With Madden 21 still a more than a month away, I did receive a beta code yesterday to start playing in the Madden 21 beta taking place over the holiday weekend. The beta includes four teams, and you can play Play Now games and online head-to-head games. In addition, you can not capture any media from the beta. Obviously, this means the focus will just be on gameplay as that’s really all that’s here. This article will also just include some initial impressions because I’ve only had the game for a little less than a day. A more in-depth preview will follow at some point early next week.
If you have followed Madden 21‘s development so far, then there are some interesting new ideas and concepts that have made their way into this version, at least as it relates to the on-field action. Most notably this includes new right-stick bindings for ball carriers, new options and controls for the defensive line moves, and new approaches to how the back seven defenders will approach tackling.
Most of what I cover will be quick and simple impressions of the action taking place. Of course, I’m also factoring in that is a beta and not the final product.
Madden 21 Beta First Impressions
If you have played the Madden series religiously (like I have, and many of you have), then it’s easy to grow accustomed to seeing the same type of animations over the years. We get new ones every year, but it doesn’t mean the old ones don’t immediately stick out as well. That being said, one of the first things I noticed were how the new animations looked very fluid and football-like, especially when compared to some of the “legacy” animations that are still sprinkled in here and there. I had forgotten what it feels like this gen to see a football game that consistently looks like a football game, but Madden 21 seems to be on the right track here with what they have added to the animation mix.
The new and newly tweaked animations were especially noticeable during gang tackling and when defensive players tried to fight their way through the offensive line. The most impressive of the bunch that I have seen so far though came in the secondary. It involved a cornerback reaching out to touch the wide receiver for proximity purposes, looking back to locate the ball, and then trying to actually defend the ball when it arrived all in one fluid sequence. That said, this is still Madden on the field so don’t expect some paradigm shift. It still felt like Madden, but an improved version.
Another area that hit instantly was the X-Factors that were often overpowered in Madden 20 seemed to be toned down here in the beta. Whether it was on offense or defense, having that X light up orange didn’t mean that Superman had suddenly arrived on the scene to ruin everything.
I was often able to juke my way around a superstar defensive lineman or secondary player, but it was just often enough to make the added amplified abilities not seem like a death sentence. Utilizing Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, both with X-Factors engaged, still felt pretty lethal but not nearly as bad as last year. In other words, it feels like if you’re playing smart then you can contain the X-Factors on the whole.
As stated earlier, the goal of this preview is just to throw out some early impressions of what I am seeing on the field, and with just a couple games under my belt, I can say that I am having more fun with Madden 21 than ’20 so far. It could just be that new car smell, but during the last few years Madden has quickly gotten stale for me. So, right now, I keep internally asking myself if I could I play two, three, four years of a franchise before getting bored? As of right now, I am leaning towards yes (and I mean an online franchise, for the record). Could this perspective change in the next couple days? Absolutely.
That is also why I will follow up this piece with a second, more in-depth one early next week that dives into more of the gameplay nuances and changes. Regardless, it’s always good when a game can make a solid first impression on the field, and Madden 21 has done that here. The X-Factors continue to evolve, but in a positive and more realistic fashion, and while there are not a lot of new animations (at least I have not seen them if there are), the ones that are here seem impressive and contextually realistic.