Madden NFL 23 PS5 Review – Electronic Arts and EA Tiburon are hoping for a return to greatness with the latest entry in the Madden series. This year’s rendition builds upon major overhauls we saw in last year’s game. While it’s a noticeable improvement, it doesn’t quite achieve the legendary John Madden status that it symbolizes dawning the icon star on its cover.
Is this the best Madden game ever? No. However, with a few patches over the coming weeks or months, Tiburon can clean up some of the major glaring issues. I’ll mention quite a few bugs in my review and if these can get patched up, Madden NFL 23 can shine as one of the best entries in recent years.
Madden NFL 23 PS5 Review – Reaches For Greatness, But Fumbles Due To Numerous Issues
An Entertaining Introduction
Upon booting up the game for the first time, you are introduced to the new skill-based passing system. You can choose from two different skill-based passing styles or go with the traditional classic style. I found the Placement & Accuracy passing controls a bit confusing at first and will need to improve my skills with practice over-time.
There is a slow-down mechanic added to passing as well, but it’s only available in offline play against the CPU. The simpler Placement passing style is a bit easier to use as you are simply moving a reticle on field to help guide or lead your WR on passes.
This can help with post or fade routes a lot. By using the Placement & Accuracy passing style, it adds the ability to choose your power in your throw from bullet passes to more of a lob pass. Overall, I appreciate the effort the developers have put into improving the passing game.
The new passing controls freshen up the gameplay in an area that was becoming repetitive and dull; it just takes some time getting acquainted with the new mechanics.
After selecting your playstyle, you are thrown into a Pro-Bowl like Legacy game. You choose between playing as the NFC or the AFC. I found this to be an entertaining way to introduce players to the new Madden game, letting you try out all the new gameplay mechanics with Hall of Fame stars like Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders and more.
In addition, throughout the game you get to hear old John Madden commentary on key players, which adds to the experience.
Gameplay & AI
I should divulge that Madden 23 is the first Madden I’ve played on PS5. When I reviewed Madden 22 last year, it was on the PS4 Pro. So taking this into account, Madden 23 definitely feels like a major leap forward when it comes to graphical fidelity, Next-Gen Stats presentation and gameplay.
There are still a few issues that I’ve noticed throughout my playthrough, but generally I’m pretty happy with where they are going. Tiburon just needs to patch some stuff up.
The new FieldSENSE™ features add more depth and realism to everything. The defensive tackling feels more organic, allowing for physics-based gang tackles and WR versus DB battles. Running the ball feels tighter with the ability to plant your feet and make sharp cuts through holes. You can also fight for extra yards or even break through tackles using a familiar mechanic EA brought back.
Both the offensive and defensive line AI seems to have received an upgrade too. There are supposedly over 3,500 new animations that have been added to the branching animation technology, so gameplay feels more varied overall.
The one gripe I have with the gameplay is with the computer defensive interceptions. Despite turning CPU interceptions down to 0%, both my friend and I had games where the CPU would pick just about every throw they came near, resulting in anywhere between 5-9 interceptions per game. Yeah, we’re playing on All-Madden, but I didn’t see them really ever drop a pass or at least attempt to swat or deflect the ball.
It was just an automatic interception, regardless of my WR making attempts at the ball or the defender having to perform some crazy acrobatics to nab the ball. At this time, I don’t think the gameplay adjustment sliders even work, as even after adjustments I’m still seeing ridiculous numbers of interceptions per game.
I’m not sure if Tiburon turned them up to make online matches more exciting or competitive, but it just seemed unrealistic to me, especially when compared to previous Madden entries.
Visuals & Presentation
When it comes to Madden 23’s visuals and presentation, I saw a few notable upgrades but nothing mind-blowing. These upgrades include updated facial scans for popular players like Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp and rookies like Aidan Hutchinson. New body types for different players and positions like Agile and Bruiser builds, and jerseys can be wrinkled during games.
Although, outside of that, I didn’t notice any improvements to weather systems like snow or rain as it’s pretty much the same as previous entries. Furthermore, create-a-player, create-a-coach and newly drafted players all use the same face models that Madden has used since 2001.
Surely the developer can simply bring over the player face customization options from Face Of The Franchise? Skin tones, face structure, eye shape and color, hair styles and more are much more abundant in the side mode than what you get in Franchise Mode.
Pre-game introductions received a bit of an overhaul, with team captains and star players getting Primetime style cinematics. Next Gen Stats makes a return in Madden 23, which to me is one of the better presentation style upgrades we’ve seen in the Madden series in a while.
This feature enhances the play-by-play experience, whereby you can see stats in a follow-up replay that it took your OLB 3 seconds to sack the QB. It would’ve been nice to see a new Super-Bowl celebration cinematic though, as it’s just an iteration of last year’s game.
There are some additional issues I’d like to address. First off, the game boot up feels like I’m still stuck on last-gen consoles waiting for the game to load to the main menu. This shouldn’t be an issue in the age of SSD’s.
In addition, the menus in Franchise Mode for certain goals, like talking to the press or players in the locker room, can be a bit slow or glitchy. While I appreciate the developers taking the time to optimize the menu UI, the transitions between managing the team, staff and weekly events, could be a bit faster.
Secondly, presentations in game modes like The Yard are buggy as hell. To get into a match takes forever between various loading screens and I noticed a glaring visual bug where black players have white torsos if they are wearing revealing midsection gear (see the screenshot below as an example). Also, the game results and rewards screen is slow and buggy as well; sometimes getting stuck when leveling up or not showing anything at all.
Lastly, the graphical fidelity settings on PS5 are incomplete. You can choose between Performance Mode, which runs the game at 60 FPS @ 1140p, or Image Quality Mode which runs the game at 60 FPS @ 4K resolution. On Xbox Series X, the Performance Mode targets 120 FPS, so until EA Tiburon patches that, there is no point in using the Performance Mode in graphical settings on Sony’s console.
Franchise Mode: The Only Reason I Come Back Every Year
Franchise Mode in Madden 23 is close to providing one of the best entries in recent history, but a few game breaking bugs are holding it back. I won’t dive into features still missing from Franchise Mode that have appeared in previous Madden games, as you can read that list here. Instead, I’ll just focus on what is here and what improvements EA can make with the existing foundation.
To start, both the scouting and staff management systems return from Madden 22. You can hire tiered scouts based on positions you are looking for and send them to specific regions across the US to find star players. This adds a level of depth and strategy to scouting for the draft each year and even helps create stories around prospect players.
As for staff management, you hire offensive and defensive coordinators as well as manage your head coach and unlock various talents using skill points you acquire throughout the season. Each week you will choose strategies to focus on and even challenge or encourage players on your team to meet certain goals to unlock further progression. Meeting practice goals and season game goals will enhance your team’s XP and unlock additional skill points for your coaches.
The newest addition of player motivations really shakes things up. Depending on your team’s location, scheme fit, weather, win record and more will have an affect on whether or not players are interested in signing with you. If they have a high interest because your state has no income tax or is close to where they grew up, you may offer a better contract that benefits the team.
If their interest is low, then you may have to over-pay them with longer contract terms in order to sign them. I love this feature as it makes free agency signing and re-signing more realistic.
The short fall with this feature is that it’s currently broken. CPU controlled teams don’t re-sign many of their star players. If you simulate or play through the first two seasons, players like Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert end up in free agency. This is due to motivations, as some players are unhappy in their current position, so CPU teams won’t resign them.
This should be fixed to a degree, as it’s doubtful some players would be let go, simply because they are unhappy. Teams still have needs for star players, especially if they have room in the salary cap.
The other new feature to Franchise Mode are Player Tags. Tags like bridge player, franchise QB, day 1 starter, and mentor. These can help CPU AI build better teams once Tiburon fixes the re-signing bug. I didn’t get a chance to really try these out yet, as they really take effect long term over multiple seasons but because of the existing bugs, I haven’t gone through too many seasons yet.
