Review: Madden 23 has plenty of ‘Boom’ in a great tribute to the legend
The developers at EA Sports have finally heard the complaints of past versions of the franchise and have taken steps for all-around improvement. Baby steps in some areas, but still steps.
The “Booms!” are many.
“Turducken” for everyone!
But what does EA Sports’ “Madden NFL 23” have after the feel-good trip down memory lane to honor the legendary John Madden?
Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder.
First, a history lesson.
After Madden died at 85 on Dec. 28, 2021, it was a no-brainer that the coach-turned-commentator would be on the game’s cover for the first time since “Madden NFL 2000.”
More than that, however, this latest installment of the gaming franchise is a well-deserved homage to Madden’s career, the impact he had on football and the impact his game has had on culture.
Think Madden still isn’t a thing?
In the first six hours after the player ratings were released last month, EA Sports announced they had over 1,000 calls to their hotline with complaints.
Hall of Famer Michael Irvin once told the Sun-Times that “players that say they don’t pay attention to their Madden rating are liars.”
Just the latest sample of the rating impact?
Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase tweeted, “I’m going to keep working. Extra motivation,” after being left out of the top 10 receivers.
Tom Brady reacted to Chase by tweeting, “Don’t sweat it man. Madden didn’t even put me in the game my second year.”
“Madden ratings are garbage,” Chargers sack master Joey Bosa said on a video when it was announced that Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was an 88.
But once players put aside their feelings, there still was a game to release and evaluate. The game did take steps toward improving, but only baby steps.
Starting with the good, the opening “NFL Legacy Game” is not only a must-play — filled with the players whom Madden always seemed to favor when he called their games — but is also a great tribute to the former coach.
Included in that game is commentary on how Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins first approached Madden with the idea of a football simulator, but one that would be played seven-on-seven. Madden said he only would join the project if it was 11-on-11 and more of a teaching tool than a simulator.
Hawkins agreed, and by 1988, the first Madden was made available.
Among the major game improvements is FieldSENSE, a new skill-based passing system. Yes, for Generation Xers like myself, it initially felt like a lot of button mashing, but play it for about 30 minutes and you’ll see that the differences in accuracy from the old system are night and day.
FieldSENSE also covers the game’s tackling mechanics, which always felt a bit stiff and led to some physics-defying hits.
Overall, the defensive artificial intelligence is improved, so the days of just throwing verticals and hot-routing your opponent to death are over.
The “Franchise Mode” has a much more realistic free-agency system in which players let possible suitors know exactly what they are looking for, such as playing for a Super Bowl contender or living in South Beach.
And of course, there’s still the option for Bears fans to purchase the team and start running it the right way from top to bottom. Or simply move it to San Antonio.
As for the bad, “Face of the Franchise” is still way behind the modes that MLB The Show and NBA 2K have built, “Ultimate Team” needs a new boost of some sort and the game still has its bizarre-looking glitch moments.
Overall, though, I give it an A-minus with a lot of hope moving forward.
A big “Boom” for Coach Madden!