Madden 21: Still flawed


Madden 21 is a game with positives, but still has the flaws of previous iterations. Photo / ClutchPoints

Sports video games franchises are among some of the most money-hungry corporations in the modern economy.

Many sports video game fans are fed up with the current cycle that companies follow: update rosters, change the design a tiny bit and sell millions.

EA Sports released Madden 21 as the National Football League (NFL) season kicks off this fall, ushering in a new iteration of the storied football video game franchise.

This year, EA Sports’ big selling point for Madden is “The Yard,” along with the typical game modes like “Franchise,” “Career,” “Ultimate Team” and “Superstar KO.”

The Yard is a six vs. six “schoolyard” style of football game, where players play both sides of the ball and can use customized characters to play with friends or alone. This game mode provides a fresh, new style of football that fans can play, and the addition of co-op mode is a definite plus for those who are looking to enjoy time with their friends remotely.

What EA Sports has not changed in their annual game is the focus on “Ultimate Team.” “Ultimate Team” brings them money through the purchasing of packs to get rare cards in their card-collecting game mode that has dominated the sports gaming industry.

“Franchise” mode and “Career” mode are virtually the same, except for “Career” mode having a small storyline tweak. But what will be different every year is “Ultimate Team.”

New cards, new programs and new packs to make even more money, “Ultimate Team.” is the focal point of Madden year-after-year. That did not change with Madden 21.

Despite the success of “The Yard,” Madden once again fails to provide a fresh, new product. The problem with releasing a game yearly is the quick turnaround that they must make. Making big strides in the mechanics, game modes and appearance of the game is made difficult with a quick deadline.

That doesn’t excuse the explicit money-grab that Madden has become though. One good new game mode does not excuse negligence to others.

The strength of previous Madden games was the “Franchise” mode. There were many features within the game mode that made the consumer feel like a real general manager or coach of an NFL team. Now, the game mode is a shell of itself, with very barebones features that provide an enjoyable playthrough on only the first play.

After the first franchise file, each subsequent playthrough becomes less and less exciting. The consumer knows how to play the game the way it wants to be played and can manipulate the algorithms with ease. The simulation realism is skewed, with role players and below-average players winning “Most Valuable Player” or leading the league in a statistical category.

The “Franchise” mode has clear, distinct flaws, but “Franchise” doesn’t have downloadable content. It doesn’t encourage kids to pick up their mom’s credit card and buy a pack, so they spend their time improving those money-making game modes. On one hand, it’s hard to blame EA for this. But on the other hand, it’s deplorable to continue to annually release a half-complete game for more money.

With the newest installment of Madden, EA Sports had some positives. The user interface and presentation are great, as always, and “The Yard” is a fresh, fun and new game mode. But the negatives are still there. The same negatives that have been there for the past five or six years.

To make complete, quality games, EA either needs to stop the yearly release schedule or focus on the aspects of their game that they have neglected for half of a decade. For half of a complete game, this addition to the franchise gets a half score.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars