It's that time of the year again; the release of this season's American Football title: Madden NFL 22. Putting next-gen hardware to good use, Madden NFL 22, as part of EA's wider ambitions, looks to create the generate the most true-to-life rendition of the sport to date.
If you are walking through a gaming store and you come across a cover with Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady on the front, you know the disc inside has some gnarly content just waiting to be played. Arriving on the 30th of August is Madden NFL 2022, EA’s latest iteration of the official American Football game, following in similar (but not identical) footsteps to its modern FIFA, UFC and Formula One counterparts in its variety of gaming modes. Many of the games’ best aspects remain, Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis being two examples, yet there are many features arriving afresh in Madden NFL 22.
What is 'The Yard'?
'The Yard’ is but one of these sizeable evolutions of the Madden series; a four-chapter gaming mode that allows gamers to travel to a myriad of fields in beautiful locations, like Hawaii and Berlin, to play mini-games and fulfil objectives so as to earn abilities for their Avatar. The Yard is a mostly solo campaign, although it can be played in Co-op modes, that is endemic to the Madden NFL franchise. Go head-to-head with boss players whom, if defeated, can be drafted into your roster; earn various pieces of Gear, as well as Rep and Cred, through victory in six vs six matches. The Yard is not too dissimilar to the prestigious FIFA Street gaming modes, developing smaller teams and absurdly skilful players that are ostentatious and bold (if not brash) in their playing styles; daring routes to be experimented with, perilous yard-dashes to be undertaken. Why not? We are only out on the Yard!
What can I do on Face of the Franchise?
A career-like mode returns to Madden NFL 22 in the form of the Face of the Franchise: United We Rise game mode. As a collegiate hot shot, we enter the NFL as a Rookie via an opportunistic draft pick. Customise your player, sign with a College Team and eventually, if all goes to plan, you will find yourself drafted into a team like the Oakland Raiders as either a Quarterback, a Wide Receiver, a Running Back or, now for the first time in Madden history, a defensive Linebacker. Whether you rise to the top of the game during your Rookie Season or simply fall by the wayside is mostly up to you and the decisions you make throughout, an approach to narrative widely incorporated by EA today. We can opt for various skills, attributes and abilities to elevate the ranking and performance of your player, striving for MVP status, boy do I love a zero-to-hero progression story – never gets old! I remember back to Madden titles in the late 2000’s wherein you would have to do an IQ Test to enter Draft Day, something as an 8-year-old I would have to repeat time and time again until I passed it through sheer luck. I would have loved to have grown up playing games like NFL Madden 2022, titles capable of up to 120FPS on the Xbox Series X, blasting through Face of the Franchise and losing myself in the mode’s interviews, workouts, press conferences and fresh scenarios, of which there are thirty. Here is me pretending like I won’t secretly love these things now as I would when I was a kid!
Are all the gaming modes independent from each other?
It is important to note that the Face of the Franchise: United We Rise and The Yard gaming modes aren’t two completely separate entities; the classes progression from The Yard trickles straight into the Face of the Franchise career mode, which I am a huge fan of. I just love games that reward playtime by allowing effort, time, blood, sweat and tears to converge into one another in multiple gaming modes, so I have no reservations at all in giving hours of my time to Madden NFL 2022. By turning on Full Team Control, gamers can take command of the entire squad rather than just their individual avatar, making the most of EA’s efforts into improving Gameplay strategies. Otherwise, if an emphasis on coaching, ownership, hiring of staff teams and player scouting sounds more up your street, the regular Franchise mode may be a better mode to delve into. Essentially, we are able to choose between a dedicated focus to player or head coach careers through the two Franchise modes, an inclusive move from EA.
What is Dynamic Gameday?
The greatest changes to the Madden series are borne from a nod in a different direction that EA have employed across the board; an effort to create a match experience that is as tangible, as immersive as possible. In a similar vein as FIFA 22, Madden 22 looks to be the outlier, the first edition of a new lineage of sport gaming titles. The approach in question goes by the name of Dynamic Gameday, the co-operative product of three principal nuclei of developer activity: Momentum Factors, Gameday Atmosphere and Star-Driven AI. The bad news here is that only next-gen hardware, the PS5 and the Xbox Series X|S, can facilitate each portion of Dynamic Gameday, so if it is the enhanced gameplay you are after it is best to ensure you play on a next-gen console if possible.
