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Madden 24 review - small improvements, big disappointment

Our Madden 24 review explores whether EA Sports has learned from last year's errors, or if NFL fans will have to endure another underwhelming experience.

Madden 24 review: An NFL player wearing an all white kit midway through throwing a pass

Our Verdict

To the naked eye, Madden 24 is discernible to the last few entries in the series due to its lack of innovation in its game modes and presentation. The late John Madden once said, “Winning is a great deodorant.” Right about now, the Madden franchise is starting to stink up the joint.

Flipping the calendar to August always means a few things – school is back in session, fall is right around the corner, tons of NFL futures bets are being made (by me), and the new Madden hits store shelves. EA Sports’ annual American football sim is back this year with Madden 24, starring Buffalo Bills gunslinging quarterback and human battering ram Josh Allen as the cover athlete, swelling the pride of many upstate New Yorkers. But will NFL fans everywhere be as enthusiastic and get to enjoy an improved experience, or will Madden 24 signal another underwhelming entry to the series after the troubles of its predecessor?

Last year, Madden 23 introduced a new gameplay system dubbed FieldSENSE, designed and promoted to improve Madden’s “ultra-realistic” gameplay by giving more control over players on the gridiron and granting them tons of new animations. The rollout of this new system was largely met with disappointment as Madden 23’s arc was dampened by an absolute boatload of glitches, both in the game and in players’ save files, which led to EA Sports offering discounts on this year’s version of Madden for those who had their save files corrupted. This includes myself, as I lost a Franchise mode save as the Carolina Panthers deep into the season.

In Madden 24, EA Sports gets a second crack at improving FieldSENSE, and after spending plenty of time with the game, it certainly feels at least marginally better. Some of the new animations make the game feel more accurate to actual football – defenders must bring down running backs and wide receivers at specific angles to tackle them consistently, and EA Sports has toned down the rampant interceptions from last year, making them feel more earned when picking off the opposing QB.

While you’ll definitely notice those improvements, a less-welcome thing you’ll notice about Madden 24’s gameplay is the jarring and rough-around-the-edges moments that occur each and every game. Players who are injured on a play will get up and celebrate a tackle or a catch, then without visual cue, are brought off the field for the rest of the game never to be seen again. After a play concludes, the camera may focus for far too long on a player who had nothing to do with the play, creating too many David Lynch-style surrealist moments that are unwelcome in a football sim. A lot of Maddens rival sports series, like NBA 2K and MLB The Show, have been able to capture what a basketball or a baseball game looks and flows like, blurring the lines further from game to reality. Madden 24 just seems to make those divisions even more obvious.

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Similar to the gameplay, Franchise mode has a few very minor updates that slightly improve the experience. Players can now restructure contracts to free up cap space, a trick most NFL GMs employ daily to circumvent the salary cap, and trades can now include up to six assets for each side of the deal, allowing for more mega-deals. As somebody who sinks tons of time into Franchise mode, these are the minor adjustments the mode desperately needs and are really welcomed.

Unfortunately, these small but positive steps forward feel meaningless when Madden 24 performs as poorly as it does. The game is severely bogged down with gameplay bugs and glitches, even in Performance mode. Performance mode is intended to sacrifice some of the game’s graphical fidelity for smoother frame rates but still lags even more than Image Quality mode when testing out both options on the PS5. I truly can’t remember a Madden release that performed this poorly at launch in years. Early matches felt like headache-inducing nightmares thanks to frame rate drops too. Thankfully, a patch was released post-launch that improved most of the frame rate stuttering issues that plagued the football sim at launch. Despite the update, the gameplay glitches and awkward moments still prevail.

The presentation for Franchise mode, as well as the rest of the game’s single-player modes, feels more stale than ever. The commercial-grade score with dime-a-dozen trap rap makes me yearn for the rock, hip-hop, and punk tracks of the past and earned a quick mute-all. The in-game presentation is in dire need of updating as well, with a severely generic pre-game and post-game package that doesn’t read like genuine football at all. Madden 24 feels like experiencing a bizarro world where Invasion of the Body Snatchers aliens took over humanity and kept playing football, stripping it of all the excitement and rituals that go into the pre-game breakdowns, analysis, and personality from beloved NFL icons that you’d come to expect from Monday Night Football broadcasts in the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay, or the scorching heat of Miami.

Madden 24 review: An NFL player in a white jersey looks to run around an oncoming opposition player in a green jersey

Madden’s single-player Superstar mode returns for the first time since 2012, giving players the chance to take their customized avatar either to the NFL field in a single-player mode, or online in a 3 vs 3 mode. The single player mode is as boiler plate as sports sims single player modes can get, and is hardly worth a mention.

However, the online 3 vs 3 mode is actually quite fun, and provides a nice change of pace from the usual 11 vs 11 gridiron football. I played as a Wide Receiver, so on offense I was beating my defender 1 v 1 in the slot, and on defense I was looking to snipe interceptions from the opposing quarterback. The mode offers more space with reduced players on the field, and I found myself gravitating to this mode more than I expected.

Madden 24 review: A screenshot showing a 3v3 football match on a black pitch in Madden 24

In Superstar mode, in line with all of Madden 24’s offerings, the ball on presentation is completely dropped. The stadium each game is played in is a neon-domed black hole devoid of any personality or fans in the stands. And yet, when a touchdown is scored, the crowd goes wild, despite the lack of an audience. It’s bizarre, and yet, for Madden 24, it is par for the course.

After sinking about 15 hours into the game’s offline and online modes, this year’s entry fails to present any notable changes that long-time players will truly appreciate, nor does it offer anything to those who’ve sat on the sidelines looking for a reason to jump back in.

There was once a time when Madden was a series among the pantheon of best sports games of all time, but that feels like a distant memory. Despite some slight improvements to the FieldSENSE technology and Franchise mode, Madden 24 so far fails to deliver a consistent experience that football fans are looking for.