Madden 21 review: This could be the game that forces EA Sports to overhaul everything

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Late summer is usually always a good time for football fans.

It’s the time of the year that the NFL season gets underway and, quite honestly, anticipation for it this year is at an all-time high given what we’ve all been through over the course of 2020.

And it also marks the time in the calendar where EA Sports deliver a brand new Madden game.

Madden 21 has arrived and we can’t begin this review without mentioning its early problems.

Several videos of the game’s incomprehensible glitches have surfaced on social media.

Here are a select few…

The game’s User Score on Metacritic at the time of writing is a shocking 0.2.

That’s reason to act and EA will be busy over the coming weeks fixing the issues.

However, we can’t help but feel that however much work they put in, they simply won’t be able to rectify Madden 21.

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When we talk about the gameplay, Madden 21 provides a fine, sometimes enjoyable experience.

But without a great deal of innovation, it’s hard to imagine the latest edition of the series standing the test of time.

Indeed, you wonder whether EA were entirely convinced with the product they put out.

Making a video game during a global pandemic must have been a huge challenge, and it’s worth taking that into consideration. The usual fine tweaks that are made when the entire team is together might have been missed.

However, the fact that they've been left needing to make a number of updates suggests that this game is incomplete.

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Let’s talk about some positives.

The Yard, a brand-new mode inspired by backyard football, is heaps of fun.

Forget 80,000-capacity stadiums with neat, tucked-in uniforms; this is rugged, arcade stuff where trick plays are encouraged and tribal jerseys are in.

With six players on a team, games are fast-paced and brief. This NFL Street-style mode is a refreshing addition to the series and is surely here to stay.

Superstar KO is another fun, quick, customisable game mode that could keep gamers coming back to Madden 21.

Yet while EA have realised their arcade-style modes are a hit, it’s the lack of creativity elsewhere that lets the latest entry down.

It’s also the reason for the low Metacritic score.

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It feels like Madden 21 could be the game that forces EA to overhaul its series. Without any competition in the market, things have become pretty stagnant.

Franchise mode and Ultimate Team, for instance, both feel as if they haven’t been touched. Progressing through the season in Franchise is a real grind, with that same rinse-and-repeat approach.

Face of the Franchise is back but there are more negatives than positives. The limited creation tool is a poor start, with very few different player faces to choose from.

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You progress from high school to the NFL but there are some sloppy moments, particularly in college. For example, I started the season opener and put up 63 points against Oregon, emphatically asserting myself as the No.1 quarterback on the depth chart.

Except I wasn’t. The game mode then jumps to the College Football Playoff semi-final, where I learned that my player has been rotating with the other protagonist in Face of the Franchise the entire season.

The concept of FOTF is great but without much manoeuvrability in terms of the story as well as poor writing, the latest edition offers little replayability. 

Conclusion:

Again, we’ll point out the complications EA faced with making this game.

There are some aspects of Madden 21 worth checking out. The Yard certainly has the potential to be a long-lasting game mode, and fans of Superstar KO and Madden Ultimate Team will have no complaints about either of them.

But it feels like we’ve reached a sticking point with Madden. It’s become stale, stagnant… neglected, even.

Hopefully the post-release updates improve things. But more importantly, we’re desperate that EA are preparing to pack loads into the next-gen version to ensure that Madden lives on.

Madden 21 overall rating: 5/10

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