Let’s talk about Momentum, a factor that plays a good part in the sway of influence a team has over a game. A roster of players can either be a cohesive unit moving with impetus or they can be a selection of individuals all performing with their own agenda in mind, what team will be more likely to achieve victory? The cohesive unit, of course. Madden 22 introduces the Home Field Advantage modifier, a feature that bestows a select ability on teams playing on familiar turf once enough Momentum credit has been obtained by creative attacking plays. A home turf ability can either be profitable for the home team or detrimental to the away team, but realistically reflects the effect of a stadium’s milieu can have on team performance. Outside of stadiums, a group of other additional, randomised momentum factors lie in waiting until we hit an accidental Hail Mary for a Touchdown, or on the other hand we might try a cheeky QB run only to be sacked and fumble the ball, resulting in our Tight End and Wide Receiver runs being nebulous on our next attack, or perhaps the buttons that represent these players are replaced by question marks. Momentum factors are minute details that disturb the ease of play enough to be irksome; gamers have requested realism for years, decades even, so although this authenticity is not always on our side, it should be welcomed by all.
It’s fair to say that I think the Momentum Factors will, if they haven’t done so already, grow on all of us…but it feels incomplete, EA have accounted for the mindset and momentum of the team, but what about the stadium as a whole? We have seen the effect the absence of fans has had on sport around the globe, so it’s about time video games acknowledge the crowd’s influence. The buzz of the Heinz Field stadium, as it turns out, has not been neglected in Madden NFL 22, which brings us onto our second pillar: Gameday Atmosphere. Ranging from the autonomous reactions of both off and on-field players to an atmosphere fed by the electric feel of the stands, EA’s focus on representing the stadium environment adds that finishing touch to gameplay, convincing us that we are watching an interactive live game on CBS. It seems that EA have even covered the elements, allowing for poor weather to disrupt gameplay, certain player attributes, like agility traits, will be dampened by a day of heavy downpour – talk about dynamic! The aspect of Dynamic Gameday I look most forward to is the crowd celebrations which, although it sounds silly, can be incredibly rewarding. If I have had to fight for every yard, rigidly plan screen passes just to try and make First and Down, at the end of all that we want an uproar – and that is exactly what EA have aimed to give us.
Madden NFL 2022, as we have alluded to before, is part of EA’s wider effort to improve the game engine’s physics, a project known to Madden as Star-Driven AI. Based off real-world data sets, Madden NFL 2022 looks to pay homage to the playing styles of the sport’s heroes by converting their real-life movement onto the screen. As great as that is, where the Star-Driven AI really shines is in players you aren’t controlling, with off-the-ball player performances accurately reflecting their stats. The game, therefore, as it would in reality, has its stand-out players and its crash-out players. Also employed in the greater picture, Star-Driven AI will encompass the playing styles of entire teams too; if a particular team has a predilection for running-back play, Madden NFL 22 will endorse that style of play when the team is controlled entirely by the GPU, which was the case in 4/5 games in Madden NFL 21. In longer-form campaigns, like Franchise Mode, the 32 playable NFL teams will adapt their tendencies on seasonal developments both inside the game and in the NFL season itself.
What elements of Gameplay have EA changed?
In gameplay across gaming modes, Madden NFL 22 introduces smoother Quarterback actions, a maximum output feature wherein players will signify when they are working to the ceiling of their capacity, as well as a lengthened defensive radius to improve the several upgrades made to offensive play. A number totalling near 300 new plays, both offensive and defensive, supplement the classics all Madden players know and love. A few more minor changes are coming to Madden NFL 22, too; the way in which we auction and sell players on Ultimate Team veers further towards a system based on averages, and users can now scope out the probability of a pack before purchasing it. The chance to play around in different gaming modes with authentic NFL teams in Superstar KO also returns to Madden NFL 22, of which we can play either in either 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 forms.
It has been a good while since I have got stuck into a Madden NFL title, at least since Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu where on the Steelers’ roster, yet being a regular user of gaming series like FIFA and UFC it is great to see the vast improvements given to those titles arrive at the door of Madden NFL. Many of EA’s titles have been criticised for seeming merely like copy-and-paste renditions, but Madden NFL 22 seems to, like FIFA 22, kickstart a new, albeit nuanced, approach to sports games. If you, like me, haven’t jumped into a Madden title in a few years, now seems like the time to try, particularly so if you have managed to get your hands on a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X|S, as it is these consoles able to support features like Star-Driven AI. With Madden NFL 22 being such an expansive game in the playing modes it offers, I cannot wait to delve into it and throw some bullet-fast Shotgun plays on August 20th. If you want to join me in doing so, you can pre-order or buy the Madden NFL 22 game here.
Images sourced from EA.