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Madden 21 Next-Gen Secondary Patch Review - A Needed Boost for the Defense

Madden 21 Next-Gen Secondary

Madden NFL 21

Madden 21 Next-Gen Secondary Patch Review - A Needed Boost for the Defense

 

Last week, EA Sports dropped a patch for Madden 21. There were various fixes in it, but on next-gen consoles, the biggest point of interest was that it was supposed to address the secondary issues with the next-gen version of the game. These issues included secondary players looking lost on the field, and showing the aggressiveness and reactions of a sloth way too often. While the last-gen version of Madden had its own set of issues, they were nothing that were comparable to how inconsistent the secondary issues were on the PS5 and Series X versions.

The Struggle

For Series X and PS5 fans, the Madden 21 experience has been all over the place. Graphically, the game looks better and the player movement feels the best it has in a long time. I’ve even seen some folks say it’s the best player movement the series has ever produced.

I consider myself objectively centered when it comes to Madden, and I think that is important when looking at this franchise. There are a lot of things to like, and even love, about Madden from a fun perspective, and there is an equally decent amount to be frustrated about with this franchise in terms of progressing, delivering simulation-like components, and catering to all types of fans, and not just ones who are a better source of revenue.

madden-21-ng-tc1

That said, the one area where opinions have been aligned since launch relates to the struggles of the defensive secondary on the next-gen consoles. There was simply a struggle to react in a consistent and uniform way that replicated what our eyes see on any given game day in real life.

There are always going to be variants at work, with player ratings, defensive play-calling, and skill combined with how the AI reacts, so mistakes, much like in the real game of football, are bound to take place. Those mistakes though shouldn’t be happening at the alarming rate of dysfunction that was currently happening before the most recent patch was released.

The Good – Madden 21 Next-Gen Secondary Patch Review

Now that the patch is out to help correct the struggles of the secondary, I can say that while we should not have needed to wait in the first place, it does appear after spending multiple hours with the game and testing the patch in multiple scenarios, that some help has arrived.

The biggest area of improvement, for me at least, is the reactionary phase of the defensive secondary in man-to-man defensive schemes. Too often I witnessed elite defenders looking lost on certain plays and moving about as if there was no thought coinciding with their actions. While many of us feel that is realistic in watching our favorite teams on Sunday, it’s probably not a good thing for a video game that loves to talk about being an NFL simulation.

Seeing the improved reaction of my defenders really is a game changer, and again, we shouldn’t have had to wait for this to be in the game. However, it is now, and it is a big step up in how the game plays out.

The wonderful Madden community had been scrambling to provide sliders that helped mitigate the issue and subsidize the lack of awareness from the start, but post-patch those slider sets are probably going to need to be tweaked, and that’s a good thing.

Madden 21 Next-Gen Secondary

While it’s hard to describe without seeing it for yourself in motion, if you look at the screen capture provided above, you can basically notice the awareness and thought pattern of each secondary player based on where his eyes are looking. I can see real thought and realistic awareness taking place. Although the field may look chaotic at first glance, each defender understands what he is responsible for and is doing his best to accommodate the defensive scheme and play call.

This doesn’t mean that every receiver is covered like glue all the time. As I mentioned before, other facets such as skill, ratings, and the QB they are playing against are all still part of the equation. It simply means that each player looks and reacts in a more realistic fashion, and in a way that is believable to the users playing the game.

The Bad – Madden 21 Next-Gen Secondary Patch Review

Not all is perfect after the patch though as there are still head-scratching moments where you see the AI defenders perform actions on the field that would get them or the defensive coordinator fired. In a standard Tampa Two, I witnessed the OLB — who was obviously set to cover any slants or dump-offs into the flat — take off to help cover a player who already had a cornerback and safety on him while leaving the running back and tight end all alone to roam on a wheel route and a crossing pattern.

Here is another instance where the defense is in an obvious zone, and the two defenders take off to cover Godwin — with safety help as a third defender — but decide to leave Mike Evans all alone. This happens in the NFL so that isn’t the concern, but the fact that Moreau (#25 in red) physically saw Evans (player in white in the foreground) cut inside for a crossing pattern and consciously left him to go chase Godwin is a problem. This is especially true because he had safety help as well.

While man to man has seen what I would describe as a very strong improvement, zone coverage is still a bit hit or miss. However, while the zone decisions are sometimes baffling, zones still did get better. The Over/under coverage adjustments make a lot more sense now and work like they should, and deep zones also got much better. I would also put hook zones in the improved category, and zone blitzing does not feel as risky now overall.

In short, I am hoping these improvements stay intact moving forward, and the developers can build upon them for Madden 22.

Bottom Line

In the end, the patch basically brings the defense back to what it felt like on the last-gen version of Madden 21. That’s a pretty big deal for people who are solely playing the title on either the Series X or PS5.

It feels a bit odd to still be receiving gameplay patches on a yearly title halfway through the development cycle of the next iteration, but this oddity is welcomed. Is that patch enough to warrant a purchase if you have not taken the plunge yet? While obviously it depends on the person, my suggestion would be to wait until Madden 22 rolls out at this point (unless of course you just need the console but already have the game on last gen).

