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Madden 21 Beta Final Impressions

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Madden NFL 21

Madden 21 Beta Final Impressions

I dropped my early impressions of the Madden 21 beta on Friday. My early impressions were generally positive and spoke well of some new animations, new defensive line abilities, and addition by subtraction with X-Factor abilities being reduced to a more realistic rating boost in certain areas — especially on defense.

However, as many of us know and readily admit, there is generally a “honeymoon” phase with new titles, and the key to an honest breakdown and early impression piece is being able to push past that phase and better hone in on what is consistently happening. Thankfully, I was able to do just that over the long weekend, and while I’m not as optimistic as I was in my original impressions piece, there is still a lot to like about the Madden 21 beta. The difference is I now have a better handle on the positive elements and how they mix in with some legacy issues that long-running veterans of the series will quickly be able to point out.

The Running Game

One of the positives I noticed with my team and the CPU was the ability to run the ball. Now, I have to be careful here praising the run game because everyone knows it was overpowered last year. So when I say run the ball, I am not referring to cheap coding that turns running backs into a combination of Emmitt, Walter and Barry. I am referring to watching the likes of Todd Gurley for the CPU exhibiting patience while awaiting holes to open up, taking advantage of well-timed jukes, and utilizing stiff arms to gain those extra yards when needed.

madden 21 beta impressions

The biggest positive in this area was that I was able to follow in the footsteps of the CPU and replicate the exact same results as the AI. If I was able to keep my finger off the speed burst trigger and truly watch what my offensive line was doing to hit the holes in a timely fashion, I was consistently averaging four to four and half yards with any of the running backs that are offered up in the beta in the situations where it made sense to run the ball.

Passing And QB play

There have been some obvious tweaks to the passing game, especially when it comes to QB releases and throwing on the run. These remain mostly positive changes at this point. I witnessed errant passes from both myself and the CPU. While I still would like to see accuracy toned down a bit more while also giving us a larger variety of misses, the changes here feel like a step in the right direction.

Another area that impressed me was watching the CPU QB run through his reads when given the time before deciding to take off. That’s not saying that I never saw quarterbacks do this in Madden 20, but during my time with the M21 beta, CPU QB scrambling felt contextually correct and organic to the situation.

That being said, there are still issues with CPU QBs being too accurate, QB situational awareness, and QB sideline awareness when throwing into the flats or on out patterns.

Defensive Play And Awareness

I witnessed a lot to like with the defensive line play, and it played out with a fluidity that made it feel like ratings mattered. On top of that, it felt like specific matchups against linemen felt more important, which I spoke about in my first impressions piece. That’s all well and good, but the more time I spent with the beta, the more I realized that the back seven, and even more specifically, the secondary seemed lost at times and slow to react.

I fully understand that ratings also play a part in this, but early on I saw some amazing WR/DB interactions where they would fight each other for a 50/50 ball and show complete situational awareness of what was playing out. As time progressed with the beta though, it became more apparent that the positives I saw from the secondary were more of an anomaly, and the psychic traits or lost-for-no-reason moments showed up too often.

madden-21-gp

As my time with the beta came closer to ending, some other elements in the secondary became more obvious as well. The new zone drop mechanic is well done and a strong addition to the defensive arsenal, but zone work still needs some work before the final release. The running game feels good from movement to weight, but it has before in betas and has then later been destroyed by patches.

Tackling at times feels great and looks very realistic with proper physics, weight, and momentum all part of the equation. At other times, it feels wonky with no contextual force that I would expect to see and feel as the hit occurs.

Final Thoughts

All of that said, this is a gameplay beta and so a big part of the reason for it existing is to provide some final feedback that can lead to one last round of tuning before the game is released. There is still time to correct some of the issues, further develop some of the inconsistencies, and retool some of the awareness issues that were seen on both sides of the ball. Overall though, there was a lot to like about the Madden 21 beta. There is a level of enjoyment play to play that has been missing the last few years for me, and so I hope we see tweaking more than massive wholesale changes before the release.

