Every summer around the same time in August, Madden releases its latest installment a few weeks prior to the start of another exciting season of football. This year, Madden 23 launched on August 19th, much to the happiness as well as disappointment for sports games fans.
Though the prices for games haven’t changed much for years, fans are generally pretty decisive and calculated about which ones they’ll return to or want to give a try, particularly if the price tag is reasonable. Whether it’s a worthwhile investment upon purchasing it, is always going to be a bit of a gamble depending on how high your expectations are and what you’re looking for in a new game.
That said, should you be a returning Madden player or not, this review is here to help by bringing you the awareness you’re looking for on Madden 23. With a lot to cover and plenty of details to touch up on, this review will tackle the core topics Madden 23 has to offer, including new graphics, gameplay, returning modes, and new features.
After writing up an in-depth review on Madden 23 a week after it launched, I’ve returned as promised a month later to give you a more accurate assessment of the new game. The original grades seen in the review represent the ratings I gave on August 26th. If an original rating isn’t listed, that means the grade has remained unchanged.
Graphics (New Grade: B+)
- Original Grade: A-
One of the biggest factors about any new game fans will assess, starts with the graphics and imagery they will get to immerse in. Since technology and game consoles are only evolving with better ways to produce vivid, life-like gaming content, the demand for better graphics has become very important.
After playing Madden 23 for over a month, it’s safe to say that I misjudged the room for improvement that is still needed with their graphics. Although the difference in the grade drop wasn’t stark, it was significant and predominantly for one key reason: The lack of detail and precision of the players’ faces.
What’s important to understand before we get into the specifics, is that the majority of Madden 23’s gameplay is not predicated on a lot of headshots of the players, particularly with their helmets covering a substantial portion of their faces. Because of such, you can notice the number of details that are missing from various players within the limited amount of close-up shots you will receive per game.
For example, if you look at Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Madden 23, it looks like him, but you can also clearly tell it’s a video game version of him, and not in a good way. Some players have better facial replications then others, such as Jalen Ramsey and Joe Burrow. But you can see the inconsistencies throughout depending on the player or coach, and it impacts the authenticity of the game.
The best comparison that you can use to assess the quality of Madden’s graphics, is by putting their graphics side by side with NBA 2K23’s graphics on both next-gen and current-gen. The level of intricacy and meticulousness with the players faces in NBA 2K23, is distinctively better and on a far greater scale with just how many players actually look like their real-life versions of themselves.
That said, Madden did a really nice job in other areas with their graphics, especially with the various elements that can be seen in the stadium and on the turf. Be it the crowd, the lighting, the shadows, the hew of colors in the sky, or unique traditions you can differentiate from each stadium, the intricacy of visual details that Madden 23 has continued to build on is impressive and provides users with one the best on field experience we’ve seen from the franchise in quite some time.
Gameplay (Grade: A-)
When it comes to the most important feature of gaming, many if not all, will say it’s gameplay. Gameplay is the essence of what gaming is. And in Madden 23, the smoothness of the game and movement, was a massive upgrade.
The biggest component and best part about the gameplay that Madden 23 implemented in their new game (now more than ever), is the amount of control you have on both sides of the ball.
For those of you playing next-gen consoles, you will experience this most through Madden 23’s all-new FieldSENSE feature.
FieldSENSE enhanced the level of control you have with every decision you make for each and every play you run on offense and defense. For those of you that don’t know, FieldSENSE incorporated four specific, new types of gameplay that are game-changing to Madden. Let’s go through each:
1. Hit Everything:
The first and potentially the most enjoyable for some, is the ‘Hit Everything’ feature. With new mechanics that allow you to be far more disruptive with your pursuit, Madden 23 introduced all-new ‘Hit Stick’ physics that let you cause turnovers using stand up tackles, obliterate blocks, and perform new mid-air knockdowns to force incompletions. The feel for the defensive physicality hit a whole new level and next-gen players can enjoy that in full with ‘Hit Everything.’
2. Skill-Based Passing:
In previous Madden’s, a reoccurring issue with passing, was that of ‘pass lead’, which often wasn’t as a reliable or accurate with the throws you would make. This year though, Madden 23 decided to up their game and grant you the chance to use your left stick and full swing of motion with it, to serve as your new form of directional passing, opening a far wider range of specific windows you can exploit. Skill-based passing also comes with a new accuracy reticle and passing meter.
3. 360 Cuts:
The next big feature Madden 23 decided to introduce this year, was 360 Cuts. In previous Madden editions, it wasn’t hard to notice that the left stick didn’t always provide the control that was needed when running, sometimes leading a runner to pull off a move or turn into a direction the player didn’t intend to execute. With this new feature, you can now use your left stick while holding down L2 to find and explode through any gap or direction as you see it.
4. WR vs DB Battles:
This new feature is more useful for a mode such as Face of the Franchise (2 of the 5 positions available to play are WR and DB). With a whole new range of wide receiver release moves available as well as new press mechanics for DBs in coverage, the battles between both positions makes for a fun showdown to engage in.
For next-gen console players, FieldSENSE is a massive reason why the gameplay received such a high grade. If you haven’t purchased the game and you own a next-gen console, this should be the reason why if you do.
For those of you that don’t own a next-gen console (such as myself), this is a big part of the game you will not get to experience and you can definitely notice the impact without it.
Upon playing on current-gen and then watching the deep-dive closely above, it’s not hard to notice the lack of fluidity and refinement with the movement, limited leeway of directional passing, and by far not the same physical sway with the tackling in the game.
