Like death and taxes, there’s one thing you can be certain of: that a new Madden game will release each year.
The key difference, however, is that many of us want a new Madden game. Though while we get it without question, it often doesn’t feel rewarding. In recent years, there just aren’t enough advancements. Madden NFL 23 follows the trend. This is undoubtedly the best Madden game yet, with enhanced gameplay, subtly improved visuals and updated rosters. But unless you know Madden NFL 22 like the back of your hand, you’ll perhaps struggle to see why this year’s release was necessary.
We’ll say this though: at least Madden NFL 23 opens in a promising manner. With the passing of the legendary John Madden in December, you’re pretty much thrown straight into an event that celebrates his career. You’ll take part in a legacy game, playing with All-Madden teams in the Oakland Coliseum. And there’s even a touching mid-game tribute. When it’s over that’s pretty much it, though. You can replay it at any time, but you’re into the game proper.
On the field, the only real advancement this year is what EA calls FieldSense. To give it credit, it does lead to more advanced and realistic-looking gameplay. It encompasses two key aspects: improved passing, and enhanced physics. Let’s tackle the physics first, as they’re easier to sum up. Basically, every player on the field reacts more realistically to impacts, passes, and… well, everything. There’s the odd occasion where you might spot an anomaly, of course, but on the whole it’s convincing.
More impactful to the game are the new passing options. You can stick to the tried-and-tested classic passing style if you wish, or you can opt for one of two new skill-based styles. They’re pretty hard to master, but if you put in the time you can reap the rewards, performing nuanced throws that give you the edge over the competition. You’re in control of whether to throw the ball slightly ahead of the receiver, for example, as well as which side it will be best for them to catch at. You need to think fast, though thankfully there are slow-down options available when playing offline to give you more time.
When it comes to modes, there are no surprises in Madden NFL 23. All of last year’s are back, and outside of Face of the Franchise there are few notable changes. You’ll no longer be taking control of a rookie in Face of the Franchise, instead being put in the shoes of a veteran still out to make a name for themselves. The catch is, they only have one year. It’s an interesting premise, but as ever, it’s one mostly explored by boring menus rather than dramatic story scenes.
Elsewhere, aside from minor tweaks this is pretty much Madden as you know it. You might encounter the odd gameplay element that’s been expanded upon that gives you pause for thought, but otherwise it’s a package that’s likely to feel all-too familiar. The question is, where does EA go from here? It’s safe to say that Madden is a series in need of a reinvention to keep it interesting, but is that really going to happen?
Like a scratched record, then, we end our review of Madden NFL 23 like we have the last few releases. That’s by saying that with its numerous incremental improvements, it’s the best Madden yet. But as ever, unless you’re an ardent fan who knows the series like the back of their hand, it’s an inessential purchase if you have last year’s offering. Or perhaps even the one before that. In terms of what’s actually new here, there’s very little. And even less of monumental value.