Madden NFL 22 PS4 Review – If you’re like me, you’ve known for quite some time to keep your expectations low with every new Madden game. Every year, it’s a rehash of the previous entry with updated rosters and minimal improvements in an attempt to keep the community happy. Don’t expect anything to change in Madden 22.
While additions such as coordinators and promise of improved scouting are welcome, it’s outweighed by the lackluster presentation, broken gameplay, awful soundtrack and bugs.
Madden NFL 22 PS4 Review – The End Of A Generation, Far From GOAT Status
First Impressions – Bucs vs Chiefs
Upon installing the game, you are opted into playing last year’s Super Bowl. You play as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The quarters are set to 4 minutes and I had the difficulty set on All-Madden. I beat the Chiefs 21-0, holding them to -15 passing yards and -3 rushing yards the whole game.
How is this possible you might ask? Well, the same offensive and defensive play exploits that worked in Madden 21, still work in Madden 22. The AI seems incapable of covering most slant routes. Or if that isn’t an option, a streak with your TE works 75% of the time depending on where the safety is lined up.
On the defensive side, the same 3-4 Bear blitz plays work the majority of the time, forcing the QB to throw it quickly, throw an interception or take a sack. The CPU running the ball against these blitz plays usually results in a loss of yards as well. For pass coverage, you pretty much have to stay in zone coverage plays, as man coverage is still broken.
Broken AI & Gameplay
The fact the AI hasn’t seen any improvement over last year’s edition is a big letdown. Not sure how big of a difference the Next Gen Stats Star-Driven AI in the PS5 version changes things, but as far as the PS4 version goes, it’s the same as Madden 21. The current state of the AI heavily favors offense.
Instead of focusing on polishing the core mechanics, EA puts focus on introducing new Superstar X abilities which deter from actual simulation gameplay, a tell-tale sign of the pattern EA has established not focusing on the right things to fix. Sure, you can turn off Superstar abilities, but I just don’t think they have a place in a game marketed as simulation football. Reserve Superstar abilities for something like The Yard, since that is geared towards more of an arcade style of play.
Madden 22 still uses canned animations, versus a physics based system, which is the origin to many of Madden’s gameplay problems. Ever since the conversion to the Frostbite engine, Madden’s gameplay has suffered in this department. Height, weight and momentum of characters and even most skill stats seem to have zero effect in most plays as they are confined to predetermined canned animations.
In addition, many of the touchdown and sideline celebrations are glitchy. One particular celebration that stands out is of the QB trying to high five his team mates and everyone ignores him. This celebration animation was in Madden 21, and is still broken in Madden 22.
Lackluster Visuals, Presentation & Music
When it comes to the game’s visuals, not much has changed from the previous year. No work seems to have gone into improving the weather dynamics during rainfall or snow. Character models are the same with a few new facial scans for certain athletes. There are a few new hairstyle options in the Create-A-Player toolset, but still unimpressive when compared to any Create-A-Character builder.
One area of Madden 22 that shows minor improvement is in the game’s presentation. Pre-game, half-time, and post-game presentation is slightly better over Madden 21. Also, EA finally updated the Super Bowl presentation, which was sorely needed. The commentary from Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis has some fresh lines, but will most likely get old and redundant after a single season.
Overall, I feel like the bar is always set low when it comes to improving the presentation in Madden. Not only does EA have the official NFL license, but the license to ESPN. This includes officially licensed ESPN music too. It would be nice to see some of that incorporated into the Madden series. Just look at ESPN NFL2k5’s halftime show with Chris Berman, a game that came out in 2004, and you’ll realize that EA puts almost zero effort into its game when it comes to presentation.
Speaking of music, expect to mute all the songs again in this year’s Madden soundtrack. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed the music in a Madden game. This year is no different, and the root of the cause falls on a severe lack of diversity in the soundtrack.
Madden is a billion dollar franchise, EA surely can afford to license a variety of songs from different genres of music. Bring back some classics like AC/DC or even dive into the manifold of EDM. Or just give us officially licensed NFL/ESPN instrumentals. Anything is better than the current offerings.
Franchise Mode – Still Missing Depth & Basic Features
Aside from the addition of coordinators and player personnel, there isn’t much that is new in Madden 22. There is the promise of a Scouting overhaul coming in September, but that’s about it. Despite a fresh coat of paint in the UI department — contract negotiations, player trading, drafting, and upgrading players remain the same.
When choosing a custom coach, there is one less option this year. Instead, you are presented with Staff Builder, which has an eye for talent, or Team Builder, which has a secret remedy. Not really sure what either of those perks are as no other additional information is given.
A quick rundown of how the new staff management works. You have your head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and player personnel. Each staff member has its own talent tree in which you can spend staff points to unlock perks. The talent tree is often split in certain areas, making you choose a specific path of perks for your particular coach or coordinator. You can’t unlock every perk, so choose wisely.
The other new addition to Franchise Mode is Weekly Strategies. Here you will select what you want your team to work on, whether it’s playing against the mid-field pass or stopping the run, and you can select from a variety of offensive and defensive tactics for your team to pursue. In addition, you can monitor your players’ health and fatigue. Depending on how a player is performing, you may choose to have them play less reps in practice to avoid injury.
Press talks are back, and this time presented with a bland cinematic background. There is no audio and just text boxes, while you make pointless choices on how your team is preparing for an upcoming game. You are then presented with goals for the upcoming game, like beat the team and throw 350+ yards. Why EA couldn’t have just incorporated The Rich Eisen Show from Face of the Franchise into Franchise Mode is beyond me.
