Madden NFL 23 is the latest entry in the long-running American Football franchise and is the first to truly focus on the next generation of consoles.
Indeed, playing the game on PS5, one gets a sense of what is to come in the sporting game sphere over the next decade.
Madden NFL 23 also refines some of the series’ offerings and gives you more than a few ways to play.
If you’re a seasoned pro, you can fine-tune the way you pass the ball and the way you receive it, but you’ve also got the ability to stick the settings on ‘Arcade’ and play a game where there are plenty of touchdowns, and some really brutal defensive plays.
We should say before we go on; this reviewer had not played a Madden game prior to this review, although there are some great features that make this accessible even to NFL noobs.
Let’s get into the review.
Madden NFL 23 looks fantastic on PS5.
This is a genuinely next-generation sports experience, and the power of the next-generation console has been harnessed beautifully.
Each player looks distinct and moves in a distinct way, while the weather options bring out some truly jaw-dropping touches. You can see rain droplets bouncing off the helmets of players, and you can see them making footsteps in the snow as well.
It’s a wonderful touch, and it’s the base of everything Madden NFL 23 strives to achieve.
Even the crowd look terrific, with team-specific changes made depending on who you’re playing as.
The graphical fidelity of Madden NFL 23 is a huge step forward for the series, and a look at what is to come in future sports games on PS5.
Sadly, on PS4 and Xbox One, Madden 23 mainly issues roster updates, with a number of the headline features missing.
Much like the graphics, the presentation is a key strength of Madden NFL 23.
Each game you play feels important; you can add Super Bowl presentation to your exhibition matches with the press of a button and you’re going to get swept away by the truly excellent broadcast packages.
It’s consistently been a strength of EA’s games, particularly FIFA, and Madden is no different this year.
The commentary, in particular, is far more natural than FIFA, and adds a fresh feel to each game you play.
The iconic late coach is everywhere on Madden NFL 23.
Not only has he recorded the iconic ‘it’s in the game’ slogan for EA Sports when you load up the game, he’s on loading screens, and there is even a chance to play in a tribute game to Madden, who passed away in 2021.
That tribute game is actually your first experience of playing the game; you’re chucked into a Legacy Game immediately with the great and the good from across Madden’s career.
Both teams are managed by a version of Madden – the younger version coaches the NFC All-Madden team and the older version coaches the AFC All-Madden team.
There’s a beautiful tribute to the great coach at half time, there’s a video board with famous Madden quotes, and there is commentary from him as well.
His fingerprints are all over Madden NFL 23 and anyone who was a fan of the great man is going to get a little misty-eyed over this tribute.
Before we get into the modes, we need to take a look at what the game feels like to play.
Madden NFL 23 has some really smooth animations, particularly when it comes to offensive drives, and your players will move far more realistically than any game before.
You’ll even see your ball-carrier duck under opponents who are grappling, and there’s a huge amount of fidelity when it comes to throwing the ball.
You can have classic passing from previous Maddens, or you can use the new features that allow you to have far more control over each pass. You’ll be tasked with filling a passing meter that will dictate the power and trajectory of your pass. Use the stick control for unrivalled precision.
This is a flagship part of the new FieldSense stylings in the game but it can be confusing for anyone who isn’t aware of how Madden’s passing works. You are given the opportunity to practice when you boot the game up and pick your passing mode, but there’s an assumption of prior knowledge.
We opted for the classic passing instead, as you can simply press a button to pick out your team-mate.
However, those who play Madden every single year will likely find plenty of value in the new passing system; if you get it perfect, you won’t be throwing incomplete passes.
In addition, there are also some incredible new Hit Stick physics, allowing you to produce mid-air knockouts, force turnovers with stand-up tackles, and join tackles in progress. It adds so much depth to the gameplay.
In the game as well, the defence is smart and strong, even on Pro difficulty. We found a lot of games became wars of attrition, particularly when playing with Simulation settings.
Switching to Arcade loosened things up slightly, and gave us a lot more opportunities to score points, but the defensive AI is excellent.
We have to point out that there were a couple of bugs early on.
Madden NFL 23 does not come with a day-one patch but we had one game where our kick meter completely disappeared, meaning we couldn’t punt properly, and we’ve got to say that it did hurt the overall experience.
There are a couple of graphical issues at times when players clip through each other on replays, but that doesn’t truly impact the gameplay.
There were a couple of glitches in Face of the Franchise mode too; at one point, our character just disappeared outright in a cutscene.
Still, there are always going to be a few issues upon launch.
Franchise Mode/Face of the Franchise
These two modes are going to steal hours of your time.
Franchise Mode places you in the front office, making all of the decisions for your team.
Fans have previously urged EA Sports to give a little more love to both modes and they have done so this year.
For those who also play FIFA, Face of the Franchise will remind you of The Journey, that saw Alex Hunter try to make his way to the top of the footballing world.
Face of the Franchise gives you a weekly to-do list as you try to complete goals, upgrade your avatar, and play games.
Obviously, you’ll most likely want to be a quarterback, which is exactly what we did, and it really is great fun when you start out.
The mode is a little grindy, but that’s kind of the point, as you’re looking to work your way into the 99 club.
It could be said that there is room for more feedback for your player in Face of the Franchise but it takes advantage of the improvements to Madden’s gameplay and it never feels like a chore to play.
Franchise Mode is a different beast altogether, and there are some really cool additions, such as new player motivations for moves.
For example, one player might want to move to your franchise because you live in a warm weather state; another may want to come to you if you’re a Super Bowl contender.
We did notice in our time with Franchise Mode – around three hours – that there were a huge amount of highly-rated players becoming free agents.
That may be due to the new systems that have been added but we’ve got to ask: How bad is it for you to be able to pull in some top players early on?
It may be an issue for players who want Franchise Mode to be completely realistic, but it didn’t break our immersion at all.
This is going to be the place most players spend their time.
Yes, this is the case for pretty much every EA Sports game that has been released over the past decade. MUT is just as much of an addictive feature as FUT in FIFA because players are consistently funnelled towards opening packs to upgrade their teams.
This year, there is the option to earn Stars, by completing unique challenges, such as gaining yardage on a drive, or scoring a touchdown. These Stars can unlock new players, packs, and tactics.
The more time you spend completing challenges, the more chance you’ll have to upgrade your players and build a superb squad.
Madden NFL 23 is really, really good fun.
Not only is the game absolutely stunning to look at, it’s brilliantly accessible, and feels like the perfect entry point for anyone who has never played a Madden game before.
The gameplay on the field is fast, frenetic, and strategic, whether you’re playing in Arcade mode or striving for Simulation.
Each team feels unique, each stadium looks polished to the absolute maximum, and modes like Face of the Franchise are going to steal hours of your time.
However, it has to be pointed out that there really are an immense amount of microtransactions in Ultimate Team, so tread carefully if you don’t want to be out of pocket come the end of the year!
Still, we’ve been really impressed with Madden NFL 23 and we heartily recommend picking it up.
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