Madden 21 is now officially available, so if you haven't got round to getting in on the action just yet, keep reading for our review of the game on release.
EA has been very active in communicating what updates are going to be made in the future, so there is a lot to look forward to!
We'll be using a 5-star scale for this review, and go over the good, the bad, and how the game rounds out as the newest entry to the Madden franchise.
Latest News - LTD Legends Revealed for MUT 21
Alongside updates and fixes, the game is also getting another amazing set with the return of LTD Legends in Madden 21!
A PROBLEM: Junior Seau will be a massive headache for offenses in Madden Ultimate Team
More players are still to be announced, but for now, legendary linebacker Junior Seau fronts the bunch as the first revealed player at 91 OVR.
Madden 21 has a lot of positive notes, and some good innovation that fans can hope for more of as title updates come over the course of the year.
Probably the most outstanding part of Madden 21 is its new game mode The Yard.
CHANGE THE GAME: The Yard is a fantastic new direction for Madden 21 gameplay
This game mode captures the backyard football energy players have wanted for years, and innovates it to change the way Madden is played entirely.
STRATEGY: Bonus points changes up how players approach The Yard
We expect The Yard will be where many players spend the majority of their time in the game, and that's a great thing for a game mode's debut.
No matter how The Yard evolves over Madden 21's lifetime, it is easily the best aspect of this year's game.
New Pass Rushing/Block Systems
Madden 21 shakes up how rushing and blocking mechanics interact in-game.
DISCIPLINE: Control yourself or you'll soon be out of rush moves
It introduces new move systems that give players a limited number of move attempts at a time. This number replenishes as the game is played, but it makes players think twice about when to explode with their defenders.
On the blocking side players also have a new system where they "learn" the way defensive players attack over the course of each game. This memory stays around for the entire game, regardless of switching off a particular defender.
On top of these changes, the button layout for pass rushing moves has also improved. These changes improve the feel of defense by putting more of its control on the right thumbstick. This is an intuitive change that players will adjust to quickly.
User Control Changes
One of the more understated changes in Madden 21 might just shake up how player vs player games are played at all levels.
SPEED LIMIT: User Control on defense has been slowed down to open up the passing game
In Madden 21, user controlled characters on defense are slowed down from their usual speed.
This change limits the ability for players to user on defense and cover 2-3 routes simultaneously with high speed.
This change might help reinvigorate the passing game and change the running meta of Madden 20 that was so prevalent in both MUT and the competitive scene.
Speaking of Ultimate Team...
Madden Ultimate Team
MUT in Madden 21 has some new changes, the first that players will notice is the change in card design. The new card design is fantastic, trimming the fat of previous versions and including more relevant information with ability logos.
NEW LOOK: MUT cards have a new clean and efficient design
But the look of the cards isn't the only thing changing.
The biggest change in Madden 21's MUT is Ability Caps, which change how players will build out their star players.
These caps limit players and overall sides (offense, defense, special teams) on how many X-Factor Abilities they can have active, and which they can use.
BUMP IT UP: You can upgrade and customize how your stars play in MUT
With customization allowing you to change the way your stars play on the field, each MUT team will feel like a different squad even if many of the star players are the same.
This change is a great way to give MUT some game diversity and require more thought into lineups before they hit the gridiron.
Popular feature Team Diamonds are also making their return this year, and the set reveals so far have been great!
While Madden 21 has a lot of good it hasn't really gotten credit for, there are still some bad aspects that could use some touching up in future title updates.
Face of the Franchise
Face of the Franchise has a lot of elements the player base is looking for - a story-based game mode that allows players to rise up through the journey of a player looking to reach the big time.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Face of the Franchise isn't EA's best work with a lacking storyline
Unfortunately, that story has no maneuverability and is quite poorly written.
Regardless of how well you play in the big games, you might get benched the next day because of a scripted event that suggests you played poorly. No matter how unrealistic some of the details of the story are, you'll have to suffer through them to move on.
The narrow linear fashion of the story also means there's little replayability.
EA has struggled with implementing heavily scripted story mode game modes to its sports titles, and Face of the Franchise in Madden 21 is another notch on this list.
#FixMaddeFranchise was a revolution, and EA have responded to the outcries. While EA addressing fans demands for Franchise Mode improvements is a fantastic start to growth in the series, the game mode in Madden 21 still has many issues that land it in the bad column.
ROADMAP: EA have released these notes on post-launch changes for this year's Franchise
Despite these issues, it will still be a widely played game mode by Franchise Mode players. But many of these issues aren't new, and to pass by another title without solutions is certainly frustrating.
Perhaps the biggest frustration with Franchise Mode beyond a lack of growth is trade logic.
Franchise Mode trade logic in the Madden series has had very consistent problems that you can replicate across 5-plus games. The most prevalent is the unexplainable undervaluing of Guards.
ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE: Unimaginable trades are right at your fingertips in Franchise Mode
When you can snag the best guards in the game (with Quenton Nelson being a 94 OVR 24-year-old) for little more than a 7th round draft pick or some third-string level talents, it's hard to get excited about building a winning roster. To have this same problem for years is mind-numbing.
Another source of player frustration is the budding development of Franchise game modes in other sports series like NBA 2K and MLB The Show. Players feel like they're watching other games do it better year after year while their favorite series stagnates.
EA have promised Franchise Mode improvements over the lifespan of Madden 21 via title updates, and improvements for Madden 22 as well. But until they arrive, Franchise Mode lands firmly in the bad category.
It wouldn't be a Madden game without bugs and in-game issues.
OPEN FIELD: Looks like stopping the clock is going to be a bit more difficult
You don't have to play long to run into some bugs or technical issues in the game, including a period during our early impressions of the EA Play Trial where all the players on screen simply disappeared for entire plays, and times when the out of bounds lines wouldn't render.
READ MORE: Madden 21 Ratings: Most Overrated Players
You're sure to run into many of the same problems you've seen in other Madden games, including unchallengable plays that are clearly incorrect calls based on replay footage, and animations causing havoc on both sides of the ball.
And you'll certainly have moments where All-Star receivers will run routes like the ball flying towards their hands doesn't exist.
These bugs can be extremely frustrating in big moments, and based on their consistency across the franchise, they are sure to stay around for the lifespan of Madden 21.
We've already had one patch to fix a few things, and there will be more to come. so while these issues will frustrate early, they should soon go away.
Madden 21's negatives are sure to annoy fans, especially long term fans who have had these complaints for years, but the positives that EA has implemented are great steps in the right direction.
There's still more time for Madden 21 to grow in either direction over its lifespan with EA concentrating a lot of development in title updates.
But our verdict is in for the game in its current state. And its... Fine.
You'll hear a lot of griping about it being unplayable, about same-old gameplay, but EA has changed some things. Gameplay does feel different, and The Yard is legitimately great.
It's Madden and the NFL, it's tough to reinvent the wheel and EA hasn't really tried with some modes, but where they have put the effort in it really shows.
Still, issues persist. The menus are painfully slow, support even for MUT has been shakey so far, which doesn't bode well for proposed updates to Franchise down the line. As for Franchise... It's no different than before.
Madden 21 is fine, but it's hardly groundbreaking.
RealSport Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Buy Madden 21
EA always out-do themselves by releasing numerous Editions for each of their titles, and Madden 21 is certainly no different.
If you're wondering which one is right for you, take a look at our buying guide below, which details exactly how much each Edition costs and what in-game extras you'll get for your purchase!