Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Madden 21 is out, the reviews are coming in, and the ruling on the field is…not great.
The lone NFL video game on the market, Madden has long been a fan favorite in the sports world as gamers flock to the annual release to see what new additions and improvements have been added to the most realistic virtual football experience available. Only this year, it appears Madden 21 hasn’t done enough to earn better than average scores.
The biggest additions to the game are this year’s Face of the Franchise: Rise to Fame story mode and The Yard, a new backyard-football style mode that features six-on-six action, unique rules and avatar customization. However, fans of other top modes (such as franchise and Madden Ultimate Team) are going to notice that things seem quite familiar, considering not much has changed since Madden 20.
Here’s a roundup of some of the latest expert reviews for this year’s annual Madden release.
David Jagneaux, IGN: 6/10
Although Jagneaux praised The Yard, calling it a “bright spot” in this year’s Madden, he also noted that it “comes at the expense of other modes.” That’s because of the lack of changes in some of the most popular areas of the annual game.
“Madden’s lack of innovation has reached a tipping point,” Jagneaux wrote. “There is no excuse for Madden’s stagnation. I appreciate the tweaks to the core gameplay and the chaotic novelty of The Yard, but that isn’t enough to make me want to sing its praises.”
The Yard is creative as it features an 80-yard field, no kicking, trick plays and unique points bonuses, all of which Jagneaux praised. However, he also noted that there’s not enough depth to the mode, as there’s only so much customization that can be done and no type of league format.
Jagneaux’s main criticism of Face of the Franchise is that none of the high school and college games you play have an effect on the storyline, as your player will get drafted to the NFL and keep going even if you play horribly.
And as for franchise, Jagneaux went a step further in saying it’s the same as the Madden 20 version, noting it’s “almost identical” to the Madden 19 mode as well. So, it’s no surprise that his review called Madden 21 a “stagnant transition year” for the franchise.
Mark Delaney, GamesRadar: 3/5
While The Yard may not have a ton of depth, Delaney looked to the future of the mode in his review. He noted it’s an “exciting new” mode built to last, as he sees it as something that should continue to develop. It’s possible that will even happen in this year’s game, as EA Sports could keep adding more customization in later updates.
But like Jagneaux, Delaney is disappointed that it’s led to the neglecting of franchise mode.
“It legitimately stings to write this sentence, but franchise mode has been all-but-ignored yet again, perhaps unlike any season ever before,” Delaney wrote. “… Truly, I struggle to find one new item to highlight in Franchise, my favorite mode, and that’s troubling.”
Delaney is more surprised by the lack of new features in Madden Ultimate Team, which has long been a mode that EA Sports has put a ton of work into and results in many microtransactions in the game.
As for Face of the Franchise, Delaney acknowledged the story’s cringeworthy moments, but he praised that the mode has a “much longer commitment” as it doesn’t just turn into a typical franchise mode once your player reaches the NFL like last year’s version.
All in all, Delaney wrote that the new features “come without the substance required to contend for football glory.”
One of the lowest scores for Madden 21 comes from DualShockers, which didn’t mince words when criticizing this year’s game by calling it “a mess of lazy modes, bad gameplay and a continued descent into a focus on over-monetized offerings.”
Like other reviews, DualShockers noted the lack of changes to franchise and MUT, said The Yard is a good idea and added there are some problems with the Face of the Franchise storyline. The review also pointed out some of the issues with this year’s gameplay.
DualShockers’ review noted that downfield blocking is still an issue for the AI, along with some defenders getting in some unrealistic positions to make plays.
And while there are some adjustments to the gameplay features, nothing major was added. But DualShockers was mostly concerned that Madden still struggles to get some of the basic things right, noting that it doesn’t live up to its “simulation” style because of it.