Madden 22 Playtest Update And Impressions: The Good, The Bad, Looking Ahead
The Madden 22 Playtest that was released on June 17 has gone into its second phase. An update that landed on Thursday added The Yard and Superstar KO to the Play Now and franchise mode features that were available when the preview began.
If you’re trying to get your hands on the playtest before it ends, multiple NFL teams are giving them to fans on Twitter, and EA has been gradually opening up releases.
I expect the availability to be drastically increased by the weekend.
I’ll be giving those newly added features a whirl, but for now, let’s talk about the core gameplay, presentation and of course, franchise mode.
Marriage Between Physics-Based Collisions and Animations
While I’m not sure I’m totally onboard with how much Madden leans on animations over physics, I do agree that a hybrid system is the right way to go for this crucial aspect of the game. That said, the marriage between physics and animations is a little happier in the playtest than it was in Madden 21 and previous versions. I’m noticing fewer “what just happened there” moments in gameplay that are often immersion breakers.
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Tackling in General Feels Better
You can see and feel the improvements in tackling. From the different results you see in respect to big-vs-small animations, to better wrap-ups, I like the tackling in Madden 22 much more than Madden 21.
Franchise Mode Has Some New Wrinkles
Scouting is coming in an update in September, but there are already roster management additions that include game-planning, and more. There’s also at least an attempt to add some storytelling concepts. Trade logic has been worked on as well as draft tendencies. For the most part, you can see that there was an effort to improve franchise mode, but there is still improvement needed.
Super Bowl Presentation Has Improved
Thankfully, we will see a different Super Bowl presentation. It hadn’t changed for years.
M-Factors Concept is Fantastic
No other sports game even tries to implement any sort of home-field advantage. Madden 22 is the first game I’ve seen attempt to capture this very real component in sports. The introduction of M-Factors (Momentum Factors) is ingenious, though it could still use a few tweaks. I’d like to see more diverse factors as some seem redundant, but ultimately the momentum concept is conveyed throughout the course of a game.
Audio is Strong
It is early, and we haven’t heard the full complement of commentary lines from Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis, but the audio in Madden 22 sounds great. The crowd noise meshes with the sound effects beautifully, and it adds to the immersion.
Visuals are Generally the Same
I’m placing this in the “bad” section, but it all depends on how you look at it. The visuals are pretty much identical to Madden 21 on next-gen. That’s generally not a good thing as most consumers expect something of an upgrade annually. That said, Madden’s visuals aren’t an issue. Perhaps there is some room for improvement, but there is nothing here that will break the game.
O-Line A.I. is Still Bad
Madden has pretty solid head-tracking in the game for player models, which makes some of the issues with O-line A.I. worse. Visually, you’ll see an O-lineman turn his head to look at the defender he should be blocking, but far too often, he simply won’t make contact at all. Far too often O-lineman will complete an entire run play and not hit a single defender. In real football, that is a rare instance. EA has to ensure they don’t make O-lines overpowered, because that would make stopping the run and generating a pass rush too hard, but there is still some balancing needed in this area.
Sideline Catch A.I. Could Be Tweaked
I know EA has worked to improve sideline catches to make them more realistic, but on major issue is your players inability to recognize they’re on the sidelines as they run their routes if the ball is thrown to them on an out, or a HB swing. As has been in the past, receivers and running backs will head out of bounds on routes unless you possession catch. You can work around it as more players have begun to do, but it has never sat right with me that the players don’t stop when they’re obviously heading out of bounds. Even if it was something attached to awareness or route running, I could buy the overall concept a little more.
Franchise Mode is Still Feature-Barren Compared to its Competitors
While there are some nice additions to franchise mode that I didn’t allow to go unnoticed in the section above, I must also point out the lack of the sort of customization that we see in NBA 2K’s MyNBA and even Sony’s MLB The Show’s franchise mode. In Madden 22, you still won’t be able to create your own teams (logos, uniforms, stadium, etc.), realign divisions or conferences (which you also can’t do in the Show), have expansion teams, or edit contracts of existing players. Presentation elements are still missing from franchise mode that are key for immersion. The halftime show is still skippable, and there is no weekly wrap-up show to tie things together. Also, preseason still seems pointless, as the position-battle concept isn’t a thing, nor do we see the return of practice and training camp mini-games.
Next-Gen Stats Still Feels a Little Underutilized
I hope to see NGS evolve into a ratings and AI-defining resource for Madden, but it isn’t there quite yet. In-game, it feels like NGS is driving play-calling with the star-driven A.I. However, in a franchise mode, the simmed stats are still unrealistic to a degree. Some quarterbacks are putting up numbers that don’t appear to match the kind of offenses they will run in 2021. Also, the same as last year, slot receivers seem to put up astronomical numbers in all the sims. For example, the New England Patriots’ Kendrick Bourne had 105 receptions to lead the NFL in my simmed season with the Playtest. At this point, NGS is providing some solid statistics during the game, and they are a little bit more involved than last year. However, with no reference from the commentators to drive the numbers home, the delivery is sort of hollow.
Things are looking up for the series on a whole. Madden 22, especially as it relates to franchise mode, isn’t going to fix everything that has ailed the feature for more than a decade. However, EA is being transparent and intentional about its efforts to improve. We can complain about what should have been in place already, but that’s water under the bridge if you’re still interested in playing the best possible video game football experience.
Here are a few details that are more related to the future of Madden franchise mode that I picked up from the Making Madden podcast, and a final note that could possibly put Madden franchise mode into perspective.
There will be bigger features added to franchise mode heading into Madden 23. EA didn’t want users to have to restart their franchises with features being added after the release of Madden 22. That makes sense, but it won’t make users happy.
Per the Madden podcast, EA will be adding more customization like relocation and team rebranding, but it won’t be in Madden 22.
EA is rebuilding its franchise mode, and I’d say you might want to look at this similarly to a sports team.
When your team is rebuilding, you’re looking at adding building blocks first before going it becomes a championship contender. Madden’s franchise has established some decent foundation with the Madden 21 post-launch updates and what they’ve included for Madden 22, but they’re still a ways away from climbing to the top of the mountain with this feature.
The links to listen to the podcast are below:
We’re expecting to see a gridiron notes entry come through for franchise mode shortly. When it is available, if there is any information we’ve missed, I’ll go over it all.