The Madden franchise has been at somewhat of a standstill for a number of years. The series hardly changes from game to game, which causes plenty of frustration amongst fans, but those same fans still show up to buy the new edition year after year. There's a lazy element of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" to most of the recent Madden installments. Things got a little better last year with the release of Madden NFL 21 and, despite a couple of clunky missteps, Madden NFL 22 keeps things moving in the right direction.
Next-gen consoles certainly are certainly helping Madden move forward this year. The gameplay has a smoothness to it — particularly when you're operating a running back — that we haven't seen in the series quite yet. Combined with the upgraded graphics and the enhanced stadiums, Madden 22 has a better feel and look than any of its predecessors. The addition of "momentum" also brings a great new wrinkle to the series, allowing for big plays and home-field advantage to actually affect games.
Of course, this is Madden, so every step forward is mired by some other issues. If the stadiums can be filled with more unique audiences and more realistic sets, why do referees still jump through players from time to time? Why do players keep acting like they're carrying a ball after dropping it on the ground? Is there a reason that hair still can't look real in 2021?
Madden has always had an issue with focusing on extremely marketable upgrades or changes, while skimping on the little things that people actually want fixed. This is on full display in Madden 22, and not just in the gameplay itself. The various game modes provide a much bigger example.
This year's edition of Madden made some awesome changes to The Yard and Ultimate Team. There's a lot more to do in these game modes, as well as many of the others, so it takes a lot longer for anything to feel repetitive. Both have an entire campaign within them that you can play, and the XP you earn in various game modes all lumps together to help your created player or Ultimate Team. It's actually a really seamless system that makes the overall experience more cohesive and enjoyable.
The focus on those improvements, however, left other areas seriously lacking. Face of the Franchise has a bland story that consistently takes you out of any fun you're having to listen to your agent or "brand manager" tell you about your life. Most options you choose involve you going to talk to someone whose mouths hardly line up with their dialogue. That's especially frustrating when some conversations happen over text messages, and you wonder how the story team chose what was necessary to leave the menu for. There is always an option to skip the cinematic moments, but there are just so many of them that you feel like you're wasting time whenever you're not actually playing in a game.
For every enjoyable new thing in Madden NFL 22, there's something else that's equally as frustrating. The real saving grace that makes the game a solid experience is the upgraded gameplay and graphics for next-gen. If you like Madden, you'll have fun, even if you get annoyed from time to time, but the franchise still has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with the other sports games on the market.
Rating: 3 out of 5