Fall is almost upon us, and another year over halfway done means it’s time for our Madden NFL 22 review. Like in so many years before, this year’s edition of Electronic Arts’ football juggernaut promises new innovations, better gameplay, and a better experience in Franchise mode. In many recent years, that just meant minor tweaks and a focus on Ultimate Team.

However, as EA has made the jump to next-gen consoles, the game really does appear to have changed. Madden 22 is a delightful sports video game experience that has meaningful gameplay additions and a deeper Franchise mode. Most importantly, it feels great to play.

What’s In It?

Madden NFL 22 hits shelves this year featuring a full suite of modes to play. There’s nothing too new here, but all of the fan favorites are back. Players who enjoy an immersive offline experience will enjoy Franchise and Face of the Franchise, Madden’s “Be a Pro” mode. Players who want to jump online and experience tougher competition will enjoy Versus. Finally, for fans who enjoy a little of both, modes like The Yard and Madden Ultimate Team have returned in Madden 22.

Seemingly each new Madden game comes with promises of gameplay improvements and a more realistic experience. These efforts have had varying degrees of effectiveness. Madden 22, however, has delivered on the promise of better gameplay and a better gameday experience.

What’s New This Year?

The Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation versions of Madden NFL 22 feature next-gen stats, which are more than just window dressing. EA Tiburon incorporated next-gen stats and analytics into players’ actual behaviors and performance. Not only is this reflected in more accurate attributes, but players will be adjusted throughout the NFL season to make their Madden 22 version continue to be an accurate reflection of their real life, on the field performance.

The incorporation of next-gen stats into player movement and behavior has a real impact on how gameplay feels in Madden 22. Blocking, which was improved in Madden 21, feels natural and flows nicely in Madden 22. In single player modes, AI players behave more intelligently. As a result, some of the old go-to plays for automatic first downs aren’t as automatic in Madden 22.

Attributes have a seemingly bigger impact in Madden 22 as well. As a Vikings fan, it feels more different running the ball with Dalvin Cook than with Alexander Mattison than it ever has in the past. Cook, being a speedy and elusive runner, moves quickly and jukes in ways that leave defenders wondering what happened. Differences in attributes feel more profound across the game this year.

This is also true in quarterback play. Don’t expect to have great precision throwing on the run or across your body if your team’s quarterback isn’t known for being good at that. Recent Madden games have tweaked this as well, but Madden 22 seems to really punish you for not setting your feet and throwing. Developments like that add a factor of realism to the game that had been missing in years past.

Build Some Momentum

Momentum plays a huge role in how games play out. Now, if your team is controlling the play in a game, it will be harder for your opponent to respond and get back in it. They will need to make a big play to swing momentum back to even or in their favor. Some players won’t like this, especially in online modes, but it adds a realistic factor to the game that’s been missing.

Gameday experience has changed in a significant way as well. When this was first announced, it was easy to assume it would be mostly cosmetic and not have a real impact on the way a game unfolds. That assumption couldn’t have been more incorrect.

The first of the big changes is the Dynamic Gameday system. With Dynamic Gameday, Franchise mode feels more authentic than ever with a gameday experience that reflects what you might expect in the actual NFL. Stadiums and crowds have received attention for Madden 22, and difficult situations on the road will have crowd participation that feels great when you’re playing a game.

Feels Like Gameday

Dynamic Gameday introduces momentum and home-field advantage to Madden 22 for players on the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. With momentum, games play out much like their real-life counterparts in the sense that a team with a lot of momentum will continue to see things tend to go their way. The team who has lost momentum will have to make a big play or cause something game-changing in order to sway momentum back to even or in their favor. While filling your team’s momentum meter, you’ll earn in-game perks called M-Factors which will give your team more of an advantage. These M-Factors might give you benefits like better blocking or catching – or make life more difficult for your opponent by restricting things they can do.

Home field advantage is introduced in Madden 22 as well, and it offers an interesting dynamic to the games themselves. EA Tiburon sought to make these advantages realistic and fit the location of each team. This works really well in some cases, but makes the home field advantage system seem uneven and unbalanced in others. For example, playing a game in Kansas City provides an authentic home field advantage of crowd noise affecting the road team’s ability to audible. However, in Detroit, the advantage is much more generic and doesn’t make you think Detroit right away. With a little more tweaking in years to come, the home field advantage system can prove to be a great addition to the Madden experience for everyone.

