Madden 24 Review: New year, same game

Jalen Hurts drops back to pass in Madden 24

Jalen Hurts drops back to pass in Madden 24

I still remember my first Madden. It was Christmas 2002 and I unwrapped my gift to see Marshall Faulk looking back at me. The back of the box promised improved graphics and presentation, a mini-camp with skill games, and new gameplay mechanics. It was all extremely exciting for a young kid that had just discovered the NFL.

Fast forward to 2023 and Madden 24 is here promising improved graphics and presentation, a mini-camp with skill games, and new gameplay mechanics. The only thing missing is the excitement.

In the intervening years, Madden games have become a slog of repetition, stagnation, and disappointment. So can Madden 24 break all that? Well, not really no. Let’s dive into our Madden 24 review to see why.

Reviewed on Xbox Series X. Review copy provided by publisher.

A new coat of paint

EA went hard on a few big selling points for Madden 24. One was Sapien Technology, an improved player skeleton that makes movements more realistic and gives gameplay more immersion. Another was Franchise Mode improvements like a training camp full of mini-games, additional trade slots, and better commissioner tools. Finally, there were gameplay improvement promises. New blocking logic, better pathfinding for ball carriers, smarter AI and better tackling mechanics.

The Patriots running the ball in Madden 24
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CLEAR A LANE - Blocking upgrades make the ground game more deadly this year

All of it sounded impressive, but the overall effect is an initial learning phase that lasts maybe a few hours before the glossy new mechanics reveal themselves to just be covering the same old systems we're all far too used to. Things like blocking and AI upgrades are ever-present improvements and good to see. Your toss and stretch plays actually get blocked up now. Inside double-teams hit the second level. DBs can no longer react to a ball they can’t actually see. This is all a positive, but it doesn't change the game in any radical way.

It might alter the gameplay meta at the sharp end of Ultimate Team and in the MCS, but for most players it will only make a minor difference. Especially as the rest of the gameplay experience is much as it ever was.

Soulless environment

When you watch the NFL you are always aware of a few things, mainly the broadcasters and TV presentation. You can tell from a glance if you're on Fox, Sunday Night Football on NBC, or Monday Night Football on ESPN. When the playoffs roll around there is an indication of what round it is, even if it's just a small box in the corner. There's none of this in Madden 24.

When in a Franchise Mode game you won't be able to tell the difference between an early Sunday game, a prime Sunday Night match up or an AFC championship game.

Jalen Hurts drops back to pass in Madden 24
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WHERE ARE WE - Madden has a lack of atmosphere

Crowd noise lacks any depth or intensity, and the sidelines are still lifeless. Madden doesn't drop you into the sport and let you feel the intensity in the same way that other EA Sports titles like FIFA or F1 do. And that's a shame because there is no environment in sport like a rocking NFL stadium during a dramatic fourth quarter. The game just doesn't deliver the same feeling even as you are driving for the last-second go-ahead touchdown at home.

The commentary team of Charles Davis and Brandon Gaudin have been in the game since Madden 17, and still lack the thrill of a big moment. There's no explosion for an end zone interception or last-minute big play. Madden 24 is a game you can play on mute and not miss out on anything.

Performance issues

Like many annual sports titles, Madden is starting to show its age. From the Frostbite engine to the menus, it's all beginning to creak under the weight of age and legacy code.

Despite next-gen consoles, the load times in menus are appalling. This is most noticeable when you are navigating around the clunky layout of Ultimate Team and having to constantly load in and out of menus, challenges, and the store. It's remarkable really to have such slow navigation with the hardware on offer today.

We've also encountered crash after crash after crash when using quick resume on the Xbox Series X. This is an issue that is unique to Madden games in all my time with the latest-gen Microsoft console.

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Aaron Donald about to sack Joe Burrow in Madden 24
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IMPENDING DOOM - Madden 24 isn't our saviour

While we reviewed Madden 24 on Xbox Series X, reports from PC players across social media are full of terrible optimisation and performance problems. Some workarounds, like capping frame rates at 60 or 120 fps, have been found but it isn't great to hear these things.

In the game itself there isn't any sign of input lag. However if you are trying to get through Ultimate Team solo challenges or find your way around the endless Field Passes then you will spend a frustrating amount of time staring at juttery fade-outs and waiting for rewards to load in.

Any redeeming qualities?

I know this has been a very negative review so far, so is there anything that we like about Madden 24? Well, the mini-games are fun even if they aren't exactly new for older players.

While Ultimate Team is slow and overly complicated it is still fun to build a squad, take on different scenarios, and then head online for full games. And in the end Madden does still let you play football. You do get to experience scrambling around with Lamar Jackson, making plays with Fred Warner, and breaking ankles with Alvin Kamara.

While the gameplay is similar to previous years it has never been a terrible experience. Franchise Mode hasn't changed much and Superstar Mode has replaced Face Of The Franchise but it is basically the same idea. It all still works and gives you a feeling of the NFL at your fingertips.

Verdict

Madden 24 is basically the same as Madden 23. If you liked that game, you'll like this one. If you didn't, then you won't like Madden 24 it really is as simple as that.

Madden feels like a franchise coasting on being the only NFL game in town and it really, really shows. The rollout of Madden 24's early access has been awful with dead servers, a total lack of content for Ultimate Team players (the bulk of the Deluxe Edition purchasers), and pre-order bonuses going missing.

I've stayed up until 4am watching the NFL more times than I care to count, my love the sport has only grown over the years but my love for Madden has faded into a shadow of what it used to be, much like the game itself.

Another forgettable season
Don't get sucked in by the pre-release hype and new features. It's still the same old game with the same old problems.
5 out of 10
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