into the great, the good, and the not-so-good of Madden NFL 22.
But before we get into the good stuff here is a brief history of the Madden Franchise as we know it, starting with its humble beginnings all the way back in 1988, when the first Madden was released, John Madden Football.
The History of John Madden Football Released in 1988
Before there was Madden, there was John Madden Football, the original name of the Madden franchise up until 1994 when the name was changed, dropping John Madden's first name, the famed announcer who the game is named after EA required the right in 1993.
Trip Hawkins, the founder of EA came up with the idea for a football game in 1984 and approached the NFL with the idea. To this day Madden is the only officially licensed NFL game and has sold more than 250 million copies in its two decades on the shelves. In 2013 is was released that the Madden franchised had earned EA some nearly 4 billion dollars in profit, making it one of the most valuable video game franchises ever created.
Though John Madden, the game's namesake retired from announcing in 2009, he continues to lend his name to the game, which EA has released every year since 1990. But before John Madden found himself at the call of Trip Hawkins, Hawkins had his eye set on two other football stars to help launch his game. They were famed NFL quarterback Joe Montana and Cal coach Joe Kapp. However, Joe Montana turned him down due to an existing deal he had with Atari, and Kapp was passed over on account of him wanting royalties.
In 1984, Hawkins reached out to Madden, and while the game had its programming issues, lawsuits and delays, in 1988 John Madden's Football was released and the rest was history. So without further ado, let's get into it, your Madden 22 review, the good, the great, and the not-so-good.
What's New in Madden 22?
And while the NFL has changed much over the years, Madden has more or less stayed the same, so much so Madden, and sports games like it, often get meme'd as being too stale or unoriginal to require yearly upgrades.
The game itself, however, has changed quite a bit over the years and in this review, we will talk about some of the changes made to Madden 22 that we like and some we didn't like. Like the Franchise Mode, the Yard, and whether or not we think this game is actually worth the hefty price tag.
For a game that often gets associated with the 'Madden Curse', we don't wish anyone a bad time playing Madden 22 and hope to offer some useful if not interesting opinions in this review.
The Great Parts of Madden 22
Does it really shock you that there is nothing great about Madden NFL 22? Nothing in this game is particularly shinning – not the game modes, not the presentation, and certainly not the gameplay. Madden NFL 22 as a whole is just another disappointing release in a long line of soulless cash grabs that are only in the position they're in because there's only one modern football game in town.
But, to be fair, there are a few things Madden is doing well, and consist of promising signs for the future.
The Good Parts of Madden 22
I know I said I wasn’t going to pontificate on the grass here, but I have to give the development team credit – the game looks really good on next-gen hardware. The attention to detail on the higher-end systems is astounding and really adds to the gameplay experience.
The PS5 & Xbox Series X|S Upgrades
You can play Madden in one of two graphical settings on next-gen consoles: Quality and Performance. Quality settings boost the game’s graphics and let it run at 4K, so those of you with your fancy 4K TVs can experience Madden in a super hi-def setting. Performance mode lessens the graphical output but allows the game to run at 120 FPS, perfect for you pros out there who want as many frames as possible.
For the first time in a long time, we have options. Not the options we really want – but we’ll take the options we can get!
What Are The Franchise Mode Changes for Madden 22?
Franchise mode has been a long-maligned mode for years, seemingly since Madden came to the PS4 and Xbox One, but this year’s mode received some promised changes for the better.
Returning to the franchise mode are assistant coaches that now feature “talent trees” similar to those found in the old NCAA Football games. You can develop your coaches to compliment your playstyle, to help shore up your weaknesses, or to do whatever your little heart desires. You’re in charge here, after all. Your own head coach will also receive upgrades, again tailored to your preference. Staff points are earned by completing challenges throughout the season.
One of the coolest features is the recap feature that pops up at the end of the season. You’ll be able to see who won the Super Bowl, who represented each conference, and which player won each award, with recaps going back as far as 1966. For the successful franchise managers reading this, it’ll be a nice trip down memory lane to see which teams you beat en route to your 10 straight Super Bowl victories.
