Heading into the Madden 22 beta, I was not exactly sure what to expect from EA’s NFL game this year. Not a lot of information was known outside of maybe a few videos that dropped before the beta went live. Maybe this was planned, or maybe EA really does have its back against the wall trying to meet the August release. Nevertheless, with Madden 21’s jump from one generation to the next, I remain hopelessly optimistic I will get the football game I have been waiting years to play. This is where my Madden 22 beta impressions come from in terms of my mindset.
With that in mind, what I’ve learned from my limited time with the Madden 22 beta is that EA is at least trying to get it right. The developers are listening to the community — “FiNAlLy! It ToOk LoNg EnOUgH — and making strides in the right direction. Here are my full impressions from the Madden 22 beta.
Madden 22 Beta Impressions – The Good
Gameplay Feels Next Gen
Next Gen Stats are slowly becoming the way when it comes to football analysis, and EA is making sure to adapt with the times. For those who played next-gen Madden 21, it was apparent right from the start that Next-Gen Stats would play an important factor, at least from a visual perspective. Now, it seems as though these stats will alter the way players move, react, and ultimately play on the field. And from the time I’ve spent with the game, it seems more obvious now than ever before.
Playmakers actually feel and play like their real-life counterparts. That’s not to say that someone like DeAndre Hopkins is impossible to cover or Xavien Howard erases every wide receiver opposite of him, but it’s definitely noticeable. But it’s not only noticeable with superstar players with #elite traits. Overall, the players appear smarter and more lifelike than ever before. But don’t take my word for it, here’s the official snippet from EA’s website.
Every team and every player you know and love will be more true-to-life with Next Gen Stats: Star-Driven AI. It’s going to change AI behavior and team tendencies based on real world data over the course of the NFL season. With redesigned Next Gen Player Movement 2.0, players will blitz, scramble, and break tackles during gameplay based on their real world Next Gen Stats data.
Watching a safety eloquently drop back into coverage before making an interception or an intelligent linebacker taking a nice angle to stop a ball carrier dead in his tracks on a critical third down can be worthy of taking a few minutes to admire. Of course, I’ve also witnessed a handful of contested catches, and another play type that stood out was when an AI safety would quickly react and plant a well-timed hit stick on my receiver to jar the ball loose.
All of this did happen at times in previous games, but how much more realistic the situations felt in the Madden 22 was noticeable. For the most part, EA took everything from Madden 21’s next-gen gameplay debut and enhanced it (and that’s maybe a better/worse situation for those who felt next-gen gameplay felt worse than last-gen gameplay with player movement and so on). As a result, to me the beta replicates what you see on Sunday better than Madden has in some prior seasons.
- AI reacts in quicker, faster, and more realistic fashion.
- Players react better to their environments.
- Sideline catches are impressive.
- INJURIES! Now we need the old-school ambulance.
- The Player slammed his helmet on the sideline after he was helped off the field.
- I made an awesome aggressive catch on the sideline — toe-tap held on despite hit-stick. REPLAY!
- The run game feels much improved. Backs are more fluid, easier to control.
- Patiently waiting for holes to open before breaking off a long run with your star RB never felt so good.
- I noticed more penalties and challenges that made the game feel more immersive.
- AI seemed noticeably smarter and played more aggressive than in the past.
- Battles between wide receivers and defensive backs are improved — but still not on 2K’s level.
- Improved blocking, but still a long way to go.
Dynamic Gameday And Presentation
I hate to always refer to Madden 21, but the presentation started to take a step in the right direction with the switch to PS5 and co. Yet it will — at least for the foreseeable future — lag behind a personal favorite of mine, ESPN NFL 2K5. Nevertheless, it seems like this is the closest EA has come to replicating the iconic sports video game. And while I’m still holding out hope a renewed/renovated halftime show will be in the final version, what we got in the beta was the best attempt yet from EA Sports on the presentation front in an NFL game in some years.
Fans are finally back, which feels like one of those recycled features, but also fitting what with how the last year and a half has played out. Airplanes will fly over some stadiums, while others will have their own unique intro. Clearly, this was something EA wanted to focus on by bringing each team and stadium’s unique feel and atmosphere to your console. Playing at Hard Rock Stadium will look and feel like you’re playing in South Florida. The same goes for Soldier Field in the Windy City. Each stadium is unique in its own way, and rightfully so. This, to me, feels like the foundation is being set for the next EA Sports College Football game, which we all think could be dropping by 2022 or 2023. Sure, there’s momentum in the NFL, but adding this now along with the different atmospheres means I’m on to you EA.
Lastly, home-field advantage will once again become a thing, and it starts with each stadium having its own unique M-Factor. These were explained better in the latest Gridiron Notes. Still, some saw this as an opportunity to dunk on EA for its efforts, and I get it. But unless you played the beta, I’m not sure it’s something you should be upset about. It’s a unique idea that I’m sure can be toggled on and off.
Yes, I would still like to see network-specific commentary and presentation. Thursday Night should feel like Thursday Night Football, and the same can be said for Sunday and Monday nights. There’s so much meat left on the bone to capitalize on and implement. Nevertheless, the power of the next-gen consoles, in tandem with next-gen stat overlays, and the Dynamic Gameday changes help this look somewhat like an officially licensed NFL video game in the year 2021 — even if that does mean re-implementing a few familiar features.
- I love the interface/layout of the UI.
- Refined graphics from next-gen ’21. Improved shading it seems? Looks more crisp and detailed overall.
