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Madden 23 Review - Another Short Gain for the Series

Madden NFL 23 review

Madden NFL 23

Madden 23 Review - Another Short Gain for the Series

It’s fitting that football is known as a game of inches since any improvements in Madden from one year to the next can often feel so incremental that it’s hard to tell how much progress is really being made at all. Madden 23 is no exception in this slow but steady grind forward, making significant strides in some areas and yet continuing to be stuck in place when it comes to certain modes and features. With a renewed focus on gameplay this year, many of Madden 23‘s best upgrades thankfully come out on the field. Defense has been particularly revamped to see pass rushers get to the quarterback with ferocity and defenders stick tighter to receivers in both man and zone coverages.

Perhaps to counteract the stronger resistance, offenses have been given a new option that allows quarterbacks to place the ball more precisely when targeting receivers. There’s enough polish and innovation to be found during games in Madden 23 that I only wish there were more of that on display within its various modes. Let’s follow in the footsteps of the late great coach John Madden himself and dig into the nitty-gritty of the trenches where the games are really won and lost to telestrate how Madden 23 is able to unleash some impressive new flourishes in its drive for the end zone and also detail where it continues to fumble the snap in this Madden 23 review.

Madden 23 Review

Madden 23 review

What I Like

Intro Legacy Game

Madden 23 does a commendable job of grabbing your attention immediately with a Legacy game featuring legends all over the field and the face of the franchise himself, John Madden, patrolling both sidelines while coaching the two All-Madden teams. It’s legitimately thrilling to see a young Madden from the Raiders days so lovingly rendered, providing a fitting tribute in a year when they’ve posthumously placed him on the cover. If you’ve grown up with the series like myself and played every single Madden game since the original was released, it’s possible that you’ll even find the legacy game to be a slightly emotional trip down memory lane.

Defense

Madden 23 review

You’ll be tasked with making decisions as a quarterback faster than ever this year because of how quickly a pass rusher is likely to be in the backfield and in your face. There were those who complained about this clear shift in the game back when the beta was being tested, but there’s little doubt that it does make for increased realism with the need for shorter release times. That makes it more vital than ever to make pre-snap reads and adjustments before cycling through your progressions in a hurry once the ball is in your hands. Blitzing linebackers and defensive backs can easily slip through gaps in the offensive line untouched and being aware of your check-down options and sliding around effectively in the pocket can be the difference between a big loss or gain.

To add to the difficulty of moving the ball on offense, defenders show increased awareness and aggressiveness now in executing their coverage assignments. This is especially true in man coverage, which could be enough of a crapshoot in the past to largely be avoided but now can be relied upon to hold up more consistently without receivers being left wide open. While zone coverages meanwhile might not be quite as effective as they were in the beta, they’re still considerably better than in Madden 22 in how defenders stick to patrolling their area and make plays on any throws in their direction. When a running back or receiver does have the ball in their hands, it’s great to see the defense converge on the ball-carrier, with gang tackles now showing up in the game once again.

This all adds up to a more defense-oriented brand of football than in the past and one where any wrong move at quarterback, especially on All-Madden difficulty, can easily derail a promising drive with a sack or a turnover.

Skill-Based Passing

Madden 23 aaron rodgers

Thankfully, offense hasn’t entirely been left out of the fun when it comes to improvements to the game. The unveiling of a new (and entirely optional) passing system that gives you more control of your trajectory and target was overwhelming and somewhat perplexing when introduced in the beta, but it becomes a little less so with a proper tutorial and some time to practice. With the ability to decide whether you want to able to influence just the placement of the ball or also the accuracy of the throw as well, there are some helpful options to get you better acquainted with how the new mechanic can serve you well. For instance, using some amount of slowdown during the pass can give you a sense of how much you’re able to move the reticle, and when it can come in handy trying to fit the ball in a tight window or shade the ball away from a defender.

By experimenting with changing the speed of the reticle and the limits of its range when using free-form passing, you’ll likely find that less is usually more when trying to manipulate throws. If you put in the practice, it will become rewarding when you finally use it perfectly to thread the needle during a game with a throw you would never have been able to make in Madden 22.

