On June 8 EA Sports revealed the first trailer for Madden 24 along with this year’s cover athlete, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. But what folks were anxiously anticipating was the opportunity to participate in this year’s closed beta. Unfortunately, there are still a ton of gamers who are waiting for their invite. But I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a beta code and have been scoping out this year’s NFL game.
There’s still a lot EA has promised to add to the beta (including a fresh update today), so I’m going to hold off on gameplay impressions for now, but here are my early impressions on franchise mode and the return of mini-games in Madden 24.
Early Franchise Mode impressions
The most critical game mode for any sports video game (at least on OS) is its franchise mode. This adds longevity to a game and gives gamers the best chance they’ll ever have of running an NFL franchise. So, if you’ve been following Madden for the last few years, you know that it’s been arguably one of the biggest disappointments from top to bottom.
Last year, we saw several changes that improved CFM, but nothing too drastic. And then, a hiccup in the servers caused many franchises to break, making many fans lose all hope. Folks hope things are different this year, but my early impressions indicate that franchise mode is not fundamentally different during what many are calling a make-it-or-break-it season.
Feels Similar But With Several Tweaks
One of the most frustrating things, but not a deal breaker, is the lack of customization options for coaches and players. For decades, there have been the same generic faces for coaches and created players. Madden 24 doesn’t seem much different, though it does seem to have more options than previous games. With how powerful systems are nowadays, I don’t see why Madden can’t implement face scans and things like that. A minor change like this would make being a coach or GM even more rewarding. Coaching trees have been updated for coordinators and coaches with new things to unlock in the coaching tree, and considering they’re more scheme specific, it should be a game-changer.
The layout of Connected Franchise is similar to last season. Your coach is seen from one screen to another, relaxing at his desk, answering phone calls, and things like that. Press conferences are once again present in CFM, but the questions seem copied and pasted from years past and don’t do much to the game mode other than the added reward or boost you receive throughout the week.
More options are now available if you’re into trading and improving your team this way. There are now six trade slots instead of three, and teams can trade draft picks up to three years down the road. It also seems like the trade logic has improved, and at least from my early impressions, computer teams are much more eager to send trade offers. For example, I started my franchise as the Miami Dolphins and had trade offers from three teams for veteran defensive end Malik Reed. Each trade is similar but adds its own unique twist. All three teams offered a solid player + a late-round draft pick or two, which I thought was neat. Here are the three trade offers I received:
- Los Angeles Rams offered LT Joseph Noteboom, a 2024 5th-round pick, and a 2025 7th-round pick.
- Detroit Lions offered MLB Landon Collins and a 2024 7th-round pick.
- Kansas City Chiefs offered MLB Leo Chanel, a 2025 6th-round pick, and a 2025th 7th-round pick.
(I went with Leo Chanel because the Dolphins could use a young middle linebacker.)
Weekly strategies are back and look a lot like what we saw last season. Choosing the best way to attack or defend your opponent will give you an added boost for that week’s matchup. For example, in Week 2 I decided to defend the New England Patriots’ short passing attack. This gave my defense a boost in pass rush for the week and improved man and zone coverage when defending short pass play routes. Again, nothing that you didn’t see last season.
On offense, I chose to boost Miami’s medium passing attack, something quarterback Tua Tagovailoa excels at. This improved Tua’s medium accuracy, the offensive line’s pass blocking, and my receivers’ route running and catching when calling medium pass plays.
Relocating Is Quick And Easy In Madden 24
One significant addition to franchise mode and Madden 24, in general, is the triumphant return of mini-games. These mini-games focus on individual players and make things very interesting. It also seems to focus a lot on some of the younger players, like rookies, which is precisely what I’d want to focus my time and resources on. But before I dive into mini-games, another new feature in CFM is the ability to relocate your franchise immediately. And EA has added a ton of new locations and team names for gamers to choose from.
Here’s a list of the locations in the Madden 24 beta.
Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Mexico City, Byron Aires, Rio De Janeiro, San Juan, Orlando, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Omaha, St Louis, Louisville, Chicago, Columbus, Canton, Virginia Beach, Brooklyn, Toronto, Montreal, Dublin, London, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne, Honolulu, Anchorage, Vancouver, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque.
Each place has a unique market size and personality that could sway owners on where to relocate to. A ranking system also shows your fan interest in that area. In addition to the laundry list of new locations, EA has added several team names to this year’s game.
Here’s a list of the team names/logos in the beta.
Antlers, Armadillos, Aviators, Bisons, Black Knights, Blues, Bulls, Caps, Condors, Desperados, Dragons, Dreadnoughts, Elks, Golden Eagles, Huskies, Lumberjacks, Monarchs, Mounties, Night Hawks, Orbits, Pioneers, Redwoods, River Hogs, Sentinels, Shamrocks, Snowhawks, Steamers, Thunderbirds, Tigers, Voyagers, and the Wizards,
Other changes to franchise mode include contract restructures and a feature that fans have been begging for over the last few years, the ability for all players, not just quarterbacks, to have up to four X-Factor abilities. This should be a game-changer, making those with superstar abilities much more dangerous as their overall increases. The NFL Draft still feels underwhelming, but EA promises that draft classes will be more dynamic, with many superstar players drafted out of college. Some may even debut with key stats maxed out. Besides more superstar-quality talent, EA has promised that some players may need to switch positions to maximize their potential. For example, taking a quarterback and moving them to wide receiver could unlock an entirely different set of skills.
It’s not perfect, but I liked some of the changes I saw from franchise mode early on.
