With the emerging rumor that Madden NFL 21 won’t be there right at launch for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, the question becomes what needs to be better when Madden 21 next gen actually does come out? Even if many folks won’t really need to be “sold” on the game since current-gen owners will get a free upgrade to the next-gen version, in order to even be excited about playing Madden 21 again, what needs to be better?
Two videos from Eric Rayweather and Gutfoxx went through some of the problems they have with the game right now. Eric clearly discusses what he wants to see improved in Madden 21 next gen. Gutfoxx does not explicitly frame his critiques the same way, but he’s focused more on gameplay than Eric, and his criticisms are things that certainly could just be applied to next-gen Madden.
Madden 21 Next-Gen Improvements – Non-Gameplay Issues
Gutfoxx and Eric have some common ground here, so I want to start with those things. Both call out the servers as getting worse not better. This has been a trend the last couple years, and it’s weird to me because one thing EA could hang its hat on in the past in a general sense were the stability of the online servers. They were not perfect, but they were a strength in comparison to other sports games out there. EA has ceded some ground here since random disconnects are happening more often — on top of the more sinister stuff like disconnect glitches and all that nonsense. Online stability will be a key with next-gen Madden.
I’m not sure what next-gen Madden can really do to “improve” the servers other than just figure out how to improve overall stability, but maybe there’s some general architectural upgrades coming with the new hardware that will help here.
The modes themselves also just feel a little light this year. We already know all about the franchise mode complaints, so Eric does point out that whatever improvements do come to franchise mode this year need to be in the next-gen version the same day they come to the current-gen game.
On top of that, MUT content is not as fast and furious this year, and overall, the modes just feel under-serviced. Even with The Yard, which is still mostly a success, elements like being able to “play a friend” being absent makes the mode feel antiquated to Eric (and I agree). While I’m sure most of the focus is going towards physics, graphics and gameplay, there still need to be some logical quality-of-life improvements made to the modes to give folks some hope for the future.
Madden 21 Next-Gen Improvements – Gameplay Issues
With gameplay, I think blocking is one of the first things that comes to mind, and it’s heavily featured in both these videos. Beyond just bugs/glitches like disengage blocking being a strong way to get pressure, and the QB draw starting to become overly powerful yet again, there’s a fatigue that comes from longstanding blocking issues in Madden.
It’s a balancing issue as well as Gutfoxx mentions multiple times. The run game is still very powerful, and so if the developers do fix blocking without also fixing reciprocal defensive issues, then we’re still not going to be in a great place. This means making weight matter more so safeties don’t just move big offensive linemen out of the way, but it also means linebackers can’t have poor run recognition when they’re in zones. It also means defensive linemen shouldn’t always be pushed back on runs at the start of the play since then the entirety of whether you stop a run is based on shedding or not.
Lastly, when it comes to the run game, my favorite point Gutfoxx makes goes back to how ball carriers approach the traffic jam at the line of scrimmage. Madden’s physics give runners a boost if they just full-speed ahead into the backs of blockers since then they generally just slide off the blockers and continue forward. But if we got some real physics updates where the ball carrier stumbles or falls backwards after running into the back of an offensive lineman while going full speed, we might see some more nuance to the run game. If you have to try and navigate through the pile rather than be rewarded for simply holding turbo and barreling ahead, then read-and-react skill could start to push back against basic muscle memory.
Obviously, stuff like too many drops by both receivers and defenders are called out here as well, but I personally think if Madden is able to make one key tenet of football seem like a true next-gen step up, that’s a big accomplishment in this truncated year where most of the audience should be getting a “free” double dip if they’re already playing on PS4 or Xbox One. I can’t think of a better area where that improvement would really prove something than with the offensive/defensive line interactions and the physics collisions that emerge out of that.
Do you folks think another area of gameplay makes more sense than that to put a lot of focus on at the start of next gen?
In a general sense, I think one thing hanging over both videos is that it’s key that Madden 21 next-gen doesn’t feel abandoned. I don’t get a sense expectations are sky high for the next-gen release, but it can’t be a situation where the game feels like it’s getting worse not better. Current-gen Madden right now is teetering on that edge of feeling like it’s regressing as the season rolls on, and so that needs to stop with next-gen Madden. We have seen many sports games go through a cycle of getting worse after launch via patches that hurt rather than help, so that would not be great for Madden’s image as we head into the first “full” year for Madden 22 next year if that were to occur here.
But returning to the original question after mentioning all that, what do you think has to be improved right from the jump when you boot up next-gen Madden 21?