Friday, August 18, 2023

Early Game Review: 'Madden NFL 24'

Like a veteran who's coming off an injury-beleaguered season that came up short of expectations, "Madden NFL 24" is looking to reclaim its throne as the king of the sports game landscape with the lumbering, fist-pumping authority of cover store Josh Allen.

With refined mechanics, slick animations and enhanced presentation, "Madden NFL 24" seems well-suited to accomplish its goals both on-field and off, and also boasts a bravado and chip on its shoulder. It's been years since a Madden released seemed so explosive and free-wheeling. That's largely due to the game's new bones, which are built on a tech suite called SAPIEN.

There's a refreshed and revitalized feel to the core gameplay. The FieldSENSE gameplay, which allows AI to smooth out rough edges and guide decisions to reflect the genuine tendencies of teams and players.

While nearly every mode has gotten wholesale improvements, I found the biggest upgrades in the card-based fantasy football sim, Madden Ultimate Team. A newfound sense of momentum helps sink you deep into the flow of tinkering with and upgrading your squad, thanks to a restructured menu flow and a steady drip of incremental challenges that give you reason to return again and again.

On the field, the passing and pass defense games have gotten the most care. Quarterback improvisation is rewarded with more angles and fewer scripted defensive maneuvers, and a buffed-up bump-and-run and suite of zone coverage options makes you feel more in control when you're on the defensive end. 

The ongoing game of cat and mouse between mobile quarterbacks and edge rushers and linebackers who blitz or drop back into coverage is tantalizingly realistic, all buzzing around with refreshed animations, including 1,700 alone dedicated to tackling.

The addition of MUT crossplay among the PS5, Xbox X/S and PC platforms is also appealing, making it less of a stressor to coordinate with your friends before deciding which system to buy the game on, while stretching the base of the multiplayer community to its maximum. 

While initial impressions may be sparkling, it will be in that multiplayer arena where the game is truly tested. The ongoing months of developer responses to community demands will spell out the final judgment of the game's success. After all, everyone has a plan until someone hits you in the facemask. At least this version of Madden feels ready for the inevitable collision of lofty expectationa with harah reality.

Publisher provided review code.

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