Madden NFL 24 Review
Don’t write-off Madden NFL 24 as just another yearly roster update - after playing Madden NFL 24, it’s obvious that a lot of work has been down on the gameplay, graphics, and animations. However, other aspects of the game are still in need of an update, if not a complete overhaul.
Let’s start with the gameplay. Last year’s ridiculous interception rate has been corrected, so you don’t have to worry about DBs stopping on a dime, leaping three feet straight up, and snagging your passes out of the air. There are three styles of passing controls available, and when you start the game you’ll have the chance to try them all out before committing to one (but you can always change your mind later and visit the options menu). The classic mode is also the simplest – select the button corresponding to the receiver you want to hit, tapping it quickly for a lob pass and holding the button for a bullet pass, and then let the player ratings determine the odds that the catch is made. The next two passing styles, Placement & Accuracy and Placement & Power, both give you the ability to control the pass placement. The left stick can be used to select where in the target area around the receiver you want to throw the ball. This gives you the ability to lead a receiver and let him use his speed to get under the ball while keeping it out of reach of the defender, or placing the ball so that the receiver’s body blocks the DB from having any chance of getting to the ball. Both modes will also display a meter above the receiver’s head which will fill as you hold down the pass button and stop when you release it. In Placement & Accuracy, the meter will be used to determine the arc of a touch pass or the accuracy of a bullet pass. In Placement & Power, the meter is just used to determine how much power you put into your throw. Personally, I really liked Placement & Accuracy. It takes a little more work, but it gives you a lot more control over your passes than the other two.
The increased number of player animations makes the gameplay look more realistic than ever, and the number of awkward moments has been greatly reduced. The number of times that I was impressed by the action on the field far exceed the number of cringe-inducing moments. The additional reception and tackle animations add a lot of variety to the action – the slams in which a larger defender can literally pick up a smaller offensive player and slam him into the turf is particularly impressive. The AI, at least on the higher difficulty levels, does a good job of reacting to your play-calling. I didn’t find any plays that I could simply run time and again for guaranteed positive results. I really like that your playbook tracks the number of times you’ve called each play in a game and the average results – it’s like having coaches in a sky box feeding you real-time scouting information.
Unfortunately, the game’s overall presentation remains bland and does a poor job of getting you pumped up to play some NFL football. Rather than looking at the game’s cover athlete, Josh Allen, standing around, I’d rather see more action and hype. And why can’t the game create an overlay for me based on my favorite team? And unless you’re a fan of a very narrow subgenre of hip-hop, you’ll probably have to spend some time turning off each track in the game one-by-one. A game this big should have a more varied soundtrack at the very least, but why we can’t have GTA-style radio stations playing different genres is a mystery to me. You should at least have the option to access and play some of the martially inspired tracks in the NFL Films library. The menu system is also terrible and terribly slow. At the very least they should let the Madden NFL Mobile team overhaul the menus – they are far more intuitive and easier to navigate than those in the console game. Why are the menus … so … so … very slow? Waiting for the next screen to appear – particularly in the Ultimate Team mode – is an exercise in patience, and one made even harder when the screen you’ve waited several seconds to appear only has a line or two of text on it.
Once again this year, the game’s feature mode is Ultimate Team, and by “feature mode” I mean the mode that the game really pushes you towards playing, primarily because it’s the game’s monetized mode. Ultimate Team is the collectible card game of NFL football, in which you assemble a team by earning or buying packs of player cards. The strength of your team is dependent on the strength of its players, and that strength comes from the ratings on the cards of the players in your lineup. The rating of a player in the game’s other modes doesn’t come into play in Ultimate Team, though. You can have Josh Allen on your team, but if you have the Josh Allen card with a rating in the 70s instead of over 100, you may find yourself starting Baker Mayfield because the card you have for him has a higher rating.
There are several ways to take your team to the field in Ultimate Team. Throughout the season new series of challenges will be released. They are all based on a game scenario and you’ll need to complete the scenario’s objective to earn its rewards and unlock the next in the sequence. There are also optional goals that will yield greater bonuses if competed. You can replay failed challenges or those that you missed some of the optional objectives on, but the reward for each objective cleared is only given once. The objectives can force you to make some gameplay calls that you normally wouldn’t under the same circumstances or even lead to outright failure – you need to play towards the objectives instead of playing to win. For example, I once failed a defensive challenge because I made a pick-6 on the first play, which prevented me from completing the objective of two user tackles. Some of the other modes include tiered game matches against CPU opponents and online matches against other gamers. With cross-play support added this year, getting matched to an opponent was usually pretty quick.