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  1. Good article, Chase.
    I played some games as well as watched some cpu vs cpu games...all on default all-pro with untouched sliders and 10 minute qtrs.
    Overall, the beta left a lot to be desired despite some noticeable graphical upgrades and new animations.
    The game itself simply does not capture the violence and physicality of football.
    Beyond arguably the hit stick tackles, there is no real sense of suddensess, velocity or explosion upon impact.
    In the beta, the tackling and blocking still seem "soft". Too often defenders seem to almost ease ball carriers to the ground. The underwater, "cushioned" feel to player contact continues to detract from immersion and has plagued the series since seemingly forever.
    Even with its impressive graphics on the surface, skeletal hints and traces of the player models, interaction and movement from the Madden 00's remains further hurting the game's ability to capture the realism of the sport.
    In short, what plagues Madden arguably can't be addressed in two years, let alone two months. Tiburon continues to build on a flawed foundation when the game needs to be demolished and rebuilt.
    In the end, for those that enjoy Madden and simply accept it for what is...then M21 likely won't disappoint but nor will it impress. For me however, the beta, coupled with the franchise mode debacle, cemented my non-purchase this year.
    It's still Madden. I saw the CPU still struggling to run. They move horizontally more than vertically. As the user you're going to run for 7+ yards per carry on default All Pro. The game is still way too animation driven and doesn't feel organic. The majority of 2-man animations are not good. The new animations this year look pretty good, but the past animations, like most blocking animations or practically all WR/DB animations are just poor at best and don't make sense half the time.
    Locomotion felt great. It looks like a game that will play out decently H2H if there are no meta plays, but the experience vs the CPU is still lacking big time. The CPU just about has no brain and it never feels like you're playing an actual opponent that is making decisions with a purpose. It just feels like you're playing against an opponent that is limited and makes play calls based off of an RNG mechanic.... which is basically what EA has the CPU doing.
    The gameplay isn't terrible, it's not that great either. It remains Madden. A pretty game that does some things well, plenty bad, and overall is an okay product at best, a frustrating and inconsistent product at worst. I'll give it more time with EA Acceas Premier, but I'll likely stick with older football games for the most part outside of continuing to support Maximum Football.
    Holy Beta Impressions, Kanobi, every thread I go into, I'm reading your impressions. (lol, just giving you a hard time, bud)
    Very good article and this is the way I feel too.
    They need to tweek and not majorly change game play issues before the game arrives.
    I mean, after all, it's still Madden.
    I think Robert's well written article pretty much sums up how I feel. If you liked Madden 20 (I think I'm over 600 hrs) you probably will like M21 from how the beta played. Some are saying that Madden 21 feels the same as 20. I disagree with this- with the difference in speed, movement, weight. The feel & visual look of M21 during tackles is a different feel for the better from M20. The DL/OL interaction has been well done imo & kudos to Clint. The reach with the football is a nice added touch. I mean if ppl come in & think they're going to play a drastic different game from yr to yr gameplay wise, will be disappointed & not sure why they're expecting that tbh. I'm obviously buying M21(not a suprise) and it won't be without it's warts, but for me gameplay wise the positives out way the negatives with the beta. Room for polish before release for sure, but I'm looking forward to the final product.
    The problem is, no matter what the beta impressions are, it's going to play like a whole different game by the end of this game cycle. EA/Tiburon, every year, patches this game to death.
    Sometimes for the better, to fix some of the bugs, but other times it just ends up breaking mechanics, AI, and exasperates other issues that weren't previously a problem.
    Good Read Robert!
    Here are mine.....and before I divulge..here is where I am as a Madden Gamer:
    * 50ish Gamer, been playing Madden since 2k faded away into the night (2k Fanboy back in the day)
    * I have really enjoyed M19/20 the past two years...i think the past two years versions have come a LONG Way for Madden compared to the dark times about a decade ago.
    * Inferior stick skills compared to most gamers
    OK...so, onto the impressions...oh and...Mad Props to Steve/OS for the code..much appreciated!
    * DL Line play is really fun....in past versions, it was pretty much pointless to play DLine as I rarely felt it accomplished anything. There is a learning curve. I did notice more success getting wins on the DLine in *competitive* mode versus *sim* but...that sounds how it should be as Comp is more about Stick Skills. Playing with the Defensive Cam is great for these new DLine RS controls....while there may not be the violent attacking of lineman as Kanobi points out....they no longer play pattycake like past Maddens have. I do wish the Defense Cam could be re-worked a bit...not sure why the camera view is angled rather than be straight up like when on the offensive zoom camera. The problem with playing on Defensive Cam is that the play behind the DLine seems awful...feels like too play big plays are given up...more on this....
    * On several it appeared that AI defenders (both my team and CPU) took way too long to make a tackle or even try to close on the ball carrier.....really noticed this with CBs/FS/SS....I think this is why using DCam was almost worthless as you would get gashed by the lack of field awareness from the AI
    * Lighting appears warmer/softer for the 4:15 games......nice and bright for the 1pm games.
    * Played A LOT of Ravens at Bucs games....felt the other teams in the demo the 2ndary was weak...wanted to really see how CPU defense was (BAL has a legit team). As noted before, Im not a hardcore/elite gamer....I played mostly as Bucs/Brady....played on both Sim & Comp.....I found my games against BAL to be really tough...lost 37-9....34-22....44-35
    * CPU Ravens play to their real life counterpart...a LOT of LaMar/Ingram running plays...and, LaMar's Go-To receiver was indeed Andrews the TE....a lot of throws to him
    * Saw the receiver awareness animations...in particular, Mike Evans while being tackled, reaching fo the GL with the ball...TD Bucs!!
    * Tom Brady in those creamsicle throwback TB jerseys are a sight to see! haha!...oh and his *No Hi-Five* cutscene does travel to TB with him
    * Saw the Ravens losing 28-21 to TB with 7:23 remaining in the game on the TB 20 go for it on 4th inches...very aggressive...I liked it!
    * Overall, game speed does appear slower/smoother than M20...I like it.....the dead-leg animation is great.
    * post play user celebrations are great
    * Not a fan of the Instant Replay wipes (IE Move The Chains)
    * There is an animation that is carried over from M20 that I loathe...SteveOS brought this up in one of his impression posts....its the one where a receiver jumps up for the ball and a defender will jump up and tip the ball out of receivers hands but in doing so, the receiver jumps a little higher or stays in the air....i can't describe it..but.....it looks bad....does not look natural at all...wish they would remove/re-work that animation
    * Overall, I enjoyed it.....I like the DL moves on the RS now....at least validates playing as a DLineman now in Madden.
    * Also...as noted by other posters.....it's likely the game I played this weekend will NOT be the game we all play in August....so.....take these impressions with a grain of salt.
    If it wasn't for PS5/Next-Gen, it would be an automatic purchase for me but...curious to see what Next-Gen has to offer.
    I'm sorry Robert that folks are giving Chase the credit for your article, lmao, but yes it's a good piece.
    Each person's hands on experience is all that matters at the end of the day, and everyone here who has been here for a minute know basically where everyone else stands on Madden, but I have to say anyway that for me, despite the core gameplay being quintessential Madden, I can write off the opinion of anyone who calls the gameplay Madden 20.5.
    Nickda55
    The problem is, no matter what the beta impressions are, it's going to play like a whole different game by the end of this game cycle. EA/Tiburon, every year, patches this game to death.
    Sometimes for the better, to fix some of the bugs, but other times it just ends up breaking mechanics, AI, and exasperates other issues that weren't previously a problem.

    Not even the end of the cycle, the game will feel different at release
    cingelsby
    Random question, does Lamar Jackson have is signature QB Cadence in the game

    Good question...Im not a Ravens fan so i couldnt identify his audio....he did frequently put both hands behind his back pre-snap...not sure if that was in M20...
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    From my time with the beta I played two games. One as my Ravens vs. the Chiefs (All-Madden) and the other as the Bucs against the Ravens (All-Pro).
    Both were very fun honestly and ended on the last play of the game so that was exciting. I like them moving the DL moves back to the right stick, but I still felt like there weren't enough "wins" for me as the user. It could just be me getting used to the beta though.
    I really don't have a lot to say because of my limited time with it but I'll definitely try the full version on EA Access when it comes out but with Franchise not getting any real changes...depending on what they can do in 2 months...more than likely I'll be sticking with Madden 20.
    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
    allBthere
    I haven't played madden in about 10 years - can you change the default camera yet? (I feel like it's way too zoomed out)

    Nope, you still can't adjust the zoom and height of the cameras, smh. I've complained about this for years, thought I was the only one who cared about this.
    Americas Team
    Nope, you still can't adjust the zoom and height of the cameras, smh. I've complained about this for years, thought I was the only one who cared about this.

    However, if the guy hasn't played in 10 years, then it should be said Madden does have 4 or 5 different camera angles to choose from including a zoomed angle. There are no custom camera options available for whatever inexplicable reason. EA hates giving the user any options, at least their lack of options make it seem that way.
    allBthere
    I haven't played madden in about 10 years - can you change the default camera yet? (I feel like it's way too zoomed out)

    They've added a zoom cam about 5 yrs ago. I use a modded zoom camera on PC that's even zoomed closer (only works on half the field though).
    After playing the beta, is anyone going to have a hard time going back to M20? I've felt that way about a few Maddens where once i played the demo/beta I had no interests in playing the prior version.
    #fixmaddenfranchise
    canes21
    I'll give it more time with EA Acceas Premier, but I'll likely stick with older football games for the most part outside of continuing to support Maximum Football.

    Same here. Will be finishing up my APF 2k21 roster along with supporting Maxium Football as well.
    oneamongthefence
    After playing the beta, is anyone going to have a hard time going back to M20? I've felt that way about a few Maddens where once i played the demo/beta I had no interests in playing the prior version.
    #fixmaddenfranchise

    Yep happens to me every yr. Lol. It's ok time to play the back log list.
    jfsolo
    I'm sorry Robert that folks are giving Chase the credit for your article, lmao, but yes it's a good piece.
    Each person's hands on experience is all that matters at the end of the day, and everyone here who has been here for a minute know basically where everyone else stands on Madden, but I have to say anyway that for me, despite the core gameplay being quintessential Madden, I can write off the opinion of anyone who calls the gameplay Madden 20.5.

    Haha, yeah I dunno what else I can do with our system to make sure the authors get credit when I don't actually write something -- it does say who wrote the piece at the bottom of the forum post. Does Steve get credit for writing things he's just posting as well?
    Here's my dealio:
    Franchise mode is on notice, the Exec SP acknowledged the Twitter storm. Now, time will tell with the fallout of this. I happen to agree with Deuce, if this was a Community Mgr, ball boy or Developer, I wouldn't give it a second thought.
    I haven't paid 60 bucks for Madden in over a decade. The little over 40 bucks I will pay for it easily pays it's dividend and what ever is left over can go for down the road franchise improvements we all hope for.
    ChaseB
    Haha, yeah I dunno what else I can do with our system to make sure the authors get credit when I don't actually write something -- it does say who wrote the piece at the bottom of the forum post. Does Steve get credit for writing things he's just posting as well?

    Lol, I did go back & give credit to Robert in my post. I think we're just so used to seeing the user pic, it's like automatic.
    oneamongthefence
    After playing the beta, is anyone going to have a hard time going back to M20? I've felt that way about a few Maddens where once i played the demo/beta I had no interests in playing the prior version.
    #fixmaddenfranchise

