Madden 22 game review: Time to remember that art is still art

Is Madden 22 perfect? No, but the loyal gamers have spoken and EA Sports listened, correcting the disaster of last year’s version.

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Any opera singer worth a grain of salt has belted out a version of “O Mio Babbino Caro.’’

Should they be criticized for a lack of originality?

Almost anyone dabbling in oil painting has tried a Bob Ross landscape.

Should it be set on fire — “happy little trees’’ and all — for the crime of monotony?

Art is art.

And you best believe that Year 34 of the Madden video-game franchise also falls under that same set of rules.

Is Madden 22 filled with mind-blowingly new concepts? No. The changes are more subtle than that. But again, art is art, and for the series that revolutionized sports gaming as we know it, that’s the best way to approach the latest version.

The first game you play won’t feel much different. Yes, the demands of what gamers want might have outgrown the Frostbite engine that was the toast of the franchise years ago. But swim out of the shallow end and give the gameplay some time.

The control and graphics of the receivers are better, the blocking feels much more realistic and the collisions have an even more violent feel than before. If hammer hits nail the right way in Madden 22, nail loses.

Sure, there still is going to be the graphical glitch where a cornerback’s arm appears to go through the body of a receiver and knock the ball away. But that’s the life most gamers have to experience no matter the game.

EA Sports did a solid job making the home screen easier to navigate, which was a big complaint last season. The way it uses cover boys Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady also is well done and not overboard.

But why does Madden 22 get a higher grade this season?

The long-awaited, much-begged-for improvements to the Franchise Mode.

For many diehards of the series, Franchise Mode always was the reason to come back year after year. Maybe that’s why EA Sports became so complacent with it. It’s like the company left it on the trophy case as the shining beacon for the game and didn’t touch it as dust and filth grew on it.

The complaints with that mode were loud last season, and to EA’s credit, it listened. Franchise Mode always should be about control over an entire organization. The players, the personnel, the coaching staff and the scouts.

Now that’s more of a reality than ever.

First, there’s a staff page for the coaches that allows gamers to fill out RPG-like (role-playing game) skill trees that turn the team’s play style into what they want it to be.

There’s control over practice intensity, which goes hand-in-hand with injuries,. There are goals for individual players to meet for upgrades. There’s game-planning for the upcoming opponent for the analytics junkies.

What really hit home, though, was the scouting map for college prospects and the ability to assign scouts to certain regions.

When EA shut down the NCAA College Football franchise in 2014, it was a gut-punch to sports gamers. Running a dynasty mode for a college football program with the ability to recruit the country, as well as hone in on certain states to steal a top prospect from a buddy, was the muscle of why NCAA was so good.

While Madden’s version isn’t the same, it still captures the idea of identifying a prospect, keeping an eye on him and then changing a draft board based on that intel.

That was the hidden gem in Madden 22, and it carries a lot of weight in the final grade, especially with an online franchise team.

Does the game still have a few warts? Absolutely.

Whether it’s because I’m a purist or that guy now yelling “Get off my lawn’’ to the neighborhood kids, The Yard remains unplayable. It’s not football. It’s some weird version of “Kill the Carrier’’ that brings no interest to the table.

The Face of the Franchise does a good job taking a college standout through the draft process — yes, there are some preachy, cheesy moments — and remains a nice alternative to play as a single-player campaign. But it’s just that, an alternative that doesn’t grab anyone.

What’s nice, though, is the game improved over last year’s semi-disaster. That’s why it gets a solid B+.

Appreciate the art.

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