Another major glitch I encountered was when you enter a season game, the game bugs out and puts you into a practice match. Both teams were equipped with practice jerseys and there was no audio or commentary. If you quit the game to restart, it results in the game ending in a tie, counting zero stats for all players and messing up the stat totals for the whole season for both teams.
These two major glitches, along with CPU interceptions being godlike, basically ruins Franchise Mode in its current condition. If the developers can patch these issues up in the coming weeks, then I’m confident saying Madden 23 has one of the best Franchise Modes in recent memory.
Face Of The Franchise: Please Let This Die
Face Of The Franchise is one of my least favorite modes in Madden. Every year, I always question why the development team spends time on this rather than focusing on other core components of the game. It’s always an unpolished mess and this year is no different. There are less cinematic sequences which could be considered a blessing, but kind of takes away from the point of a story mode.
This year you can select from the usual positions like QB, WR, HB, and Linebacker, along with the latest addition as Cornerback. From the start, you are offered contracts from all 32 NFL teams. However, depending on your position and the team’s needs and scheme fit, your contracts will vary in salary, position in depth chart and rewards for earning Cred & Rep.
Unfortunately, you are locked to playing just your character instead of being able to swap between other players on your team during gameplay. There is a new energy mechanic that allows you to focus on specific side activities each week to unlock new abilities and perks. In addition, you’ll be interacting with former Bengals WR Chad Johnson as he guides you through the new Road to 99 feature.
Your created avatar can carry over into The Yard as well. You can respect your character’s build at any time, which allows for greater flexibility in how you play. This allows you to experiment with your character and find a build that works best for you.
All of this is presented through a new League Hub which includes various new 3D background environments such as an apartment, hotel when traveling and more.
Face of The Franchise might be worth a playthrough or two, but quickly becomes pointless, unless you’re a fan of the Yard. In which case, you can continue to build out your player skills and unlock awards through online play or live events.
The Yard & Superstar KO: For When You’re Bored
Not much to say about The Yard and Superstar KO other than these modes are back. The Yard being a backyard style 6v6 game mode where you can play co-op or go head to head with players online or offline against the CPU. And Superstar KO which is a co-op eliminator mode where you play short games with Superstar X-Factor abilities always on across various stadiums with dynamic rules.
The Yard is fully integrated with Face of the Franchise now, so it may entice you to play it more. Each game allows you to unlock Cred & Rep which can be used to purchase unique gear for your avatar. As mentioned previously, there are some issues both graphically with character models and in the end-game rewards screens.
Also, I wish you could adjust the number of drives each team gets from three to five. Sometimes the loading screens between matches can feel longer than the actual games. I’m not too invested in either of these modes, but that’s just my personal opinion.
Madden Ultimate Team: Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all
Want to spend even more money on a subpar sports game outside of the initial $60-$100? Here’s your chance. Players can blow countless dollars to build their dream fantasy roster of NFL stars, Hall of Fame legends and more. This year’s Madden Ultimate Team does offer additional opportunities to unlock players and tokens through new challenges, but it’s a grind.
The new Field Pass feature lets you see all the levels, rewards, and objectives to complete each season to make progress throughout the year. There are three types of Field Passes, including Season, Competitive, and Ultimate Team program-specific passes. In order to get XP and make progress towards the Field Pass, users must complete objectives like hitting a target number of sacks, passing yards or TDs.
Each Pass includes rewards to earn, ranging from coins, uniforms, packs, and player items. It’s a grind, but at least you can earn rewards just by playing the game. EA promises each season of the Field Pass will be free to all players.
I know there is a fanbase for MUT and it has its merits, but ultimately, it’s still very much a pay-to-win scheme, which I detest.
Madden NFL 23 is out now for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles and PC.
Review code kindly supplied by PR.