Madden NFL 21 Beta First Impressions

EA Sports won't be releasing Madden NFL 21 to the public until next month, but some players were able to get their hands on an early closed beta version of the game over the course of July 4th weekend. The closed beta allowed players to participate in a mostly-finished Exhibition game mode, going head-to-head locally, or against an opponent online. It's a very small sample as to what the full game will be like, and doesn't offer any insight into what kind of changes are coming to Franchise or Ultimate Team, but the Madden 21 beta did give us a chance to see how the actual gameplay has evolved from Madden 20.

Playing a few games over the weekend, it was easy to see that EA is trying to carry over a lot of what made Madden 20's mechanics great. A lot of the look and feel of the game is very similar, with no massive changes arriving this year. Many of the notable differences are fairly small. For example, running with the ball feels much smoother and more precise in Madden 21. All of the movements of the ball carrier are more natural, and that will likely be one of the first things that players notice.

The most exciting and welcomed change in Madden 21 (at least from what was present in the beta) actually takes place in the trenches. Madden has totally overhauled the controls for the defensive line. Instead of trying to jump the snap and use various buttons to get through to the quarterback, the D-line is now controlled by the right stick. Each direction matches up with a different line-move, which allows a player controlling to the lineman a better path to the backfield. It's fluid and natural from the snap.

There are some subtle negatives to mention from this beta, though they're all fairly small and nature and can be easily fixed for the full version in August. The speed of certain players feels a bit out of whack. While Tom Brady is certainly slower than Lamar Jackson, it doesn't amount to much of a difference. It's almost as if the quarterback playing field was evened a bit when it comes to rushing. That's not very realistic, especially for those who play with Jackson and Patrick Mahomes for the mobility they provide.

Defenders controlled by users also seem to be slowed down quite a bit. That may not be quite as noticeable as the quarterbacks, but those who control defensive backs will certainly be frustrated by it.


All-in-all, the Madden 21 beta just showed that EA isn't trying to fix what isn't broken. Speed adjustments can be made in the final game, thus eliminating any issues found in the beta. Any potentially big changes to the game will be coming in the game modes themselves.

Madden NFL 21 arrives in stores on August 28th.