Love For Franchise

For years, fans of Madden NFL have cried out for more attention to be paid to the series’ Franchise mode. While gameplay in the mode was almost always varying degrees of good, the mode lacked the off the field depth of games over a decade its elder. The prime example of this was NFL 2K5, a game released over 15 years ago. An immersive off field experience had players living the life of an NFL star. Madden’s Franchise mode, by comparison, felt like a bare-bones mode where you could play through your favorite team’s schedule and win the Super Bowl.

EA has responded to the fan criticism over this with a promise of real, measurable investments into the Madden NFL Franchise mode. In Madden 22, you can start to see the impact of this investment. For the first time in years, I find myself gravitating to Franchise mode instead of Ultimate Team. Ultimate Team still gets some of my time, but there’s now a lot of fun to be had in Franchise.

This is true mostly because of one key factor. The gameplay innovations in Madden NFL 22 have more of an impact on Franchise mode than they do any other mode in the game. Momentum plays a huge role in games. Playing on the road against a tough team is now a real challenge, and winning those games feels like an accomplishment. Home field advantage factors vary in significance but are mostly relevant to the location and team.

Develop Your Staff

Off the field, Franchise has a deeper progression system for your coaching staff that yields some nice rewards. While not providing as deep of an off the field experience as some fans want, Madden 22’s Franchise mode lays the groundwork for something much better in later years if EA Tiburon continues investing in the mode. The head coach and both coordinators have skill trees that you spend coach points to upgrade. These upgrades will do things like reduce injuries, improve blocking, or make buying upgrades less expensive – and a lot more.

How do you earn coach points? Every week, in your pregame planning, you’ll set goals for your team in the upcoming game. One goal is for the head coach, and the others are for each of the offensive and defensive coordinators. If you either partially or fully meet these goals, you will earn a set amount of coach points to spend on upgrades. In addition, achieving milestones in games and throughout the season will earn you more too.

The great thing about the weekly and yearly goals is that they give players incentive to put thought into their gameplan and how they want to play. For example, I chose a goal for a regular season game against Arizona to gain 150+ yards rushing. That influenced my weekly offensive gameplan too – I chose “Run Inside”. During the game, I stayed committed to the run game and used the passing game as a tool to set up the run. That’s just one example of how goals and gameplans can add extra elements to how you play the game each week.

Getting The Band Back Together

Connected Franchise is also back in Madden 22. One of the modes that sets the Madden series apart from many other sports games, Connected Franchise allows you to play an online Franchise with up to 31 friends. New to this mode is a new grid feature for commissioners, allowing them to manage the league with ease. This includes adding and dropping members, clearing cap space for teams, and setting teams to autopilot.

Joining Connected Franchise as a returning favorite to Madden with no incredibly significant changes is the ever popular Head to Head Versus mode. Here, you can play competitively in ranked matches, play unranked matches, or even play a friend. In playing this mode, there were some connection issues. However, there has already been a patch to Madden 22 and it appears that has been addressed.

Are You The Face Of The Franchise?

Face of the Franchise is back in Madden 22, and once again it takes you on the journey from humble beginnings to NFL star. Face of the Franchise is essentially two different modes altogether. The first is everything you do before making it to the NFL. This part is more story based with decisions and more clear consequences. The second is once you reach the NFL. Unfortunately, at this stage Face of the Franchise becomes another version of Franchise mode. It’s better than the Longshot story mode was in Maddens past, though, and worth a play through if you love “Be A Pro” modes in sports games.

The Yard is back for its second season in Madden, and it brings along a campaign this time around. If you’ve ever played World of Chel in the NHL series or The Park in NBA 2K, The Yard will feel familiar in some ways. In it, you create your avatar and play games solo, with, or against your friends. Matches are 5 on 5 and it takes 20 yards to gain a first down.

The Yard tends to have much more of an arcade feel to it, and like World of Chel, earning and equipping cosmetics is a way of showing how much you’ve accomplished in the mode. There’s a ton of gear to earn and choose from if that’s your thing. I played The Yard both solo and with a friend. Without question, playing with a friend on your team is much more fun and is recommended in this mode.

