This year, the team at Madden NFL 22 have remembered to put the “fun” back in their football. So that would be, erm, “funootball”.
Anyway, it’s a neon green-trimmed energy drink style of fun, in your face and brash. Supported by pumping tracks to get you jazzed up while wasting time in the menus and the oddly numerous long loading screens. You won’t be left wanting for entertainment while you’re waiting to hit the track for big plays, monster tackles and more showboating than Hulk Hogan at Friday Night Smackdown.
If you’ve played a Madden game in the last few years, you’ll know what to expect here. Madden NFL 22 is a detailed NFL simulation experience, with fast action and precision playmaking. There’s a wide variety of game modes to choose from, which lets you tailor the experience everywhere from easing in those with shortened attention spans to requiring a maximum level of effort.
The pounding pace of the live games is still fun. Laying down big hits on the wide receivers, pulling off a rush on the quarterback, or nailing a perfect hail Mary pass on fourth down, are all satisfyingly played out here. Madden NFL 22 has made some good changes to the balance, too, which negate some of the godlike abilities of the superstars from seasons past. No longer will a high ranking automatically turn your star players into raging bulls. There’s a touch of subtle skill required to really bring out their true menacing potential.
“You won’t be left wanting for entertainment while you’re waiting to hit the track for big plays, monster tackles and more showboating than Hulk Hogan at Friday Night Smackdown.”
The best possible news for Madden NFL 22 is that franchise mode is back. To be fair, it never went away, but it definitely hasn’t been the focus for a while now. On the back of overwhelming public opinion, the mode has been given a fresh coat of paint and some added functionality to make it an enjoyable world once again. However, be careful what you wish for, because franchise mode comes with more instructions than an Ikea lounge suite.
You’ll be managing individual player stat upgrades, weekly training focuses, coaching team upgrades, player contract offers, team salaries, scouting youth players for future drafts, and almost any other detail that a major league coach would be messing with. We’re surprised that they didn’t ask us to check which colour of bolts we’d like on the stadium seating.
You’ll also need an advanced degree in economics, minoring in Fantasy Football, to come to terms with the contract management options. For your average gamer with no knowledge of complex multi-year contract negotiations, it might be a little too involved. Madden NFL 22 could take some tips from the contract management options in the FIFA franchise, which bring in performance targets to sweeten negotiations.
‘The Yard’ is here again, for your quick competitive fix. It’s a fast and furious six-vs-six game where you each get three drives to chalk up as many points as possible. There’s no commentary, constant beats from the rather tidy playlist, and simplified play sets fit this game mode perfectly. Limiting the play options to 20-30 feels more than enough.
‘The Yard’ treats American football the same way that the Rocky movies treat boxing. All attack, no defence. There are no flags on the play, no two-minute warnings, and no blockers for your QB. You either score fast or concede 20 yards on the play. If that’s your sort of thing, you’ll be happy here. And while it moves slightly better than it did in Madden NFL 21, there may still be a little way to go before ‘The Yard’ comes into its own.
‘Face of the Franchise’ shows up at the opposite end of the excitement scale. The campaign is thankfully short, but it also doesn’t add much to the personality of the game. Unlike campaigns in other sporting franchises such as NBA 2K, Madden NFL 22 misses the mark with a fairly tepid story. It’s… OK, but there’s nothing to really draw you away from the other game modes.
Other downsides include a few fidgeting movement issues, there are noticeable loading times on both current and next-gen platforms, and some of the same glitchy nonsense from previous years pops its ugly head up once again.
While a year of development hasn’t made as much difference as Tom Brady did when he arrived at Tampa Bay, Madden NFL 22 has realigned itself in preparation for future title contention. The star here is the return to form of the franchise mode, all but forgotten in Madden NFL 21 with the relentless pursuit of all things ‘Ultimate Teams’. With this tactical repositioning and some careful balancing changes, Madden NFL 22 is a sneaky juke towards a more solid performance, although perhaps not the progressive step forward we were hoping for.
Madden NFL 22 is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 and Xbox One.