The Madden franchise will inevitably have its yearly fans who turn out in droves for updated rosters, quality-of-life improvements, and a few fresh new options in the game modes arena. However, some have longed for the franchise to dig deep and truly overhaul its best features in order to provide lasting value. To be frank, it is better than Madden NFL 23, but it feels akin to yet another small 5-yard gain than a solid touchdown. A revitalization of the brand is necessary and is something other sports sims have achieved in recent years to great effect. However, each new incarnation of Madden feels like a safe play rather than a solid push to convince fans there’s more to this gridiron gauntlet that they haven’t seen in recent years.
For starters, Madden NFL 24 makes all the right moves when it comes to refining the game and bringing this sports sim ever closer to the real deal. The fluidity of on-field animations hasn’t always been top-notch, and it still can use some improvement. But EA seems intent on marketing this latest edition of Madden with better and more refined physics via their trademarked FieldSENSE engine. This was introduced in Madden NFL 23 and, of course, makes a welcome return giving players more control over where the ball winds up when passing to receivers on the field. When running with the ball, the players run with far more agility giving you more precise control when faking out the other team or overtaking the defensive line. Essentially, FieldSENSE unlocks an element of skill that can drive the most competitive players.
"A revitalization of the brand is necessary and is something other sports sims have achieved in recent years to great effect. However, each new incarnation of Madden feels like a safe play rather than a solid push to convince fans there’s more to this gridiron gauntlet that they haven’t seen in recent years."
It was a powerful step forward for the franchise that is now only receiving slight improvements. Largely, the tackling animations and player contact is more varied and, at times, markedly improved over last year.
One failure that I found to be mildly frustrating and tends to entirely throw a defensive play is when a defender’s attempt at a tackle either slightly misses the runner despite clearly touching them during the act or the latter manages to recoil off the defender. It’s not a frequent irritation that occurs, but it happens enough to stick in my mind. And whether this element is intrinsically tied to the FieldSENSE physics engine or not is lost to me. Offensive running plays often felt slightly more empowered than the defensive side of things. I found it far easier to manage plays that’d cover receivers or blitz the QB than to bring down a runner.
Another couple of buzz words EA marketing will throw at fans is Sapien Technology. What is that exactly? Well, it’s described as improvements in player designs and animations. Does it succeed? Sure. It’s not a mind-boggling transformation, but player models do uniquely shine in all their individual qualities and differences. Most animations feel organic and fluid. The visual presentation of Madden NFL 24 is impressive. There’s not much to say here other than the development team has made all the expected improvements to the game’s graphical fidelity for an annual franchise such as this.
In terms of other selections outside of standard play, fans will be rather familiar with what Madden NFL 24 offers. The Madden Ultimate Team feels to be a copy and paste of last year’s addition with the exception of a new player catalog. Returning players have an option to skip the tutorial which says it all. Basically, you set out to create the ultimate team by obtaining players across the NFL. They each have their individual stats and you can dictate their positions within your team. It’s essentially digital card collecting with the video game component. After assembling your team, you can take on challenges, face others online, or purchase new players in the marketplace. This is where a major component of the microtransaction element comes into play. Of course, buying packs to obtain new players isn’t required, but the competitive nature of Ultimate Team makes it rather enticing.
"The visual presentation of Madden NFL 24 is impressive. There’s not much to say here other than the development team has made all the expected improvements to the game’s graphical fidelity for an annual franchise such as this."
The Franchise mode is one of the more attractive returning features in Madden 24. It has been modified slightly offering more variability with training modes and even trades. An additional three slots have been added for draft picks which brings your total to six slots when it comes to trades. This update affords more agency and offers players better immersion in the team-building process. In Franchise mode, it’s important to properly train your players by earning experience through mini-games that hone the skills of specific players on your team. Some of these mini-games are great fun like Target Passing which actually helps you hone your own skill at timing accurate passes. Other mini-games feel like a chore in the sense that they’re simple and feel short-changed. You can skip them entirely, but there’s a feeling of compulsion when it comes to doing them in an effort to strengthen your team. Your competency in each minigame will earn you a bronze, silver, or gold medal for each which is indicative of the XP your team is earning for the activity.
Team Relocation is another feature returning within Franchise mode that does just that, relocate your team to a new city. Madden NFL 24 adds more cities to the mix. But overall, this feature feels rather useless with little bearing on the end result. I suppose it’s there for those truly wanting to dive deep into the customizable efforts behind Franchise mode. But functionally, it seems irrelevant to the overall sporting adventure at play. But fans who have knack for management sims will find something to enjoy within this mode.
Superstar is the narrative-centric overhaul of Face of the Franchise from last year. It’s the mode in which you create a player from head to toe and thrust him into his professional football career. You’ll have to hit certain benchmarks with your fresh-faced player, and ultimately guide him through his career on the field. It’s basically the “story mode” of Madden 24. For all the efforts behind this refocused narrative, it still lacks in offering anything truly compelling. As far as sporting narratives are concerned, I still hold the story-based offering “Braking Point” in racing sims F1 21 and F1 23 in high regard. With great voice work, engaging drama, and a true-blue narrative focused around key drivers, it’s largely unmatched. Superstar lacks most of the elements that have you engaged in your own character’s destiny.
"As far as sporting narratives are concerned, I still hold the story-based offering “Braking Point” in racing sims F1 22 and F1 23 in high regard. With great voice work, engaging drama, and a true-blue narrative focused around key drivers, it’s largely unmatched. Superstar lacks most of the elements that have you engaged in your own character’s destiny."
At the end of the day, Madden NFL 24 walks a fine line between creating value for returning players and actually doing something truly substantial with the series. Madden 24 might have the monopoly on NFL games, but comparatively, it doesn’t feel as bold as other sporting games in the marketplace. Madden NFL 24 will undoubtedly inch players closer to an authentic football experience with greater detail in on-the-field play, but it lacks even a modicum of freshness from a franchise that has felt mediocre for a few years now.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Excellent graphics; Improved animations; More skill-based controls and manoeuvrability.
Some undercooked minigames; Added (and some returning) elements with less functional impact such as Team Relocation; Occasional unrefined offensive running play mechanics; A lack of any truly impactful additions to the overall package in favor of making smaller improvements.