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Sports ‘Madden NFL 21’ fumbles its promise to improve series

‘Madden NFL 21’ fumbles its promise to improve series

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Every August, Electronic Arts (EA) releases a new installment in its simulation football series, ‘Madden NFL’. Despite the yearly promises of improved gameplay and new features, this year’s ‘Madden NFL 21’ is no different from its predecessors, and marks a low point in the franchise’s history.

This year, EA developers advertised a slew of “innovative” features that made the game sound better than it is. The truth is ‘Madden 21’ looks like and feels like it is copy and pasted from last year’s game.

The gameplay itself is largely unchanged. The commentary, stadiums and player models all look and feel relatively similar to the year before. However, there are slight improvements in lighting and ball carrier movements. Running the ball and testing some of the new, fluid movements is one of the best areas of this game. 

The decision to keep and add onto the Superstar X-Factor system is a great move for the franchise. Real-life superstars in the NFL actually feel like themselves with the boosted abilities of their “X-Factor”. It adds an entertaining twist to the gameplay and makes you have to watch your opponent closely if their superstar gets into their zone. 

Madden’s career mode, “Face of the Franchise”, also returns this year with a disjointed and boring story of a position battle between the player, a backup quarterback, and a starting quarterback. The game mode does allow you to play in a new fictional high school and gives you the options of ten real colleges to play at as you advance throughout the story. It would be fun, but the story makes little sense at times and is otherwise predictable. Towards the end of the story, some interactions in post-game interviews have no dialogue and are poorly rendered, adding salt to the wound.

Changes to the “Franchise” mode in ‘Madden 21’ are non-existent. The interface and features are almost identical to games in the past years. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the game and downright disrespectful to the fans who have asked EA to fix the game mode for years.

Madden’s “Ultimate Team” mode is almost identical from previous years, too. It adds plenty of new challenges and events, but nothing is innovative about the same game mode that has been around for a decade. The monotony of collecting virtual cards and grinding to improve your team is more hassle than entertainment.

The most advertised feature of this game is the new, comical game mode “The Yard”. It is a 6v6 mode where you play backyard football on various maps with your created player and some of the league’s biggest stars. It is reminiscent of the old and beloved ‘NFL Street’ series. 

However, the mode falls short of expectations. There are only four different locations to play in, and the gameplay itself is still mundane. You can make crazy plays with the backyard rules, but play calling is overall limited. The flashy customization is fun, but it does nothing to improve the game mode and just introduces another medium for microtransactions. Hopefully, EA will build from this year and improve “The Yard” to make it a recurring game mode for the future.EA advertises the game as a full product, but it lacks any real improvements or changes to justify its AAA price of 60 dollars. The main takeaway from this game should instead be a reality check. Currently, the game has the lowest rated user score in Metacritic history and is, similarly, critically panned.

‘Madden 21’ is equivalent to the essay you scramble to write one hour before the deadline. It is a rushed and unfinished product that should have never been released in its current state. At this point, it seems like EA has just gotten into a habit of releasing unfinished and underwhelming games. However, ‘Madden 21’ might just be the tipping point for the gaming community’s frustration with the franchise, meaning a better product could come soon.

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