Animations

Along with enhanced complementary visuals before and in between the action, a new feature dubbed FieldSense (available on next-gen platforms only) by EA brings a more organic feel to the way that players interact with each other during plays. Tackles aren’t as likely to entirely defy physics by producing an animation that makes little to no sense when considering the direction and speed each player was moving. You won’t notice as many weird instances now of players’ body parts morphing right through other bodies or clipping on each other to produce awkward animations when a play is over and everyone is emerging from a pile.

That’s not meant to suggest that all of the movements when players collide are perfect, as there are still some head-scratching instances of players contorting their bodies in weird ways during tackles or blocks, but these strange bugs and glitches are fewer and farther between than last year. The realism extends to players moving on their own too, where speedier and shiftier playmakers are elusive and dangerous. However, larger defensive linemen show off the kind of impressive wheels you would expect in the NFL and will no longer slow to a snail’s crawl when trying to return a fumble for a TD.

What I Don’t Like

Madden 23 offensive line play

Offensive Line Play

As if the newly ferocious pass rush needed any more help, the faulty logic displayed by the offensive line at times in pass protection will leave you wondering — as your quarterback peels himself off the turf — how a four-man rush could have possibly got to you in an instant. When you look at the replay, you’re liable to find that one of your lineman failed to get so much as a hand on the defender directly of front of him and instead allowed that defender to go right around him like a pylon.

The issue is hardly a case either where it’s happening to an inferior lineman who could conceivably be confused about his blocking assignment. Instead, it occurs with All-Pro guards and tackles who should know better. The reality is that these are NFL offensive linemen and nobody at this level should be making a rudimentary error like not touching the guy who’s treating him like a turnstile. To make matters worse, Madden 23 launched with a loop blitz money play that many have been exploiting to mess up offensive linemen and cause nearly instant pressure on the quarterback.

Madden Ultimate Team

Always a mode that’s sure to divide the community, the card-collecting Madden Ultimate Team mode makes its return to get you building your squad and, if EA has anything to say about it, purchasing lots and lots of packs. Disappointingly, not a ton has changed in the MUT world this year besides the new field pass form of progression and some smaller quality-of-life fixes. The lack of ways to play vs. the CPU is readily apparent (even if it’s improved), something that can’t help but feel like it’s by design to get you playing more online against others. Naturally, that’s where you’ll notice the weaknesses of your team when compared against others and this will entice you to visit the store for packs and maybe spend some real money.

There aren’t enough solo challenges to keep you busy and earning worthwhile rewards for as long as you would like to see shortly after launch. Solo Battles will only give you a few games per day to increase your points total and ascend the leaderboard, leaving you longing for some kind of season mode where you can play through a series of games versus CPU-controlled teams while using the squad you’ve assembled. And why does there seem to be an issue every year with receiving rewards promptly after completing challenges? I’ve had to quit out of the game several times and launch it again in order to get the coins and field pass progress I earned.

Face Of The Franchise & The Yard

Madden 23 review

After not having a ton of experience with playing the Face of the Franchise mode in the past, and being left underwhelmed during that limited time, Madden 23‘s incarnation did little to convert me thanks to some ugly bugs and baffling decisions. When I had finished with creating the look of my running back and was ready to start my career with the Jets, I was subjected to glitchy cutscenes in which walls were eerily floating where a desk should be and people walked through holes in the walls in the absence of all doors. Once I solved that annoying problem by restarting the game, there were plenty of other issues to be found that are holding the mode back from contending with career modes in other sports games like MLB The Show and NBA 2K. The activities and training that you choose to fill your days with each week leading up to a game become redundant before too long and feel more like chores that need to be performed rather than something you look forward to planning.

Even when you’re on the gridiron, the available camera angles inexplicably don’t have you following the ball, so it can be hard to tell when it’s coming your way as a receiver or even who’s holding it sometimes (especially on turnovers). If you’re hoping to take your created player online to compete against others, like you can for instance in NBA 2K and the NHL games, you’ll have to find a couple people from your friends list to join The Yard for 6-on-6 games because the game doesn’t provide any sort of matchmaking to find strangers to join your team.

Franchise Mode

Madden 23 franchise mode

Throughout the Madden 22 game cycle, EA slowly but surely delivered on its promise of releasing updates to its franchise mode with a series of patches that trickled out every few months, eventually adding a new scouting system and more in-season scenarios to encounter. On the heels of these patches, EA must be thinking that franchise players wouldn’t be expecting all that much more because of how they’d already been delivering updates over the year. That’s probably the best excuse for how little has been added or altered, and how the whole enterprise continues to be built on a flawed foundation that’s in need of a complete overhaul rather than continuing to slap a new wrinkle or two on the old one.