The new user interface is also very intuitive with a lot going on. It can be a little overwhelming at first but once you settle down and actually read everything, you’ll be thankful for everything you now have at your fingertips.
It’s not everything we could’ve asked for, but it’s a step in the right direction – and at least one part of this game is improving.
What Changes did Madden 22 make to the Yard?
2K’s My Player experience, outside of the traditional story mode (we’ll talk about that later) has been a fun, different outlook for the way sports games are being approached. 2K’s Neighborhood, an online social space where players can play pickup ball with one another, is a really cool feature and mimics the real-world way people get together to play their favorite sports.
EA’s NHL series also does a great job with this “community experience” within its World of Chel mode, and I’m happy to see the way Madden approached this with its own social mode – The Yard. Here, you can get together with others and play fast-paced, 6-on-6 football games that bring back memories of playing with your friends during the summer. This year’s version even features a single-player experience to do some solo grinding while your friends aren’t around.
While The Yard isn’t as polished as the other modes yet, it’s still a nice start to a mode that hopefully grows into something special. Maybe one day we’ll be able to Naruto run to an NFL field, too.
The Not-So-Good Parts of Madden 22
The Pass Rush Meter Still Sucks
Look – nobody plays Madden for defense, I know, and nobody but a former defensive lineman plays defensive line – but my God the new system EA developed for them is such a step backward.
Starting in last year’s game, players along the defensive line now have a meter that pops up and fills from 1-5. You need a certain number of bars to perform d-line actions, like rips, swims, and bullrushes. This system would’ve been fine if other, non-QB positions were subject to the same resource management, but they’re not. Wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, hell even linebackers, and defensive backs don’t have to manage their skill moves – it’s just the linemen.
I understand they likely wanted to prevent players from mashing actions while playing on the line. I understand that there were glitches in past games that abused the d-line. Hell, I could even understand if this was only a feature in simulation mode (to realistically simulate a player’s stamina as it depletes) or in competitive mode (where resource management would be an indicator of skill) but adding resource management to Madden in all playstyles is not the solution.
Is Madden 22's Face of the Franchise Still Boring?
Just as nobody plays Madden for defense, nobody plays it for a single-player experience. But if you’re going to put a mode in a game, at least make it not suck.
Face of the Franchise is Madden’s answer to NBA 2K’s “My Player” mode, where you guide your created star from college to the pros, navigating them through injuries, contract negotiations, and other storyline elements until you’ve finally had enough and decide to retire.
Usually, storyline-driven games have different paths and experiences you can go down to change up the experience and help you feel something. In Face of the Franchise, everything feels pre-determined, no matter what position you pick. Your “supporting cast” is full of emotionless robots, and moments that should feel big but fall flat because of it.
If you’re a big trophy/achievement hunter, then sure, play Face of the Franchise for your trophies and get out. If you’re not, you’re likely skipping this mode again.
Is Madden 22 Worth Buying?
As a general rule, I usually buy sports games every other year, because not much changes other than rosters. For someone who generally plays Franchise mode, that’s not enough for me to pony up 60 bucks.
If it weren’t for the menus and the fact that Tom Brady is now on the Bucs, I’d think I was playing the same game as Madden 20, let alone Madden 21. The gameplay, the animations, the models, and basically everything but the menus and rosters are the same as they were two years ago.
I’m sure, though, if you go back to the “Golden Age” of Maddens (think ’04 – ’10) and compare games on the same system two years apart, there’s likely not much of a difference aesthetically, but there always seemed to be something new gameplay-wise with each installment.
We haven’t seen innovation from EA in a long time. We haven’t seen anything like the Playmaker feature from Madden 04 that was consistently updated over the next several years, a recurring thread that was updated overtime to innovate and improve the game as a true football simulation but still helped the gameplay feel familiar. That’s gone by the wayside in favor of what seems to be doing as little as possible to make their cash, then spend the rest of the year pumping out predatory Madden Ultimate Team content for even more dough.
There’s nothing in Madden NFL 22 that makes me feel like I’m playing a better game than I played in previous years – it’s just the same soulless, mediocre football experience with a thin coat of new paint on top. The passion is gone from Madden, and it died one $4.99 MUT pack at a time.