Madden NFL 24 from EA Tiburon expands on the rebuilt fundamentals from last year, creating a football simulation that takes a solid next step toward authenticity. However, new poorly implemented features and an interface showing its age are enough of a drag to make this latest iteration feel like a step back for a series badly in need of forward progress.
The on-the-field gameplay is more realistic than ever. The physics-based player interactions are noticeably improved, with ball carriers pushing against piles for extra yards, aggressive fights for footballs in the air, and an excellent variety of tackles. I was particularly impressed with the times defenders would scoop up runners and drive them aggressively onto the turf.
Rebuilt player models have much more variety, better replicating the various shapes and sizes of real players. CPU-controlled defensive backs do more swatting of footballs and are far less inclined to make blind interceptions, alleviating a common gripe from last year’s entry, though runners still bounce off of defenders too much, and noticeably improved blocking logic (especially on tosses and rollouts) has the offensive balance tilted a bit too far towards run-first teams.
Franchise mode has seen some of the biggest changes, particularly in player management. The ability to include more than three players per team in a trade is excellent, as is adding draft picks more than a year in the future. Restructuring certain contracts to free up cap space adds an authentic and useful roster construction tool.
Less successful is the implementation of the new minigames. Every offseason and weekly training involves a series of drills to play and earn bonus XP or upgrade points for players. Some of the games are fun, most are mediocre, and a few, like the DB battles, are painful. You can skip them, but you’ll leave a lot of potential XP on the field. There’s also a glaring absence of a drill for offensive linemen. Even if you want to focus on developing your rookie offensive tackle, for instance, there is no added bonus to be had.
The general mix of play modes is slightly reshuffled. Superstar mode replaces Face of the Franchise, removing the threadbare storyline to focus on pure gameplay. The Yard is now called Superstar KO, and, as a neon-infused take on three-on-three football, is a fun diversion but grows tired quickly.
Madden Ultimate Team remains largely unchanged, but it also highlights one of Madden’s biggest issues. Ending a game in MUT and opening a pack to unlock a player involves pages of aggravating load times. Madden looks slick and modern but has the responsiveness of an ancient laptop with too many tabs open, which is a problem given how much of the game takes place in menus, regardless of mode.
Madden 24 adds crossplay and cross-progression for the first time, and it’s well implemented. There’s a simple toggle to enable it for players on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Crossplay isn’t available in Franchise mode, but playing head-to-head online was seamless, and the increased player pool should make for faster matchmaking. I was able to quickly find a friend on Xbox via my PS5 with a simple search of their EA username and easily play some games.
The improvements to the fundamental gameplay in Madden 24 continue to pay dividends with some of the most authentic football the series has ever seen. But, like an ill-timed penalty, the dreadfully slow menus and funneling toward tedious minigames wipe out any forward progress and move the series backward overall.
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