Madden NFL 21 PS4 Review – Last year was the first year in almost a decade that I didn’t review Madden for PSU. In fact, last year was the first year in over a decade that I didn’t play Madden at all. Coming back to the franchise after a brief sabbatical gave me a refresher on what I like about Madden and what I dislike. Now more than ever, I appreciate this added perspective, even though that perspective really doesn’t change much.
Madden NFL 21 PS4 Review
Two Steps Forward…
I mentioned in my preview the shift away from animations in Madden, and the increased focus on simulated motion and interaction shows itself in the final product. Some of the coolest Madden movements occur in this year’s outing, Madden NFL 21, and it comes down to how players respond to the ball. For instance, instead of the cornerback basing his interactions on the wideout he’s covering, he will respond to the ball when he’s in position to do so. If he’s chasing the receiver, he’ll respond to the receiver, even before the ball is caught.
On the same note, some of the cooler responses to the ball come at the most random of times. My best animation came when my linebacker tipped a slant pass and my cornerback sprinting alongside a wideout came across the middle and snatched the ball just off the ground. This was the first time in Madden that I had seen anything even close to the Immaculate Reception. To put the icing on this cake the game also accommodated my movement after the immediate possession/camera change by giving me another half-second to adjust my joystick movement to mimic my player’s direction.
I wish to mention that I still greatly approve the level of risk-reward put into attempting to strip the ball. Before Madden NFL 21, a strip animation could be used to tackle with the added benefit of occasionally fumbling the ball. This can still be done, but if the tackler’s right-hand goes up and the runner runs to that side, good luck getting a successful tackle. That arm is almost debilitated if you lead with your arm up, requiring you to really care about when you use the strip button.
…One Step Back
Another thing I mentioned in my preview is how this franchise consistently takes one step back after every two steps forward, and Madden NFL 21 is no exception. The focus on simulation has its immediate downsides as well. The one snag I kept hitting came when I tried to manually take a defender out of its assigned play position on the field to pursue the quarterback or running back. It all comes down to the game not always allowing me to counteract the programmed actions.
For instance, if I control a linebacker assigned to a zone position, the game imposes that preset role the majority of the time. I pull R2 to sprint and push down on the joystick to pursue the ball, and my player even starts going in that direction. However, after a step, he stops and attempts to return to his assigned zone before giving me back control. The time wasted in this process keeps me from stopping a run or at least spooking the quarterback.
I still faced some of the many frustrating animations that stick with this franchise. Suck-in blocks still occur, though not as often, and the full-stop angled tackles show themselves more often than I care to remember. These animations have been around for a very long time, contributing to the step back of this year’s outing. The forward movement is good, but some of the issues with fundamentals remain.
Face of The Franchise benefits little from the high profile people featured in it. Cameos are neat flashes of intrigue, but the core narrative comes across as awkward rather than charming. The first Longshot was a flash in the pan that was struck by lightning in a bottle. Since then, the narrative in these games has focused on the flashes and cameos and neglects the rise to fame storyline that permeates the sport.
Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
I laugh a little every time I jump back into Madden Ultimate Team only because I can’t help but get sucked into its formula. Even if it’s only a couple weeks, building a team and collecting cards never gets old. As is standard, everything in Madden 21 provides some sort of benefit to Madden Ultimate Team. Even if MUT is a cash cow, the mode offers up a good time all its own.
Superstar KO is a neat new mode where you pick three people, either players or coaches, through roulettes. Then you take those three players onto the field with preset teams and play against other people. Superstar KO allows for quick flashes of gameplay, where the first person to stop the other from scoring wins. This rather simple mode allows for a quick romp on the field without all the presentation or filler.
The Yard is a mode I can appreciate in the same way I can appreciate why people like Fortnite: It’s not my thing, but there’s something there that people can enjoy. Unlike Fortnite, however, the gameplay mechanics do not mesh with what the game mode wants to do. Imagine playing a game of NFL Blitz from way back on PlayStation, complete with loose rules, arcade-like controls, and over-the-top presentation. Now, dial it back, stiffen the controls, and limit how long a play can go.
The Yard is far from a bad mode because some of the plays I saw make me look like a fool in a way that a football game has never done before. Couple that with playing with teams filled with other online players, and you have a recipe for a great time. The arcadey intentions of The Yard provide a fresh option to the formula, even if the standard Madden controls feel far too stiff for this environment. Combine this separation with a lack of MUT rewards or incentive for playing the mode, resulting in a further divide between the standard Madden formula and this ambitious, yet flawed new game mode.
Gameplay Overpowers Shortcomings
Thankfully, Madden NFL 21 begins to make the changes the game has needed for a long time. A few archaic animations linger, but the development of more and more stimulation strengthens the formula across the board. Face Of The Franchise lacks the heart that Longshot had, and the cameos don’t save it from its awkward style. All in all, Madden 21 is the game for those looking for heightened gameplay if they can ignore the odd filler modes.
Madden NFL 21 is available now for PS4.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.