Hopefully fixing contract negotiations and player trades are on EA’s roadmap for updates after the scouting patch hits next month. Right now, you can only offer players up to seven years, and only when they are in contract years. As for player trades, there are quite a few issues. The most glaring issue being that you are unable to trade Right Tackles, as the Left Tackle position is listed twice when sorting through the trade roster menu.
Another odd thing I noticed is Colin Kaepernick is still in the game as a free agent. He’s an 81 overall QB, which is better than many starting QBs in the league. This seems unrealistic. Especially accounting for the fact that he seems to carry a lot of trade value if picked up and offered to other teams. You can often get three 80+ overall players in a trade just for Kaepernick.
Lastly, I would like to see an improvement to NFL records and stat tracking. There should be more than 15 players listed in NFL records for career, season, and game. Also, I’d like to see stat tracking for post-season games.
Face Of The Franchise – A Waste Of Time
Face of the Franchise is EA’s attempt at creating an engaging story following an individual player from college to the NFL. The positions available to select from include quarterback, running back, wide receiver and linebacker. Once you select your position and class, you will select from a limited handful of colleges as your origin. I selected the QB position, The Magician (balanced) QB class and University of Oregon as my college.
Once the story arch kicks off you’re introduced to a few annoying characters who will be your hype team and trainer in the lead up to the NFL Draft. You’ll start things off with training camp which will determine a few starting skill points. After that, you’ll play through a couple flashback games during your college years to build the potential hype behind your player.
There will be a few side objectives like interviewing with press or selecting to go to Hawaii to play in a Russel Wilson charity event, which borrows gameplay from The Yard. Then, you’re off to the NFL combine to determine your final position in the NFL Draft.
My QB was drafted by the New York Jets, which seems odd, as in real life, the Jets just used their Round 1 Pick 2 to select Zach Wilson. After the draft, you basically enter a limited version of Franchise Mode, where options and side objectives become less frequent. Really, after the first year in the NFL, there isn’t much to maintain interest in playing further on.
In Face of the Franchise mode is where you’ll find some of the worst graphics in the game. Character models and textures on objects look like they’re from the PS3 era. Animations are clunky, especially when it comes to lip syncing. There are also entire sections where there is no dialogue audio, despite characters moving their mouths and you just are given text dialogue screens. This was in Madden 21 too, and it just makes the game look rushed or incomplete.
Ever since the introduction of Longshot, this entire mode has felt unpolished and a waste of time. I’m more inclined to play a Career Mode in Madden if it was good. It’s better than other modes like Madden Ultimate Team or The Yard, but not by much. If EA wants replayability, there needs to be depth.
The Yard – Half Baked NFL Street
The backyard style football mode The Yard makes a return in Madden 22. There are a total of eight venues to visit including; Hawaii, Italy, Berlin, and the latest addition, London. Each team is given three drives to score as many points as possible. You get six points for every touchdown, with additional points earned by performing trick multi-passes, interceptions, and attempting extended extra point plays after touchdowns.
The campaign is simplistic, giving you goals to complete in each match, and some matches will come with preset modifiers such as higher team fatigue.
As you complete challenges, you’ll earn CRED and REP, which you can use to unlock gear in the store. You can also recruit a team by drafting high-profile superstar bosses you unlock during the campaign or selecting auto-draft. If you have friends online, you can join two other players to form a team. EA promises live events in the future. The first one being Superstar Clash, which is a five-game gauntlet against Pro Bowlers.
For those of you who play both The Yard and Face of the Franchise, there will be unified progression across the board for player classes. So leveling up and unlocking certain abilities will carry over across both modes.
As mentioned previously, I think Superstar abilities should be limited to modes like The Yard and focus more on simulation style gameplay for the main game. Moreover, if EA is going to provide an arcade mode, like the Yard, they should just go full out and bring back flashy moves and power-ups similar to what we’ve seen in games like NFL Street or NFL Tour. Or, you know, just make The Yard a separate game with a separate development team.
Just imagine what could be accomplished if Madden developers didn’t have to waste time on Face of the Franchise, Superstar KO and The Yard every year. Instead focus on tuning the core gameplay mechanics, AI, animation and bring back features to Franchise Mode that added more depth.
Madden Ultimate Team – EA’s Cash Cow
To be honest, I didn’t spend much time in Ultimate Team. I resent this mode. It’s EA’s pay to play feature in Madden, encouraging you to spend money to unlock better player cards for your team. Otherwise, you’re stuck grinding for hours on end.
Even if you spend hundreds of dollars or hundreds of hours, it’s only good for a year. Your master cards carry over as lower overall players, but your coins, points and other players don’t. If you don’t spend money, then there really isn’t much of a point. Your 75 overall team will be pitted against some 90 overall team in online and you’ll get destroyed. Simple as that.
Some people love Ultimate Team, but for me, it’s a pass.
Last Hail Mary
As a fan of NFL football, it’s discouraging to have to play the same game every year and pay full price for basically roster updates and new bugs. EA has shown no real indication of changing the formula. You might be better off just sticking with whatever Madden game you currently own and downloading custom rosters online.
Buying Madden every year only emboldens EA to continue down the same path. We know EA is fully capable of providing a premium NFL football experience. Just look at the 2000’s Madden games. It’s long past the point for EA to do better.
Madden 22 is currently available for PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.