In spite of the grind inherent in collecting coins for new packs and boosters, you can have some fun with this mode. The interface needs an overhaul, though. This mode is the most egregious when it comes to an excessive number of screens to make your way through, many of which convey almost no useful information and all of which take a surprisingly long time to load. The organization is terrible and the presentation is bland. I play a lot of Madden NFL Mobile and its presentation is far more intuitive, faster, and easier to navigate. They really need to bring the mobile team on board to help redesign Ultimate Team’s interface for Madden 25, and to overhaul the console version’s confusing array of currencies.
Superstar mode allows you to create your own player, enter the draft, and try to play your way to superstar status. The number of silly conversational cutscenes and dialog options has been significantly, and thankfully, pared down, and mostly take place during the initial NFL Combine and NFL Draft phases at the beginning of your career. I could have done without the Combine, a series of mini games with difficult to figure out and use controls to make your player sprint, jump, lift weights, etc., in an effort to secure a higher selection in the draft.
Once you begin the season things move more smoothly and become more enjoyable. Between games you have the choice of a number of activities to select that will boost various aspects of your game heading into the next week, and can get through these relatively quickly and get to the next game. The mini-games are another matter, though. You can choose to automate them, but in doing so you only get the baseline experience reward for them – if you want to level-up faster you’ll have to play through them and try to get a ‘Silver’ or ‘Gold’ rating. The mini games are all on-field drills of some kind – running around while avoiding tacklers and trying to hit moving bonus point zones, passing to receivers while making sure the ball passes through targets suspended over the field, … The first problem is that some are rather tedious, but the real problem is that you have to play them so many times over and again to keep earning the experience points. Each time one appeared it was greeted with a wince and feeling of dread, and a strong desire to just skip the bonuses so that I could move on to the next game.
You can play as a quarterback, running back, or receiver on offense, or a linebacker or cornerback on defense. During a game, you’ll only play the offensive or defensive plays in which you’re involved, and you’ll only control your player. You’re still in charge of play-calling, though, so feel free to call your own number a lot. When you’re not on the field, the game will simulate each play until you return.
Each drive will present you with one or more goals, which will vary depending on your position. Reaching these goals, as well as executing on the field – completing a pass, making a block, swatting down a pass, etc. – will earn you experience points. These can then be used after the game to improve your rating in various aspects of the game, a nice RPG twist that allows you to customize your player a bit to your preferred playstyle. I enjoyed this mode – the games play out quickly and it’s fun to build your skills and put them to the test on the field. You can also take your player online to face teams featuring other gamers’ superstars in Superstar Showdown, although these matches are more like the schoolyard games that were a part of the game’s now dropped The Yard mode.
The game’s franchise mode puts you in charge of a team and its roster. Here you can control everything on the field, simulate the games (not sure why you’d want to do that), or just take control one the game decides a key play is occurring. This last option certainly speeds play – playing through an entire game can take the better part of an hour – but the key play selection seems rather arbitrary and weighted towards defensive stands. You may save some time, but it you’re certainly left feeling that the game results would be better if you took full control.
Player development can get a bit wearisome in franchise. You’ll face far more of the tedious practice mini games in this mode, and each week you’ll need to work through the point upgrades for a number of players. These upgrades can get a little time-consuming, and you’ll be left wondering why you’re taking the time to upgrade a third-stringer that really has no hope of ever playing.
Madden NFL 24 does provide a pretty good simulation of NFL football when you’re on the field. The animations and AI are improved over last year, and the games are fun and challenging at the higher difficulty levels. I just wish that everything around the on-field action was overhauled. Ultimate Team needs to be revamped, and should look to Madden NFL Mobile for inspiration. The mini-games need to be reworked, if not totally removed. And, please build an interface that’s fast, easy to navigate, and gets you pumped to play some football.
Final Rating: 76% - The on-field gameplay is better than ever, but everything surrounding it is in need of an overhaul.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.