I really wish Madden NFL 22 was a better game

The Madden NFL 22 splash screen featuring Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady

I can’t think of another game/franchise that doesn’t have to prove itself more than Madden. Because I love sports games, I honestly feel that it is the most scrutinized video game franchise in the world. When it releases, it needs to prove its worth because its community’s expectations are just so high. Because of that, if it doesn’t start strong, then it loses all credibility. While I am not as dedicated or as hardcore as others who play the game, I go into it every year hoping it will surprise me. And unfortunately, Madden NFL 22 is yet another disappointment.

Momentum shifts are sometimes fun

An example of the Momentum Factors for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they play the San Francisco 49ers at home.

There are two key features for Madden 22 and they aren’t exactly mind-blowing. The first is Momentum/Home-field advantage. Obviously, the home team should have some advantages playing on their own field. So, when the home team is leading or making good progress on a drive, they get added perks to help them out. 

These vary depending on the team, so it’s not all the same thing for everyone. In some situations, the crowd’s intensity might make it hard for the visiting team to read plays, or maybe they are more likely to fumble the ball. The more dominating one team is, the better advantages they have.

However, there isn’t really any indication or way to see just how much momentum actually shifts. The away team shouldn’t be able to easily sway momentum in their favor, but you’d think that when the home team is down two or more scores, the crowd would be out of it. But alas, a reasonable drive can prevent the away team from completely controlling the momentum and shutting up the crowd.

This feature also doesn’t really consider neutral venues. If you’re the home team, you still get the better momentum perks. I’m hopeful this is something they fix since playing in the Super Bowl shouldn’t give one team a significant advantage over the other based on their fans.

Gameplan Decisions

An example of the Offensive Focus, highlighting "Throw it Deep"

The other key feature is getting to decide your game plan before the second half. Every team has a strategy that they go into the game but at halftime, you can make changes on both sides of the field.

Want to focus on running the ball in the middle? Sure, but then your outside running is going to suffer. Feel like you need to stop your opponent from throwing deep passes? If they throw it short, expect them to get some easy yards.

It’s a nice risk v reward system but in the games against the AI, I didn’t really notice much of a difference. I would certainly call those plays more but I could never see myself truly benefiting from that decision. However, I suspect in the more competitive modes, this plays a more important role.

The face of the Franchise is slow and boring

The Jaguars quarterback talking to media with the Washington background (he is not playing against Washington)

With regards to game modes, during my EA Play Trial I try to play a few different modes, but clearly spending more time with some over others. I don’t really like The Yard and Superstar KO doesn’t appeal to me. Madden Ultimate Team is fine but you really need to invest the time to get anywhere, which I just don’t have.

So that pretty much has me spending a good chunk of my time with the franchise modes. Here, I specifically spent it playing Face of the Franchise. Last year’s version was boring, this is no better.

For starters, the pacing is really bad early on. You spend the first few sections not really doing a lot. You’ll do a few drills, and play a couple of college games (well, I played two). After that, you’ll answer some questions, take part in a game in The Yard, then get drafted.

As a Quarterback, my performances were fine but nothing revolutionary. The game still defaults to the easiest difficulty for the college games, so it’s hard to mess it up and not get drafted high. The interviewing process made it seem like the Jets would draft me but instead, I went first to Jacksonville. I didn’t hate being drafted by Jacksonville, but it seemed off.

“Moments” help FOTF

The first play during a snow game from Face of the Franchise.

Madden has allowed you to “Play the Moments” as a way to quickly go through a match. It definitely helps in speeding up Face of the Franchise but there are also a few scenarios that you have to play which are also well implemented.

Playing as the Jags, an early-season game incorporated poor weather because of a hurricane. The commentators mention a weather delay and my team has to come back to win. In another, I had to make a 17-point comeback win. A third one had me start the game in overtime and attempt to beat the Niners. Late in the season, I got a snow game against the Pats, where I needed to make another 3rd quarter comeback.

I don’t know how many of these scenarios are available and how many are team-specific. Obviously, the weather-specific ones will happen throughout the season but how many more variations are there? These don’t happen too often but hopefully, they don’t repeat themselves too much if you play multiple seasons.

Glitches are inexcusable

Gameplay between USC and Miami. There are two players with the #15 on Miami

The biggest problem with Face of the Franchise though is the glitches. Madden has regularly had glitches and clipping issues on the field, but FotF has so many more. 

Listing out every single glitch would take forever. You’ll have situations where your cell phone magically leaps out of your hand and out of the shot. Missing textures on your shirt, the wrong team banner during a press conference. The subtitles pass by too fast so it doesn’t match the dialog being spoken. People are regularly posting these oddities on YouTube, so it’s easy to see them in action.

A really odd one was something completely out of my control. When you create your player, they ask you to give your player a number. I chose #18 but then it defaulted me to #15. I suspected another player had that number, so I was fine with the change. However, when I started playing a game as a Miami Hurricane, I couldn’t stop but laugh at the fact that my halfback was also wearing #15 on the field. It’s a mistake, which  I don’t quite understand how it happened.

EA was boasting about improved graphics on Series X|S and PlayStation 5 but the crowds look worse than they did on last-gen. The pre and post-game interactions are fine but the dead-looking characters in Face of the Franchise are unsettling. I can’t believe how many problems the game launched with. Yes, the EA Play launch is Day 0 but you can’t use that excuse when they are boasting and encouraging people to play the game early. 

Madden needs HyperMotion Tech among other things

Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running with the ball with Kansas City Chiefs players around him, including one on the floor

One of the big selling points for FIFA 22 this year is HyperMotion Technology. It’s essentially a new way for EA to motion capture. Rather than needing to record smaller groups, they can now get data from a full field of players. This is something Madden would greatly benefit from.

Even if you’re not a hardcore Madden player, you can see that the game is built around set pieces that have to play out a certain way. Players on the field will rarely deviate from their assignments. If Player X must run this crossing route, they will. If Player B is blocking that route, well, X will still try to continue any way they can.

Because of that, you get complaints from the Madden Community upset when stupid things happen. Because Madden gives you the impression that it’s just a series of separate pieces poorly joined together, it looks and feels awful.

While HyperMotion Technology is still very much in its hype phase, it’s clear that Madden needs to better capture its animations. If they can actually record a proper 11 v 11 game, it might go a long way into fixing the gameplay problems that have hampered the series for years. They don’t necessarily have to start from scratch and rebuild everything, but they need this start.

When will this madness end?

Kansas City Chiefs players reacting on the sideline during an offensive play

Madden NFL 22 is still more of the same. The problems are hard to ignore and there are no signs of meaningful improvements. Last Year’s game was bad and I honestly don’t consider this too much better. For the small improvements that you notice, others make you scratch your head. I miss the old Madden, and it’s clear that the development team needs a drastic overhaul. Hopefully, this is the year they come to their senses and start really addressing the concerns from the community.