When EA Sports first announced it would be developing a single-player story mode years back, I was excited. That excitement has slowly faded away over the years after multiple swings and misses. That said, it wasn’t until EA released Face of the Franchise: QB1 for Madden 20 where I finally started to see the game mode take a step in the right direction. But, unfortunately, that promising step with QB1 took a step back last year with Madden 21’s sequel: Face of the Franchise.
My full review can be found here but can be summed up in this snippet:
I wanted to feel differently about Face of the Franchise. There were times when I’d put the game down or start over in an attempt to take a new approach. But at the end of the day, this mode missed its mark wide right once again.
So, after such a lackluster showing with last year’s story mode, could Madden 22 save the sinking ship? Would it finally be the single-player RPG-style game mode we’ve long yearned for in a football simulation? Well, let’s talk about that in my Madden 22 Face of the Franchise review.
Madden 22 Face Of The Franchise Review
Story Mode: Road To The Draft
For the first time in Madden‘s history, I feel like the story finally replicates — at least for the most part — what the life of one of the league’s top prospects is really like. First, players have the option of playing one of four different positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and linebacker.
I chose to play linebacker, which may have been a mistake given how poor the game currently plays on defense. It’s also one of two positions (wide receiver) that gets player-locked. So instead of controlling the quarterback, I get to man the middle of the defense — and only the middle of the defense. Everyone should keep this in mind when selecting their position because the only thing more important than picking the right position is the story.
After you create your character and figure out your position, the story begins with you learning the ins and outs of your position at Nike Headquarters. I competed in several drills that applied to my position (linebacker). The primary focus was tackling, and I won’t lie, I let Saquon Barkley make me look like a fool once or twice. To my surprise, this did not seem to change the dialogue or how my peers perceived me. Onlookers still raved about how great I performed and how excited they were that I would be drafted. I think I even saw a few ratings go up.
I don’t know that I wanted to be punished for Saquon Barkley breaking free from my lowly-rated superstar, but something more than a “job well done” would have sufficed.
As you can tell, not every minor detail will impact the story mode or your player’s path to stardom. During this journey, I found myself being asked questions on podcasts and during press conferences. I received endorsement deals, talked to admirers, and even had to decide between a lucrative Nike event or a charity football game in Hawaii (The Yard).
These decisions should change with every playthrough (more on that later). However, it seemed that if you created a quarterback, you would almost certainly end up in Jacksonville. And if you choose a linebacker (like me), you were destined to land with the Los Angeles Chargers. This isn’t all bad. After all, the Chargers have an excellent offense — even if you can’t use it — and their uniforms are second to none. I had fun making my player look the part of a Chargers’ top draft pick, but this still impacts the replay factor.
The draft process is similar to what we’ve seen in the past. Your player will be put through a series of pre-draft interviews where you are given three generic choices to respond with. However, unlike in the past, I don’t know that these responses have a big impact on the story. Nevertheless, it seems like for the first time in Madden‘s single-player story mode history it feels like the developers did a good job of bringing the pre-draft process to life, even if it wasn’t a flawless performance.
From an overall presentation perspective, the new Gameday dynamic and added bells and whistles with Next-Gen stats continue to be a step in the right direction. I want more of it. However, when it comes to Face of the Franchise, the story becomes more important than some of those bells and whistles because EA has set it up in such a way where if you don’t care about the story then there just is not a lot there. More specifically, the cinematic cutscenes and interactions that come along the way take on added focus. The way the story is told, I imagine you want it to almost feel like you’re in the locker room. When a big play occurs, you want it to feel like a big deal. Madden 22 has its moments, but I wouldn’t say it’s perfect.
There are times when cutscenes are forced or feel out of place. In addition, some of the decisions and dialogue feel disconnected. But the one thing that does seem much better is the look and feel of the story. Instead of making the story a Lifetime movie, EA went about it the best way it could. You are a superstar. Here are the friendships you will develop along the way, the choices you must make, and the path you must take. I think EA does a nice job of showcasing diversity at all levels of life.
Lastly, I thought EA did a nice job with the different presentation elements in Path to the Draft. Now, yes, there were cutscenes and similar scenarios in EA’s previous games. But this year, the cutscenes felt more natural. They made sense and better told the story through simple cutscenes with your teammates, an interview in front of the media, or an appearance on a local podcast. EA tries its best to give gamers a solid experience. And while some of the previous game modes had similar interactions, United We Stand does it better than its predecessors.