(Note: Unfortunately, by the time I finished writing this, franchise mode had again experienced some issues. Many users, including myself, were getting error messages. Thankfully, this is just the beta and EA was quick to fix it, but it makes me weary of how the finished product might be. )
Mini-Games Make A Triumphant Return
Over the years, one of EA’s most significant faults is removing game modes and features, only to re-implement them years later and play them off as something new and exciting. So, when I first heard that mini-games would be making a triumphant return in Madden 24, I rolled my eyes. After all, mini-games like rushing and passing attacks were part of the reason I fell in love with the series in the first place. And I don’t think I’m the only one who felt this way.
The good news for those like me who enjoyed playing mini-games is that EA not only brought back a bunch of the classics, but they’ve added a plethora of new activities that will surely consume your playing time. This year, there are 14 mini-games ranging from the classic rushing attack to WR/DB battles and everything in between.
Here’s how each mini-game stacks up against the competition in my personal power rankings.
1. Rushing Attack, Rushing Attack-Close Quarters, Rushing Attack- Extra Aggression
Description: Evade the defenders and score as many touchdowns as possible. You’ll be awarded bonus points for successful skill moves, long runs, and celebrating during the play. Touchdowns will increase your score multiplier. Losing yards will reset it.
Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with Madden‘s mini-games, my all-time favorite being the rushing attack. This is still my favorite mini-game and something I’ve put a ton of time into since the beta was released early last week. On top of the original rushing attack this year, EA has added close quarters and extra-aggression mini-games. Close quarters set boundaries and shorten the field for running backs. There’s even a long spinning rectangle that reminds me of something straight out of Bowser’s castle in Super Mario Brothers that moves from sideline to sideline, making things harder for the ball carrier. Extra aggression adds more defenders and makes things extremely difficult. Nevertheless, this is my favorite mini-game of the bunch.
2. WR Battle, WR Battle On the Move, WR Battle Red Zone Attack
Description: Get open and call for the ball with X to catch passes and earn points. Catching the ball within hot spots and with more time remaining will earn you bonus points. Successful catches will increase your score multiplier, and incomplete passes will reset it.
Right behind rushing attack is the wide receiver vs. defensive back mini-game. Not only does this sharpen your route-running skills, but it’s made me much better at user-catching in the process. This mini-game can be frustrating at times because it’s not always easy to call for the ball in a hot spot or to come down with the football with a defensive back in closer proximity. I’ve also found my thumbs hurting like I thumb-wrestled Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson from trying to hold down the joystick to run a streak route. This is a must-play for all gamers, but even more so if you want to improve your user skills.
3. Option Attack
Description: Evade the defenders and score as many touchdowns as possible using option plays. You can hold the snap button to hand off the ball or release it after the snap to keep it. Read the defensive keys to decide whether to hand off, keep, or pitch the ball. You’ll be awarded bonus points for successful skill moves, long runs, and celebrating during the play. Touchdowns will increase your score multiplier, and losing yards will reset it.
As someone who prides himself on running the football, it’s no surprise option attack would also be one of my favorite mini-games. It sharpens your skills in the run game and helps immensely in getting a better read on what the defense is doing. It’s also entertaining. It won’t be easy and will take plenty of trial and error, but being able to master the read option is a game-changer.
4. Target Passing, Target Passing On the Move, Target Passing Sudden Death
Description: Position your QB and time your passes to destroy as many targets as possible. You’ll be awarded more points for better accuracy as well as for hitting deeper targets. Successful catches will increase your score multiplier, and drops will reset it.
I’ll be honest, I teeter back and forth on whether or not I like target passing. On the one hand, it significantly improves your timing with routes and gives you a pretty good feel for where your receivers are. On the other hand, it’s a bit laughable to see giant targets on the screen with the primary objective of shattering them. It probably won’t be your favorite mini-game, but it’s a classic and one worth investing in, especially sudden death, which leaves no room for error and only continues if you hit your target.
5. Pass Skeleton, Pass Skeleton Outmanned
Description: Complete passes within the time limit and score as many touchdowns as possible. You’ll be awarded bonus points for longer passes, successful skill moves, and celebrating during the play. Completed passes will increase your score multiplier, and incomplete passes will reset it.
This is the mini-game for those looking to refine their skills as a pocket passer. In the past, I’ve admittedly struggled at maneuvering around the pocket and standing tall in the face of pressure. This might not help with the pressure part, but it does give you a better feel for the pocket. Additionally, you can get better timing down with specific routes and improve your overall passing attack.
6. Backfield Survival, Backfield Home Base
Description: Evade the defense for as long as possible to earn points. Collecting hot spots will grant bonus points or replenish your stamina. Getting tackled, scoring a touchdown, or running out of bounds will end an attempt)
My least favorite mini-game of the group is backfield survival. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s unplayable or I haven’t had fun giving it a test drive, but compared to some of the other mini-games, this one isn’t as fun. In this game mode, you start at one end of the field and do your best to hit hot spots from one end zone to the next while defenders try to bring you down short of the goal line. That spinning rectangle from Mario is back and can make for some entertaining animations.
One thing that needs to be reiterated is that this is the beta and while EA has a lot of work to do between now and the game’s official release on August 18, I can see the vision. I just question whether or not there are enough changes to this year’s game to make those who may have given up or lost faith in Madden in the past a reason to pick up the sticks. Maybe I’m wrong, but for those gamers who only have an interest in franchise mode, it might be best to wait another year and see what changes EA has in store for the EA Sports College Football franchise. Because as of now, it seems like what you see is what you get with Madden.
In my view, it’s a game that’s really only worth picking up if you pour countless hours into head-to-head games, have a great group for an online franchise, or need a football video game. That said, I’m going to keep playing and will have some deeper thoughts on gameplay once the beta is nearing its end.