5 Comments

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  1. The article gives praise to the improvement in coverage, but IMO it's even better than what is stated in piece.
    It talks about when player mistakenly covers a player that is already well cover and rightly mentions that this happen IRL all time, but I disagree with the assertion that this shouldn't happen in the game. That has to happen sometimes otherwise coverage is too good, and this kind of mistake of aggressiveness is preferable to a defender choosing to cover no one. The mistakes primarily happen on routes where receiver exchange positions or with flood routes. That is when it should happen most often.
    I also think that zone coverage in next gen is now much better than it was on current gen, primarily because of the activity and superior ball skills of safeties.
    I also feel like man is better too because unless there is a great ratings mismatch, that extra 2 or 3 yards of artificial separation beyond the normal separation dice roll loss doesn't happen either.
    It seems like I'm being hard on the article, but I'm just advocating for how well it's playing for me. It was actually fair and very complementary.
    I have to applaud this article and we as a community should all take note. This was a fair and objective article that realistically touched on the negative and positive aspects of this patch and the state of Madden at this point. I have been waiting for a fair impression of the patch before I downloaded it and this provided it. I could get with the secondary flaws as long as the essence of next gen which is the movement hasn’t changed. Looks like there wasn’t a trade off. Excellent article my man!!!
    Edit: Downloaded patch disappointed they chose to speed up the game coverage is better but the weighted feel is nerfed . This is hum vs cpu so h2h might have a totally different feel. Oh well it is what it is
    The issue isn't just a programming one, but more about the lack of representation of the nuances in the secondary.  Where is illegal contact? Where is defensive holding? Where are the penalties that frequent Sundays in the NFL? Man coverage should be right across the board unless it's a grave mismatch, but the balance should be penalties, especially on the all crucial third down.  Obviously in a competitive video game, the variable should be adjustments/emphasis that the users make when it comes to aggression (press or off; hand contact in phase; hand contact on breaks; hand contact when the ball is in the air).  There should also be a technique rating ("mcv and zcv" are too broad) that determines how often defenders are in good position, and obviously some sort of trait that determines how confident defenders are to turn their head for the ball when making a play downfield - this should play into how often a defender gets penalized (most defenders are penalized frequently in the secondary in real life). The best of the best should be allowed to be physical, track the ball, and be penalized far less.
     To me this just speaks to the severe lack of sophistication in Madden, and this is just a band-aid that covers up the bigger issue in the game and the lack of breakthrough by EA over the past decade.  Sure you can be "objective" about this patch, but the fact that this patch is the solution is an inherent problem in itself.  QBs drifting back dropping dimes while not stepping up in the pocket is a problem.   Pockets not being formed is a problem.  Clueless o-line blocking is a problem.  Not being able to choose defensive fronts is a problem.  This is 2021 - all these articles do is give EA justification for lackluster efforts.  Am I the only one who thinks we should have a WAY better game at this point?
    I went 6-10 during my access trial.Saw it was same ol' Madden. Same poor pass coverage, same experience.
    Since then-

    This patch has brought new life to the game...hell the franchise for me. Enjoying H2H for the first time since like Madden 08, lol
    I can use football strategy to even outplay all the Patrick Mahomes/ Tarek Hill spammers I run into. Coverage and adjustments to those coverage just make so much more FOOTBALL sense.
    Very pleased with the game from a H2H standpoint.
    Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
    Agent89
    The issue isn't just a programming one, but more about the lack of representation of the nuances in the secondary. *Where is illegal contact? Where is defensive holding? Where are the penalties that frequent Sundays in the NFL? Man coverage should be right across the board unless it's a grave mismatch, but the balance should be penalties, especially on the all crucial third down. *Obviously in a competitive video game, the variable should be adjustments/emphasis that the users make when it comes to aggression (press or off; hand contact in phase; hand contact on breaks; hand contact when the ball is in the air). *There should also be a technique rating ("mcv and zcv" are too broad) that determines how often defenders are in good position, and obviously some sort of trait that determines how confident defenders are to turn their head for the ball when making a play downfield - this should play into how often a defender gets penalized (most defenders are penalized frequently in the secondary in real life). The best of the best should be allowed to be physical, track the ball, and be penalized far less.
    *To me this just speaks to the severe lack of sophistication in Madden, and this is just a band-aid that covers up the bigger issue in the game and the lack of breakthrough by EA over the past decade. *Sure you can be "objective" about this patch, but the fact that this patch is the solution is an inherent problem in itself. *QBs drifting back dropping dimes while not stepping up in the pocket is a problem. * Pockets not being formed is a problem. *Clueless o-line blocking is a problem. *Not being able to choose defensive fronts is a problem. *This is 2021 - all these articles do is give EA justification for lackluster efforts. *Am I the only one who thinks we should have a WAY better game at this point?

    Good post you have got some points that I agree with. Like you I am a strong proponent of PI and DH being realistically implemented in Madden. The last Madden that actual dis this was M16. That game had all the wr/dB interactions down pat and since DH and PI was actually implemented correctly you were penalized for mismatches and pressing a good wr. But the problem is H2H players complained and it was taken out. On top of that a producer actually it wasn’t fun so it was taken out. Overall problem is that it’s impossible I guess at this point to sufficiently separate game modes so everything is based off h2h and competitive tuning. I like the coverage in this new patch but it’s more like a band aid as the warping crazy feet have substituted for the separation that took place in coverage. There was a 2 week period in which next gen had some great movement and balanced gameplay each patch draws it back to last gen which to me is disappointing. But again that’s just my opinion. But good post my man!!!

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