Game review: Madden NFL 23 (PlayStation 5)
EA Sports’ American football franchise takes to the field, once more, with Madden NFL 23.
Usually, I’d start by saying how this year’s Madden game kicks off another season of EA Sports games. But this year, it was F1 22, from the newly acquired Codemasters, that heralded the yearly onslaught of sporting titles.
Madden NFL 23 is also the first release of this iconic franchise since the sad passing of John Madden late last year. It’s only fitting that this iteration celebrates the legendary NFL player, coach, and commentator that lends his name to EA’s American Football game.
This year EA Sports have further tweaked the gameplay utilising the extra power of Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles.
FieldSense seeks to increase the game’s authenticity by giving players more control when tackling and passing. The new skills-based passing mechanic allows players to fine-tune throws for better accuracy. Whilst this does add another layer to the game, as only an occasional Madden player, I found it difficult to get to grips with. Pro players will, however, likely enjoy being able to place the ball exactly where they want and how they want. The rest of us can go back to the traditional controls if necessary.
The physics engine has also been revised, again, exclusive to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S versions of the game. Using “hit-stick” technology, players have more opportunities to tackle with smooth branching animations.
The focus from a gameplay perspective is all about increasing control on the field. The result is a game that feels a little more “next-gen” rather than just a visual overhaul.
Of course, the game has had some noticeable graphical tweaks. This is especially apparent in the replays which look, quite frankly, incredible. It would seem that the players and coach models have all had an overhaul. The presentation, as well, seems slicker than before.
I’d say that both the gameplay and visuals for the PS5 are now, without a doubt, “next-gen”. This is as opposed to the usual iterative update from the previous years which I felt was all we got last time.
The game modes, by and large, will be familiar if you’ve played Madden in the past. Franchise mode allows the player to take their favourite team all the way to Superbowl glory, whereas Face of the Franchise: The League is a more personal, narrative-driven mode.
This year Face of the Franchise’s campaign has you start out as a league player embarking on a career with an NFL team. The campaign seems to focus a lot more on playing that game than watching the usual, generic “rookie's journey”.
The fantasy football/collectible card/microtransaction hybrid Ultimate Team still proves to be just as addictive as ever. Building teams and swapping players is just as engrossing as it always was.
New for Madden NFL 23 is the Madden Legacy game. This love letter to the legendary John Madden has you playing through his career in a unique way. The mode features the coach through different eras with a special commentary reflecting John Madden’s Legacy.
Madden NFL 23 offers a bit more than just the iterative update that tends to plague these annual sports title releases. The upgraded visuals for the PlayStation 5 (and Xbox Series X|S) are a welcome addition. The new controls were a challenge (as it has taken me a few years to get used to the legacy controls), but the additional realism will appeal to veterans looking to improve their game.
It’s the game’s dedication to the memory of John Madden that is the standout feature of Madden NFL 23. The overall presentation and the Madden Legacy game mode are an awesome memorial to the late NFL legend.