Perhaps the biggest item to be introduced in Madden 23‘s franchise mode is a reworked free agency period in which players weigh their own personal considerations when deciding where to sign, and it’s not working properly at release. As many people have reported, a bug that creates a free-for-all after your first season by not having any free agents sign back with their original teams ruins the implementation of this headlining addition.

Bottom Line

The on-field upgrades in Madden 23 make playing a casual game of football a more realistic and rewarding experience than in Madden 22 — and probably any other Madden in the past for that matter. With the focus on improving defense, especially the pass rush and coverages, you’ll be challenged with utilizing actual football concepts and knowledge of how to beat specific schemes rather than simply exploiting sub-par AI defenders. A new optional advanced passing controls give you an opportunity to drop dimes and place the ball where only your receiver can catch it, assuming you’re willing to put in the time to master its nuances. The game looks better from a visual standpoint in how the movements of players better reflect their true speed and power, extending that sense of authenticity to when players come together during collisions and gang tackles.

On the other side of things, offensive linemen too often struggle to identify threats and engage with rushers who will waltz right around would-be blockers untouched during worst case scenarios. Popular modes like franchise and Madden Ultimate Team don’t exhibit much in the way of innovation this year, instead returning with minor or largely cosmetic upgrades that in certain cases aren’t functioning as intended. Face of the Franchise is rife with bugs and unfortunate creative decisions that can’t help but hamper what should be a fun experience of guiding a player through his professional football career and then linking up with others for online games.

In short, Madden 23 has progressed on the field this year in terms of providing improved presentation and gameplay (when judged as a whole) but still can’t get out of its own way in terms of certain legacy-defining issues that have been with the series for years now.

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  1. To not even mention the most debated topic on Reddit and OS, interceptions, is shocking to me. I'm not saying the review needs to side with anyone but if I used this review to help me decide a purchase I'd expect the subject to at least come up.
    Is this legit Madden 23 or did this pic get mistakenly taken from Madden 15? The player model is beyond awful. What's wrong with his arm and he looks like a bobble head?
    Kotaku lit the game up. I'll also greatly disagree with defense creating "more realism" when defensive players are physically moving in ways they should never move. I'm also amazed that the physics of the ball wasn't even mentioned.
    For me, if this is largely what Madden is, I won't touch it again. Short gain? I see it as a sack for a 15 yard loss on 3rd and 8.
    There is a lot to like about this game but I agree to write a review and not even mention the interception rate doesn’t make much sense to me. I have played play now and franchise, I have played from 10 min quarters with no clock runoff all the way up to 15 min quarters with runoff down to 12-15 seconds and the interceptions I have seen is absurd. I just finished my week 3 matchup vs the Bills, I am Miami. Sure one could say I need to get better and also that I’m using Tua(who is accurate but lacks an arm). I threw 5 picks and Josh Allen threw 8 interceptions and not one of them was with a player I was controlling. I use my middle Lb(Jerome Baker) and don’t switch and usually play from the behind the d view. I think I have thrown 15-16 picks in 3 games and the cpu has thrown about the same. Currently I’m on all pro, I the interception slider at zero for both teams an the 2 pass coverage sliders down to 25. My game vs the Bills was like 31-27, super close and I didn’t enjoy a second of it.
    To add to my post, I have tried pro, all pro and all madden. I have moved the Int. sliders from zero to 100 in case it is reversed, I know the fumble slider is opposite the Int. slider and I get the same results. Seems lit eevery time a curl/button hook is run the d just jumps the pass with zero effort from the receiver. On a 10 yard curl you don’t have to time control the receiver yourself to possibly fight for the ball. I’m frustrated because I really like the running game, I feel playing defense is fun and tho the franchise mode isn’t the best it gets the job done. I rushed thru my Show franchise Iin anticipation of madden and it’s pick city
    CujoMatty
    To not even mention the most debated topic on Reddit and OS, interceptions, is shocking to me. I'm not saying the review needs to side with anyone but if I used this review to help me decide a purchase I'd expect the subject to at least come up.

    I thought I was the only one experiencing this issue based on this review since there was 0 mentions about the unrealistic amount of INTs from both the User and CPU side.
    Lol conspiracy cover up? Just kidding…
    Clint Oldenburg and Official_Mole don’t mention interceptions on Twitter either. I don’t see how you can play this game and not see the superhuman hands on defense.
    CujoMatty
    To not even mention the most debated topic on Reddit and OS, interceptions, is shocking to me. I'm not saying the review needs to side with anyone but if I used this review to help me decide a purchase I'd expect the subject to at least come up.

    That was my first thought as well. It's as big as a problem as the bugs that were mentioned.
    I've shelved the game hoping for a patch. If this goes unanswered by EA I'm probably done buying future games. $70 is too much to take a chance
    Wow! Just wow!! To not mention interceptions and turnovers in your review Kevin Smith, is very alarming and well, just weird.
    My first game playing vs CPU the first two TD's of the game were scored by the CPU's defense on Int return TD's. I in turn, scored the next two TD's on a fumble return for a TD, followed by an interception return for a TD.
    In all, my first game featured 9 total turnovers. I can assure you that 2nd wasn't much better. Not only that but for some strange reason, in both games my #1 WR inexplicably sat the entire 2nd half out as did the opposing teams #1 RB.
    Kevin Smith, you have lost all credibility and can't be trusted with your reviews anymore. I hope other people notice and start asking the same questions that I'm asking of you.
    So that legacy game intro, are there any modes to go with it? Or have they gone to all that effort and used it in just one game?
    Madden is crying out for some NBA 2k retro content. Much harder with larger rosters. But I’m sure they could work something out.
    (IMHO) When all is said and done, Madden just does not and probably will not live up to the expectations, scratch that, will not live up to the standards, than an AF game in this time and age should have.
    Hate to bring it up, but playing 2k5 for the last couple of days, the physics are better, the stat overlays more realistic (of course they DO use the ESPN package), content wise it has more to offer... Basically, what we get in NBA2k is what we would have gotten had we had a 2k football game.
    Then again, I played NCAA Football 6 and 12 as well, and again, the play better for some reason then M23. Here also there is a proper intro with Kirb and the crew.
    I remember that the game director of the NCAA games was a 'bigger' guy, no disrespect meant. Is he still on board at Tiburon/Madden?
    In the end, we as video game and AF lovers, just have a pretty mediocre product game play and content wise to itch our AF scratch. Unfortunate to say the least.
    Thank you fellow Community members...disappointing to read about what for me are game breaking issues...an offensive line that is offensive combined with propensity for INT's.
    Damn shame
    tsbmolina
    Is this legit Madden 23 or did this pic get mistakenly taken from Madden 15? The player model is beyond awful. What's wrong with his arm and he looks like a bobble head?

    Actually I was playing M16 the other day and player models in my opinion, were not bad at all. Then it’s like with M19 they all got HUGE pads, now with 23, it’s almost like no pads at all.
    But yeah, that head to body ratio is so far off with Rodgers. Almost looks like backyard football or something.
    Sent from my iPhone 13 Pro Max
    The body models are horrendous, at least on the PC version. They made the offensive lineman too big. They have the biggest thighs and legs as well as stomach's I've ever seen. Hopefully a patch can correct that. Also, my game freezes periodically when going thru different menu screens, and the roster doesn't save my edits after waiving, signing and trading players to mimic the real NFL. PR and KR's are a joke as most returns never go past the 30 yard line. I would like to see a returner pop one for a TD every now and then. This game still needs improvements
    Broncos86
    Kotaku lit the game up. I'll also greatly disagree with defense creating "more realism" when defensive players are physically moving in ways they should never move. I'm also amazed that the physics of the ball wasn't even mentioned.
    For me, if this is largely what Madden is, I won't touch it again. Short gain? I see it as a sack for a 15 yard loss on 3rd and 8.