FieldSENSE was the biggest gameplay change to Madden and a brilliant one. Without it, the gameplay just doesn’t have the same level of engagement, nor has drastically improved from year to year.
Game Modes (New Grade: B+)
- Original Grade: B-
1. Franchise Mode (Grade: A-):
What made Franchise Mode such an awesome mode this year, was how precise and realistic they made the players and coaching management experiences. Starting with the preparation during preseason where you’re tasked with selecting your lineup and training your players, Franchise Mode has a more integrated feel in Madden 23, and you get to experience that every week before game day with the tasks you have to handle.
From pulling up game strategies and goals with your coaching staff, to managing your scouts, to improving your players with skills, you get a firm feel for just how involved it is to run a team throughout the regular season while leading them to new heights.
Come free agency, that’s where things get interesting. Prior to Madden 23, enticing players was frequently done with money. However, this year Madden added a more personal feel to it, adding other motivations and tags to the list of things players will factor in before signing with a new team. Some of these motives include players evaluating whether a team is close to home, if it’s in a tax-free state, or if the team has a franchise quarterback, all real-life things players do consider when playing for a team. In addition, Madden threw in an ‘Active Negotiating’ feature, which makes the free agency bidding war a calculated yet exciting endeavor.
In short, there’s plenty to rave about in Franchise Mode, including draft class improvements and draft and trade logic that helps teams select players for positions in need. But this form of engagement is what makes it so fun, as it grants you one of the best managerial experiences a sports game can offer.
2. Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) (New Grade: C+)
- Original Grade: C-
I’ve played NBA 2K MyTEAM, FIFA Ultimate Team, and MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty. And Madden 23’s Ultimate Team experience is debatably the most demanding of them all.
Though the challenges are fun and the prizes steady, the grind is far greater than the rewards you reap. As a result, it’s either plug away for hours or become peer pressured to buy better cards and players (be it through packs or not). What has made games like NBA 2K and MLB so successful with their ‘Ultimate Teams’, comes down to how deep the variety of efficient, easy ways they offer gamers to get high level cards. The more work you give the fans to deal with, the less they’ll want to invest in, especially when the prizes don’t match their effort.
If you find yourself with the patience to chip away with MUT, they did do a good job with the selection of card programs they offer. From ‘Team Of The Week’, to ‘Gridiron Guardians’, to ‘Also Known As’ and more, the steady variety and unique sets of talented players you can acquire is a huge hit in MUT. Once you have those players, the game mode does become easier to play and far more enjoyable as your squad ascends to new heights.
In addition, most of the challenges are pretty easy to complete, allowing you to collect MUT coin fairly quickly. Over the span of one month without putting in any money into the online mode, I’ve been able to decorate my MUT lineup with a handful of players ranging from 81 overalls to 88 overalls.
3. Face of the Franchise (Grade D+)
After finally taking a moment to see what the Face of the Franchise mode is all about, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of refinement and improvement this feature is still grappling with.
The first blatant issue is the reality that Madden 23 hasn’t shied away from making this mode their experimentation project. That might not be a bad thing for some. But considering the frequent changes and inconsistencies from year to year, the lack of guarantees with knowing what to look forward or not, has become a frustrating truth for fans.
Because of their inability to formulate a strong foundation and then build off it such as MyCAREER in NBA 2K, you can tell that Madden’s sense of direction with this format was far from clear. And what they opted to deliver instead, wasn’t their best step forward with this game mode. The most disappointing aspect of it all, is the storyline. It’s way too simplistic and has no depth behind it.
That all said, it’s not that the mode is so bad that it’s not worth trying, especially if you like how you can build up your player. Starting off the game as an underutilized free agent, right away you get to try out Madden’s upgraded free agent contract board, which allows you to pick the team you want to play for and construct the contract you feel is fair.
This is important because depending on where you go, your role will be determined based on how much talent is in that given position for the team you’re signing with. So for example, I selected the quarterback position for my player and picked the Indianapolis Colts because they were an A- grade match, presenting the most well-rounded deal and location to maximize my career.
The second aspect that Madden did improve on, was there player-locked gameplay, a key feature in ‘Face of the Franchise’. Whether it’s the camera work or the sharper core mechanics, the feel for your player is a lot more authentic and accurate, something that is important for modes like this. Madden 23 did add the CB position for the first time, which grants gamers a fresh feel for a different position to try out.
Tribute To John Madden
Following the passing last winter of the legendary former head coach and broadcaster John Madden, Madden 23 went all out in their latest installment to thank him for the profound impact he’s had on so many lives and households that he was able to teach the game of football to.
To honor him, Madden 23 created the John Madden Legacy Game, a mode that allows you to play with either the AFC or NFC lineups of Coach Madden’s favorite players throughout NFL history. During the game, you not only get to learn about who John Madden was, but you also get to hear broadcast recordings of him discussing certain skills and aspects about the players in his legacy game.
John Madden will always live on through the game he pioneered, something Madden 23 made sure to address and bring to life in their newest game of the franchise.
Final Score (Grade: B+)
With over a month of exposure to the brand-new game, there is still a lot left to be desired from Madden 23. Though some might feel like the grade should be higher, this is an accurate and fair rating for a game that did put in a lot of effort to elevate the playing experience to a whole new level but has yet to fully hit its potential as a whole.
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports, Electronic Arts
Available on: Xbox One (reviewed on), PS4, Xbox Series X, PS5, and PC
Release Date: August 19, 2022
To check what a review score means from us, click here.