The Ultimate Challenge

Finally, making its triumphant return as defending champion of Madden modes, Madden Ultimate Team is back for yet another season. The premise behind Ultimate Team is simple – how amazing would it be to build a dream fantasy team of the best players from today alongside legends from the past and see that team play on the field?

The answer is that it can be pretty amazing, but potentially pretty expensive too. Full disclosure: I have played Madden Ultimate Team every year since Madden 15. Some years I have done it with no money spent, and in other years I spent more money than I’d ever care to admit. Ultimate Team is fun, and is a mode every player chooses to play or not play. In some years, there was a sentiment that the development team placed a disproportionate amount of resources into MUT at the expense of modes like Franchise. That argument had some merit in some years, but this iteration of Madden has seen the biggest and most noticeable improvements benefit Franchise mode.

Madden Ultimate Team has both single player and multiplayer modes, allowing you to build your team with primarily CPU competition or test your skills against human opponents online. Solo modes consist mainly of challenges, which have rewards of XP and MUT coins, which can be used to purchase packs or specific cards from the marketplace.

The MUT Grind

Earning MUT coins is both easy and hard at the same time. It’s easy in the sense that there are a lot of challenges and other ways to earn coins. It’s difficult in the sense that it’s still a significant grind to earn enough coins to have a truly strong team. There’s truly a lot to do in Madden Ultimate Team. What EA won’t say, though, is that unlike modes like Diamond Dynasty in MLB The Show, Madden Ultimate Team is designed to get you to spend money.

In Diamond Dynasty, you can build a competitive team relatively quickly without spending money. Also, if you do choose to spend money, you’re buying stubs, the currency in the game. You can then spend them on whatever you want, including specific players. In Madden Ultimate Team, it’s hard and a definite grind to build a great team. If you spend money, it’s on packs, not coins. You’re not even able to get exactly what you’re after.

That’s not to say that Madden Ultimate Team isn’t an enjoyable mode. It most certainly is. It’s also extremely important to know what you’re getting into at the beginning. If you don’t want to be constantly tempted to spend real money, there are plenty of other modes in Madden 22 to enjoy. If you don’t mind the constant nudging towards spending $100 on a bundle of legend packs, you will find that Ultimate Team is a fun and rewarding mode with quite a bit to do in it.

How’s It Look And Sound?

Visually, Madden NFL 22 looks phenomenal on the Xbox Series X|S. It’s a sports game, so there aren’t a lot of different landscapes in the game. But what’s there is clear, crisp, and looks awfully good in 4K. Graphics are good, and the menu is bright and colorful.

In terms of audio, the crowd noise and stadium sounds add more to the gameday atmosphere than I thought they could or would. On the road you’ll hear and feel the crowd when pinned on your own end of the field with momentum against you. It might sound minor, but it makes a difference in the gameplay experience. Overall, a really nice addition by EA Tiburon.

Final Thoughts

Madden NFL 22 isn’t perfect. It still has work to be done to make Franchise mode as immersive as many fans want it to be. It can make Ultimate Team a little more fun and less grindy for players who don’t want to spend a lot of money on it – or any. But the additions to Franchise mode in Madden 22 make the mode the most fun it has been in quite some time. The gameplay additions make each game feel more intense and meaningful, and that has a huge impact in a sports game where there is a lot of repetition.

Next-gen additions are very impactful, so invest in the next-gen version of the game if you have a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S. Don’t expect everything you’ve always wanted in this installment, but if you’re game for some solid improvements and a great football experience, Madden NFL 22 is the best time I’ve had with the series in years.

Purchase Madden NFL 22 for the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One here.

The Crowd Goes Wild
8.4/10

Summary

Pros:

  • A revamped Franchise mode shines in Madden 22
  • Dynamic Gameday makes games more intense and fun
  • Momentum system brings a new dynamic to games

Cons:

  • Ultimate Team is good but can strive to include players who don’t spend as much money
  • The Yard is better but still missing depth
  • Face of the Franchise becomes just another version of Franchise after you reach the NFL

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