Madden 21: First impressions of the early release trial - Gameplay, Graphics, The Yard & more

The EA Play Madden 21 trial is live, and Early Access has arrived for those who pre-ordered the MVP or Deluxe Editions.

The #FixMaddenFranchise movement has created plenty of controversy around this year's game, and response has brought a lot of attention to Madden 21.

Now that we've had a chance to play, how is the game really?

Latest News - Our Madden 21 Review is in!

With a chance to settle in and really explore Madden 21, our final verdict on the game is in!

You can read our full Madden 21 review here.


The initial feedback hasn't centered around gameplay, and we'll get to that but let's start here.

Gameplay is pretty good.

The play is definitely slower, whether that's on offense or defense it definitely feels more controlled and actions are deliberate. We focused on simulation game mode, and moves come across as planned as opposed to button bashing luck.

madden 21 pass rush OL meter 1
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AI: OL now have bars that indicate them learning which side the defender will attack

The new pass rush system will take some time to get used to. It's also a dilemma as to whether you use this or user the middle of the field. We haven't quite worked out which feels like a better investment!


The graphics are gorgeous. They were good last season, but it has been notched up and the new menu styling seems a bit more premium.

READ MORE: How to use the new pass rush moves in Madden 21

We know a lot of fans will feel like this is a distraction and is undermined by the problems, but credit should be given as it is an area the game scores highly.

The new stadiums in Los Angeles and Los Vegas are gorgeous, and the likeness of the players is mostly spot-on. Shadows and reflections look incredibly well rendered.

It looks like this could get even better on the next-gen consoles.

Different Modes

The Yard is absolutely wild.

It matches what developers promised, pure unadulterated fun where a lot of the rules go out the window.

rsz madden 21 the yard
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CHAOS: The Yard will take some getting used to be is loads of fun

It definitely takes getting used to as the rules are completely different, and i would imagine it could be tough switching between this and other game modes.

Franchise is getting a lot of heat for obvious reasons. There's plenty of updates needed and that's on top of the published roadmap.

Trade logic seems off, which is surprising as it wasn't this bad in Madden 20 so some tweaks have gone the wrong way.

Regression seems to have improved, which was one of things on the list. Likewise development seems to be more realistic at this early point of testing.

READ MORE: Which are the most important abilities in pass coverage for Madden 21?

The reality for Franchise fans might be having to be patient and that will be the real test of how much EA have pushed them.

For Face of the Franchise, a lot has gone into making a storyline resemble a cinematic experience, similar to what is seen in NBA 2k.

But that might be too much of a focus, but there's not much variability to it. Reports are already coming out of people failing every test and passing every test, but the storyline remains unchanged.

Initially playing from us seemed like its a nice change of mode, but not something to rave about.


No game is free from bugs, especially when built during a pandemic that has forced developers to work from home.

On top of the trade logic issue, there have been some bugs that have made the game tough to play at times.

madden 21 missing hash
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MISSING LINES: At least you can never be out of bounds...

The good news is that patches and updates can rectify these, but there are quite a few. From spelling errors on loading screens to incorrect uniforms it all feels a little rushed.

Covid-19 is the obvious reason for this, and hopefully EA can correct these issues quickly.

Overall Impressions

The Madden emotional rollercoaster continues.

Flipping from hope to disappointment and back again has become the norm for Madden players - and this trial is a microcosm of that.

The reality is this game was a crucial market for EA Sports and when that coincides with a global pandemic it's always going to be tough.

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ABSOLUTELY KEY: Abilities are more important than ever

The gameplay would get a positive review from us. It feels more deliberate and in need of actual skill rather than luck.

READ MORE: Whats the difference between the editions of Madden 21?

The options for play style between arcade, simulation, and competitive seem to have a greater impact, similar to the options in a game like F1 2020.

Ratings, and abilities, seem to matter a lot more and can be the difference between winning or losing.

There seems to be plenty of bugs to mop up, and the reality is franchise hasn't changed. But being honest, we knew this was going to be the case.

EA now have a few months to turn around bug fixes and franchise updates to placate fans and hopefully this will be enough for the majority.

Madden 21 will no doubt lose some players, but it might gain some new ones too. The Yard is a nice addition that reaches new segments.

Our initial impression is a mixed bag, that isn't quite as bad as Reddit would make it seem - but with definite room for improvement.

READ MORE: What is the Spokesplayer in Madden 21?

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