    Just read their review, and I don't really agree with it.
    As for NFL players criticizing it, I cannot imagine caring what they think.
    The review read like a rundown of the features. There wasn't much of reviewing of said features. Funnily enough the OS reviews aren't really for us. We usually have plenty of impressions before the review comes so it's more for the casual Madden fan that happens to be looking for reviews on the internet.
    Sent from my LM-G820 using Tapatalk
    I almost feel like most of the sliders don’t work at all. Trying to deal with the interception I tried qb at 100 but to counteract that I put receptions at zero. I didn’t see a dropped ball all first half. Then I tried receptions at 100(thinking maybe the receivers would fight for the ball) and put padding at zero, noticed no difference in completion percentage. For me if a slider is working and receptions are at zero I would expect a ton of dropped balls, like almost all.
    Glad to see I'm not alone. Last year I could throw over LBs. This year it's an interception right to the backer. I'm using precession passing lob throw lead up. It always goes to the backer. Makes passing impossible.
    There's something here, it just needs tuned most likely. But interceptions are almost making me not want to play.
    BenVenom
    I almost feel like most of the sliders don’t work at all. Trying to deal with the interception I tried qb at 100 but to counteract that I put receptions at zero. I didn’t see a dropped ball all first half. Then I tried receptions at 100(thinking maybe the receivers would fight for the ball) and put padding at zero, noticed no difference in completion percentage. For me if a slider is working and receptions are at zero I would expect a ton of dropped balls, like almost all.

    I'm with you I don't think any of them work. I tried making all pro harder and I put my tackling at 0 cpu run blocking 100 and break tackle 100. Absolutely zero difference. Cpu averages 2yds a carry before and after. Run blocking was still terrible and I don't see anymore broken tackles. Sane with passing like you. No matter what I don't see any difference in drops. I think pass blocking is a bit better but it also isn't obvious.
    CujoMatty
    I'm with you I don't think any of them work. I tried making all pro harder and I put my tackling at 0 cpu run blocking 100 and break tackle 100. Absolutely zero difference. Cpu averages 2yds a carry before and after. Run blocking was still terrible and I don't see anymore broken tackles. Sane with passing like you. No matter what I don't see any difference in drops. I think pass blocking is a bit better but it also isn't obvious.

    BenVenom
    I almost feel like most of the sliders don’t work at all. Trying to deal with the interception I tried qb at 100 but to counteract that I put receptions at zero. I didn’t see a dropped ball all first half. Then I tried receptions at 100(thinking maybe the receivers would fight for the ball) and put padding at zero, noticed no difference in completion percentage. For me if a slider is working and receptions are at zero I would expect a ton of dropped balls, like almost all.

    They’re not at all. I mentioned this within hours of the trial dropping in the impressions thread and faced resistance from those who clearly don’t know how sliders affect gameplay in Madden. I’m honestly a little nervous about all the coverage the INT slider gets; I hope the developers realize it’s most of the sliders.
    jasontoddwhitt
    All I'm going to say is this...how many years can Madden take a step in the right direction and not get anywhere at all?

    Our expectations get higher.
    I had a list of things I wanted five, six years ago and most have been achieved.
    But they also messed a couple of things up which makes us forget those gains.
    Plus, they add stuff we weren't expecting and at first, they are a little ropey but get slowly improved on year by year.
    But we don't focus on those. We focus on the "glaring issues" and many of us have different "glaring issues".
    I grew up hearing the phrase "no one remembers perfect mash potatoes" which translate as, we call recall the pieces of sloppy yet rocky crap that our aunt served us but we don't remember the desert she made really well".
    So with this being a review, I find it funny that under what he "doesn't like" he put every mode in the game. Thats like going to a store and they say they are having a sale, if you buy one for $5 we'll give a great deal 2 for $10. Some people will buy 2 thinking they are getting a deal.
    Got a chance to try Madden 23 out at a friend's house. Some positives. Some moments of genuine fun scattered throughout. But for the most part, all of the elements of Madden's gameplay that drove me away from the series nearly a decade ago are still present (and in some cases have gotten even worse from when I tapped out). Bad blocking AI, limited blocking interaction animations, limited WR/DB interaction animations, warping of the ball/players on receptions and tackles, choppy/twitchy player movement, unrealistic ball speeds/trajectories/physics, shallow presentation, and poor stadium atmosphere.
    Throw in the issues I'm hearing with Franchise mode, the fact that I hate Ultimate Team-style modes, and the lack of player/team customization options and I'm glad I skipped Madden again this year.
    The haters of this series are obviously fans of it. So I don't understand the hate we get for posting our negative impressions of the game. So we want a new build,is that really hate speech?

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