- Charley Casserly’s personal commentary on players is needed. More of this, please.
- The commentary still feels like it’s distant at times and not leading the pack in the sports genre.
- The sideline shots and cutscenes this season are appropriate and make sense (albeit still not perfect).
- Playing with a PS5 controller is very good.
- The crowd can be heard on big plays or when momentum shifts.
Madden 22 Beta Impressions – The Bad
Superstar KO, Madden Ultimate Team, And The Yard
I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m a die-hard fan of any of the game modes listed above. However, for those who have exclusively played online and have become huge fans of MUT, K.O, or even the more recent The Yard, you may be disappointed to find out that not a lot of new stuff was showcased here (at least for the beta). Now, again, this is only the beta, and there’s a very good chance a lot of EA’s additions or refinements are still under wraps. Nevertheless, with so much time and devotion spent on franchise mode (and rightfully so), some of the more popular game modes may start to take a step back for now — something that we’ve all seen happen to franchise mode in the past (so maybe it’s just their turn).
So, while I consider this bad, I think it’s a necessary sacrifice, especially if we hope to get the franchise mode we’ve long hoped for at some point.
Imperfections, Bugs, And Glitches
No sports video game will ever be perfect, and the sooner we all realize this the more realistic our expectations will become. But while there were far fewer head-scratching issues with Madden 22, that doesn’t mean things were perfect. From little visual aspects like quarterbacks throwing left-handed in the opening cutscene (not named Tua Tagovailoa) to limbs going through players, to some just vanishing altogether. There is definitely room for growth and improvement. Then again, this was a beta, and all of these things are to be expected.
With that said, I had a relatively smooth and relatively fun gameplay experience, which is not always guaranteed with Madden.
- Too many batted balls led to receptions.
- Player models are hit and miss.
- Christian Wilkins was practice squad eligible, and there’s no way that’s right.
- Contracts don’t match real life in NFL fantasy start-up.
- I watched Tyreek Hill morph through a player for a touchdown.
- Trevor Lawrence had black hair when wearing all-black uniforms (obvious bug).
- I threw a Hail Mary at the end of the half that soared over six defenders for a touchdown. Marvin Jones had to slow down and make the catch.
- Still no compensatory draft picks.
- Offensive linemen run in place way too often.
- Missed blocks happen far too often.
- Please change the camera angle after plays end.
- There are times when the computer goes Super Saiyan and seems unstoppable.
Madden 22 Beta Impressions – The Promising
Connected Franchise Mode
Though the real changes that long-time franchise players have hoped for won’t happen until the September update, things look much different in Madden 22 franchise mode. And I think it should be enough to earn a little bit of trust back from those who may have felt wronged in the past by EA’s lack of resources to this important game mode.
The new game planning is something that you notice immediately when picking up the sticks, but it has more purpose and can impact how you prepare throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Choosing to focus your resources on one specific area will show up on when it counts. Working your players too hard, however, could lead in fatigue and other issues later in the season. Nevertheless, the game mode looks revamped. Coaches will be thrown into cinematic press conferences, interactions will occur throughout the locker room that will impact team morale, and certain interactions may unlock special development traits.
Even the GM’s office has a new purpose this year, and the topics of discussion change as the year progresses. Early on, a conversation might involve adding a player in free agency or giving someone on the roster more playing time. However, as the season progresses, the topic of discussion could change to a superstar player wanting a new contract or maybe even a trade. I’m just throwing out a few hypothetical scenarios that we would hope to see in there.
Another long overdue feature is the return of coaching staffs. Although I’m still unsure whether these coaches will actually appear on the sideline next to your head coach, they give users an incentive to invest in their coordinators. Players will earn staff points that will then unlock different coaching tendencies and perks. Making assistant coaches relevant in a football game shouldn’t need to be said, yet here we are.
With all of the changes that were prominent in the beta, coupled with the inevitable September scouting update, I’ve never been more excited to start my Miami Dolphins franchise.
For far too long, Connected Franchise mode was put on the back burner. However, even without the anticipated September update, franchise mode is night and day in comparison to Madden 21. At the end of the day, I think fans new and old will be thankful — even if there is still plenty more room for growth.
- Layout/UI is great.
- Weekly game planning keeps things fresh.
- Coordinators! Like the idea of staff points and the different perks that can be unlocked.
- New cinematic scenes will add new life to franchise mode (though EA has at times struggled with writing scenes in a way that does not come off as silly).
- For the first time in a long time, I’m excited for franchise mode.
- Lots of different tabs loaded with stats and other relevant league information.
- How quickly will the cutscenes and scenarios get old?
- Inevitably, scouting will make or break this game mode.
- For those with a lot more questions than answers, check out this video with Big Game Bengal’s interview with Moonlight Swami.
I know it may sound like I have Maddenitis (which I do), but I’m admittedly excited for what the future holds for Madden. The first try at Madden on the new consoles did seem like a step in the right direction to me. And with another year of refinement, who am I to say what the future could lead to?
With that said, there’s still a lot that needs to be done. The update in September is going to be critical to the game’s success, and it’s ultimately going to dictate whether or not a large portion of fans pick up this year’s installment. Is it worth putting all of your faith into EA and blindly purchasing the game for $70? Probably not. But there are enough ways that you can play the game before making a critical decision. It might also help that EA recently announced it would be showing off Madden 22’s revamped scouting system later this month.
This leaves folks to ask themselves once again:
“To buy, or not to buy, that is the question.”