It has been over a month since the initial launch of the not so well received title Madden NFL 21. The game suffered an early wave of review bombing and public backlash, but have EA ironed out the many bugs that plagued the game or is this game truly a right off? Find out in our up to date Madden NFL 21 review!
This review will be spread across both the PS4 and Xbox platforms, with Luke Pillar writing the main segment of the review and Shaun Jooste chirping in every now and then with any contrasting thoughts on the Playstation 4 version of the game.
Shaun: From my side, the last time I played an NFL title was on the PlayStation 2 for about five minutes against a gamer who was a pro in the series. So, I’ll be adding the perspective of someone who has no real experience with past titles.
What better place to start than the gameplay – the heart and soul of any game. The gameplay on NFL 21 pretty indifferent than previous titles. but if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it… I guess.
There is a huge array of game modes to keep you busy, but the game certainly has its eyes firmly split between two; The Yard and Madden Ultimate Team.
Back on August the 6th, EA unveiled their new game mode for NFL 21. Boasting that the new game mode adds a more arcade-like feel to the title.
“The Yard is fast, thrilling and most importantly fun. Players will delve into all-new gameplay on mobile and on consoles that will bring to life the backyard football that NFL players and fans grew up loving, where the rules are relaxed, and you can win with attitude.”EA quote on the release of The Yard
The Yard offers the player the chance to take a step back from playing in the stricter regulated NFL. Instead, allowing the player to play a more street-inspired variety of the game. The game is compressed down into 6-on-6 matches. Adding new scrimmage rules as well as a whole new scoring system, to compliment the street design.
The Yard was a very enjoyable change of pace from anything else the game had to offer, allowing the player to take customize and control their own character and add his or her own individual playstyle or position to the game.
The slight hiccup I have with The Yard goes hand in hand with the reason I feel this game mode was added in the first place – to encourage more microtransactions. Your character is customizable from head to toe, but to obtain anything of style, you need to revert back to keying in your bank card details.
All in all, I’m happy with the content The Yard adds to the game, not overhauling the mechanics in order to achieve the arcadey-feel. But instead to have the two working together. Taking the simulation mechanics, and throwing them into an arcade-style game mode.
Franchise Mode is a big, yet often overlooked, part of the Madden series. The game mode allows you to play as Headcoach of a team of your choice, controlling the behind the scenes dealings at the club, be it the contract talks, draft picks, tactics or the training. It is all your job to take control of and lead your team to Superbowl glory.
The gameplay within Franchise mode allows you a handful of options, you can play the full game yourself, play only defensive, play only offensive, or play key points within the game.
I really appreciated being able to sim through the slug of the match and the simulation throughout the match wasn’t totally unbalanced either. Cutting an hour-long match down into a mere 20-minute experience.
Ultimate Team is the focal point for pretty much every EA Sports game, and it is no secret why with their earnings between 2015-2020 being as follows;
- 2015: $587 million
- 2016: $660 million
- 2017: $775 million
- 2018: $1.18 billion
- 2019: $1.37 billion
- 2020: $1.49 billion
Madden NFL is definitely one of the most popular and profitable Ultimate Team versions. And a big factor of that is the solid gameplay that it offers. Unfortunately, due to how unbelievably poor I am at Madden Games, online games usually ended up in tears so I ultimately called it a day on my competitive career pretty early on. And opted instead to play the offline challenges. With a highlight like this, you can probably see why;
I understand people that enjoy spending money on Ultimate Team as a hobby, the same way I understand people that buy Pokémon or yu-gi-oh cards. But always keep control of your spending, if you find yourself caught in a vicious spend cycle, then you could be falling victim to Ultimate Team’s heavily criticised gambling approach. Read our guide on tackling microtransaction addiction here.
Shaun: By far and large, my favourite experience was with The Yard. I thoroughly enjoyed creating my own character and rising from High School American football to the NFL. It’s a similar experience I had with another EA Sports title, UFC 4.
Sticking to this Madden NFL 21 review, it was a steep learning curve for a newbie NFL player. I didn’t understand half of the strategy calls, offence moves, or defensive tackles. What’s more, I didn’t understand how the scoreboard worked or the field measurements.
Of course, none of this makes the game bad. It’s more a case of not knowing anything about NFL. After a few hours of playing, I finally got the hang of it, and the Mustangs beat the Hawks 57-0.
The gameplay mechanics became a lot easier and I enjoyed playing the game. I’ve even started watching real NFL matches, heaven forbid! So even if you’ve never touched a Madden NFL game, I can confirm that it does become easier to play and I’m loving it.
As mentioned at the beginning of this Madden NFL 21 Review; Graphics, Physics, and bugs served a HUGE part in the review bombs that this game received.
During my time playing the game, NFL 21 definitely had some problems. But they were few and far between and didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game.
Bugs weren’t plentiful, but they did happen. A bigger problem for me though was players clipping through one another. Replays would be ruined by players glitching inside of each other. Unfortunately, this is a problem that really breaks immersion for me, and this was time and time again the game would fall victim to this. A similar problem shared during my time playing EA Sports UFC 4.
The bugs aren’t half as bad as they were on the day of launch. This isn’t to say they have been fixed completely. There are times where the field doesn’t render in, leaving you playing on some chroma key style flooring. And there are other times where your players face stretches the side of the field during a highlight.
The game-breaking glitches appear to have all but disappeared – at least, they didn’t pop up during my time playing. So it’s good that something is being done to correct the errors of launch, but that doesn’t take away from EA’s willingness to shovel out an unfinished product.
Another thing that people noticed early doors was the usage of previous titles assets (things like advertising boards). Due to the fact that these assets still had previous NFL titles names on them, this is a guaranteed case of Asset flipping and not just speculation.
Obviously, not all assets in-game have the NFL title branding on them, so the extent of the asset flipping is unknown. But I’d like to think this was a shortcut taken on minor details of the game and not a bigger problem than that – With the difficulties this year has presented for everyone, I can’t blame the development team for taking slight shortcuts where possible.
Shaun: I was a bit surprised to read that there are glitches. For the time I played on the PS4, I didn’t spot any. The graphics were immaculate and better than some other sports titles I’ve played this year. I love how the action buttons appear during the game to remind you which ones do what. Of course, with no experience with previous titles, any sign of asset flipping went right over my head.
The Soundtrack for every EA title is always incredibly high budget, offering incredible menu music, authentic commentaries and believable in-game audios to match – Madden NFL 21 is no exception to this.
The only questionable choice for me was the noise that accompanies the pack opening on ultimate team. Before the contents of the card are unveiled, you are met with random grunting, presumably from the players, but… why?
Shaun: I also loved the sound and music from the game. It made me feel like I’m really at the stadium or watching the game live on TV. And the commentaries are absolutely amazing. Definitely the best quality in the game.
Madden NFL 21 Review Conclusion
Madden is a solid addition to the Madden series of games, taking into account the problems that this year has presented – It offers up solid gameplay, a great new mode, and a stable Ultimate Team experience.
The clipping of on-field players is my biggest issue, Replays didn’t look all that pleasing due to the collisions constantly clipping the players into one another.
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