    After the beta period ended last night, I played a game of M20. With 21's gameplay fresh on my mind, what really struck me most was the lack of throwing-under-pressure animations. I really missed those from 21. So many wonky-looking, unnecessary sacks in years past.
    Maximum football legitimately looks like playstation 2/3 graphics. Why not just play madden 04 or the latest madden you thought was good where you can update the rosters?
    The beta was alright. It feels VERY similar to madden 20 but with a few change of direction updates. It feels harder to run than on madden 20 but the run game isn't nerfed by any stretch of the imagination. Zone defense is non existent at the moment but im sure that will be patched. Going to buy the game..
    If you liked Madden 20, you’ll love madden 21. Graphics wise, it is brighter and crisper than madden 20. The Zoom camera never looked better! The gameplay is smooth and the throwing motions are more realistic to body position and contact. Tackling is very noticeably better than M20. In fact you will notice it right from the first snap. The new running mechanics will take some time to adjust too, while the new defensive controls are a game changer for D-line controlled players.
    This game looked and played very well. Tweaking but not changing the game is hopefully what EA will do. I played a lot of the Beta and feel that it was so many steps ahead of last years Beta .
    I wasn't able to play as much of the beta as I would've liked, but I did a get a pair of 15 minute quarter games in. The first was as the Ravens vs. Atlanta, the second as the Falcons against Tampa. Both of them were played on All-Pro Simulation with default sliders. Here are my main takeaways:
    The Good

    • As of right now, the gameplay additions and changes are functioning as advertised. In particular, the running game feels pretty balanced for both the CPU and user.
    • The new animations (tackle, reaching for the first down/goal line, throwing under pressure) are well-done and are greatly beneficial to the look and feel of the game. Earlier in the thread, I mentioned that the lack of throwing under pressure animations, specifically, struck me when I returned to M20.
    • I noticed some new sideline interaction cutscenes.
    • Some aspects of the new presentation package are well-done. The new score bar and stat graphics, in particular, are fantastic and an improvement over last year.

    What Needs Work

    • Other aspects of presentation aren't as great, and I hope Tiburon makes some adjustments in that regard. I can live with the new wipes and transitions, but they're definitely on the "game-y" side. They'd be even better and more realistic if the text they displayed was tied to teams and specific players more often, rather than showing that generic "Move The Chains" type of text. The game intros are really, really bad, though. They'd be fine for modes like MUT and Superstar KO, but I hope we get something a bit more reserved and broadcast-like for Play Now and Franchise games.
    • Gameplay-wise, pass defense is the area that needs the most tuning at this point in time. Right now, it's a bit too easy for both CPU and human QB's to pick apart defenses almost at will. Tighter coverage and more intelligent DB reactions would help balance things out.
    • Some legacy issues still persist. At various points, I noticed poor sideline awareness for WR's, instances of "Robo-QB", and too many incompletions being severe overthrows, throws out-of-bounds, WR drops, or interceptions.

    Miscellaneous

    • The return game felt a little different in the two games I played. Kickoff returns felt more varied and less futile than in years' past. There was a greater sense that anything could happen on any given return. On the flip side, punt returns seemed a bit more challenging.
    • I've seen a few people speculate that the rainbow pattern that most players had on their arms were masking tattoos. I'm not holding my breath on that, but tattoo designs (even generic ones) are long overdue, Regardless, I'm curious to see if any equipment additions or changes are announced between now and launch.

    In spite of the disappointment surrounding Franchise mode, I'm leaning towards purchasing the game this year. However, I probably won't spend the extra money to play a few days early like I have in years past. I'll also give Axis and Maximum Football a fair shake for the first time.
    I thought QB's played really close to their real life tendencies. Liked seeing Jackson use his legs to both buy time and to run. Mahomes also scrambled on me quite a bit and took off running a few times when containment was lost. Mostly though Mahomes would slide out and buy time to make a throw.
    Meanwhile Brady and Ryan weren't able to escape the pocket much in the games I played but their quick release and diagnoses of coverage made up for their lack of their mobility.
    kjwill22
    Anybody heard of anything having to do with the 25 digit code when loading up the beta after the patch ??
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports

    The beta is over, so that may just be something that is there for people who are given extended access to be play testers more or less.
    Forgive me, if this has been asked elsewhere. I'm still learning the site functions. I see that there are supposedly more x factors this year, but my question is if anyone can confirm or saw where they can be turned off again?

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