This may be more of a general gripe, but there are many issues with Madden 22’s gameplay as the game currently stands.
One of the primary flaws being that the defense is at a significant disadvantage. Way too many times the opposing quarterbacks mimic Patrick Mahomes or Dan Marino. They go near perfect, with their lone incompletion being some ridiculous overthrow that never had a chance. The imperfections with Madden will probably never go away, but I’ll stop there and simply point to Bob’s review here for a deeper discussion about the general defensive issues.
What I want to focus on is bad gameplay in FotF mode. For example, early in FotF, you will be given a choice to boost several of your player’s attributes. I selected the option to upgrade my player’s speed. Instead of giving me a chance to work on drills to build my player’s attributes, I clicked the button and just like that my superstar received a +5 boost in speed. But that wasn’t all. I was also awarded a Nike endorsement deal on the spot. Part of the lore that I had playing the Madden of olds came from the different game modes where I would spend hours trying to perfect drills and earn a gold coin.
Maybe the mini-games don’t need to be that elaborate, but having players run the 40-yard dash to boost their speed or better their draft position shouldn’t be a foreign concept. There are just better ways for EA to go about this. In the past, we’ve seen them do it successfully at times only to completely scrap the idea, reinvent it, and have it come up short.
I have now played through Face of the Franchise: United We Stand twice. On the first attempt, I created a linebacker, and my career fizzled out in Los Angeles. On my second attempt, I decided to go with a quarterback, and as expected, I got drafted by the Jaguars. My career is still in progress, but the point of starting another playthrough so quickly was to try to gauge how different some of my choices and position altered the story. Overall, the second playthrough felt a lot like the first. Some of the luster had worn off, and to be honest, it felt more like a chore. But it was much nicer to have full control over the offense than being stuck playing on a defense that never stood a chance.
This is also coming from the guy who relied heavily on online communities and 32-man online leagues to keep Madden fun and fresh. Unfortunately, those days are over for me, and now I rely on the offline game modes to keep my hunger going. Connected Franchise in its current state doesn’t get the job done, and unfortunately, after one playthrough with United We Stand, I can say the same for EA’s attempt at a Super Bowl contender.
I know I’ve made this complaint in the past, but the same generic faces continue to find their way into EA’s next generation of sports gaming, and it’s starting to get a little ridiculous. Yes, Madden gives us a way to care about little things like arm sleeves or the pattern on our jerseys, but one thing that continues to frustrate me is the player models.
Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a unique-looking fellow. I have long curly hair like Troy Polamalu and a beard to boot. So why, with all of the diverse players in the National Football League, are there not more options? Let us choose longer hair that can flow out of the back of the helmet — in various lengths and colors. Trevor Lawrence has it — as does Andrew Van Ginkel. Allow us to select extravagant mohawks or look like clowns if we must. The more options the better, and EA continues to give gamers the bare minimum.
If EA doesn’t give us more facial features, maybe it should give us the option to scan our face into the game. They can do so many little things to enhance customization, yet they have completely ignored it for years. I don’t know what EA is afraid of, but it’s time to get with the times.
Connected Franchise Mode
While EA has promised a big scouting update in mid to late September, many folks are waiting to see how that all comes together. However, this isn’t about a hypothetical and whether or not the developers will bring all of our wishes to life. Instead, this is about the here and now. And right now, CFM is just not enjoyable to transition into from FotF. It’s not completely unplayable, but for those of you who expected to see a change right at release, you’re probably left disappointed.
I know I was, and I already knew what to expect as Road to the Draft transitioned to Connected Franchise Mode.
Still, the hope is that if EA can continue to make strides with franchise mode, folks will feel those changes throughout the core of Madden. And a large part of that would need to be Face of the Franchise. Otherwise, what’s the point of continuing your “story” into franchise mode if it doesn’t really feel like you’re continuing your journey in a meaningful way?
If you’re determined to create an NFL prospect in Madden 22 with the hopes of going from college to the Hall of Fame, Face of the Franchise: United We Stand is not worth the playthrough. Beyond the initial story component, there’s just not enough to keep me engaged and pursuing a Hall of Fame outcome. In short, like present-day Madden 22, there’s still a lot left to be desired.
It does take a step in the right direction in terms of finally delivering an accurate RPG-style single-player experience to the NFL, but there’s still a ways to go before it can stand next to the MyPlayers and Road to the Shows of the world.
It’s getting better, but there’s still a long way to go before Face of the Franchise gets a gold jacket and a spot in Canton.