Madden NFL 24 Review

Madden NFL 24 by developer EA Tiburon and publisher ElectronicArtsMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Fall is around the corner, which means the NFL is nearly here – and that means Madden NFL 24 has arrived. Those now are inclined to hate the series due to its yearly release cycle are going to probably continue to do so. However, for those such as myself who enjoy this time of the year and the formula that Madden provides, it’s an entertaining game that is also probably the most complete iteration in the series since the Xbox Series X released.

I’ve probably played more Madden titles than any other series of video games released during my lifetime. Of course, it comes out every year and I’ve been playing since its release on the Sega Genesis decades ago. This annual cycle makes sense as EA wants to tie it into the excitement of each new season. It’s the nature of sports in general. It’s all very cyclical (some would say cynical, declaring the cadence a money grab), but I don’t see this release pattern going away. Enthusiasm for a sport is at its highest near the start of a season. It’s a world of possibility for fans who follow their favorite teams and hope that ‘this is their year’.

The obvious downside of this cycle is that the Madden franchise doesn’t get a great deal of time to innovate. It’s about tweaks and polish, picking a few headline options to add because of the very strict release schedule. The good news is, Madden NFL 24 is a very solid release. There’s a bunch of newly named features such as Sapien AI and FieldSENSE that are really just fancy ways of saying that the team has put a focus on trying to make the gameplay as authentic as possible. It’s a tough task, given that there’s two teams of 11 on the field shoving, sprinting, jumping and tackling one another on every play.

The end result is a positive one. There’s probably always going to be some small bouts of weirdness that happens, but after playing very heavily (a couple of dozen hours and counting), I haven’t seen any of the really odd issues that have crept up in the past. There have been years where the ball or player physics were not overly realistic and there have been rare but exceptional moments where they’ve been straight up anime-levels of unrealistic and clearly broken.  I never had any of that here. On any given play you have linemen engaged in blocking, quarterbacks and running backs with the ball in their hands as they try to make would-be tacklers miss, wide receivers trying to create separation from the secondary to make sometimes spectacular catches, and the presentation does a good job of nailing these aspects of the game.

Speaking of the presentation, I was pleasantly surprised by the audio. The on-field sounds have been quite solid for some time, lending to the authenticity of the game’s action. However, as recently as a year or two ago, I grumbled about the color commentary becoming a bit long in the tooth. I still think that we’ve heard the same voices for long enough that it’s worth considering a change there, but in recent years there were a handful of strange issues where the commentary did not align well with the action. I didn’t hear nearly as much of that in this year’s release. It’s a subtle thing, but hearing them correctly state whether a ruling on the field was overturned, or having them talk about a player’s number of rushing touchdowns (when it was in fact a receiving touchdown) and more just doesn’t seem to be happening at this point.

Simply put: the on-field action is fun and it’s dressed up in a pretty presentation. Since that is where I spend most of my time with this game, it’s a good foundation to build off of.

It probably helps that my favorite modes have gotten some new features added. Okay, there’s an argument to be made that some of them are just old features that had been pruned off of the series in years past and are getting reintroduced, but they’re still welcome additions. By far I spend most of my time in the Franchise mode. This has numerous RPG-like elements and the player and franchise progressions have been the dangling carrot on the stick for me that I can’t help but chase. Training camp mini-games, deeper player scouting and improved commissioner controls are the highlights here, but it’s a deep mode that I readily sunk a lot of hours into.

The Superstar mode is back, and it continues to create a sort of structured story for your created player (who can be any one of several positions like quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker for example), but it’s not as narratively heavy as Face of the Franchise has been in the past. It’s basically Madden’s attempt to answer what we see in NBA 2K’s career mode, and it does a pretty good job. I would make a character, see him through the combine, get drafted and proceed to play games and go through drills to improve my player. It’s like a more centralized version of the franchise mode, focused on the player and not the team. You can jump online and play some more arcade-like backyard style games (called Showdown now). Again this feels like good growth to try and emulate what we’ve seen in other sports games over the years, and it’s a lot of fun.

I will touch on the Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) briefly, as it’s a mode EA highlights a lot (which makes sense, since it’s microtransaction-heavy and generates additional income for them). It’s an interesting hybrid of fantasy football and card collecting (two hobbies of mine) that has you opening packs to better your team and complete various challenges to earn currency and players to help better your team. It’s a very clear progression loop that some people absolutely adore. I think it’s made some nice strides over the last few years, with a bit more variance in the activities and the way you can develop your roster, but this is just the least interesting of the modes for me personally. I still spent some time in it, but the random nature of the packs and cards you pull make progress feel less about my skill as a player or team builder.

Madden NFL 24 is never going to fully shake the online discourse about it being a money grab due to the MUT and yearly release cycle, but as a diehard NFL fan? I had more fun with this year’s iteration than I have in years. The modes I enjoy most have continued to gain depth and polish, and the overall package is incredibly well done. We’ll likely never see a Madden game make improvements by leaps and bounds over the prior year, but incremental improvements to an already strong foundation are enough for me to enjoy the start of the NFL with this title.

Score: 8 / 10



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