For Madden NFL 22, EA Sports' long-running series needed an overhaul. In some ways, it got one, but the longtime NFL simulator still feels a little too familiar. While the latest installment offers noticeable improvements to many of the game’s aspects, it’s still just a repackaged version of the same old franchise.
EA’s new “game-changing” feature for Madden NFL 22 is Dynamic Gameday, which isn't as substantial an addition as it could be. As for gameplay, Madden NFL 22’s tackling and pass-catching is a step up. The Face of the Franchise mode ditches the pesky high school drama cutscenes for a welcome focus on football.
Other game modes include basic franchise options, The Yard, Superstar KO and, of course, Madden Ultimate Team. The Yard attempts to recreate the golden days of NFL Street; franchise mode has a crucial update coming in September; and Superstar KO remains untouched from the original version that launched in Madden 20. Read our full Madden NFL 22 review for additional information.
Madden NFL 22 review: Gameplay
In my first exhibition game, Madden NFL 22 offered two standout surprises. First off, improved sideline awareness enabled receivers to stop on a dime and toe-tap for sideline catches. Furthermore, the physics for defensive linemen and linebackers let my team take down my opponent’s ball carriers at the point of impact. Before, clunky animations gave opponents the opportunity to fall forward for extra yardage too often.
Despite these upgrades, the game’s random glitches are as prevalent as ever. It’s hard to take a football video game seriously when defenders are called for pass interference when they travel right through a wide receiver while covering. I intercepted tipped balls with relative ease, but I rarely saw a receiver come up with a pass after a deflection.
The game’s Dynamic Gameday feature has just one impact on general gameplay: a home field advantage (M-Factor)’s tug-of-war style gauge at the top of the screen. The bar seesaws back and forth, depending on the flow of the game. If one team grabs a swing of momentum, their “M-Factor” activates, boosting the team’s abilities. Some M-Factor benefits include weakening the opponents offensive line, and limiting the sight of opposing quarterbacks down the field. It seems like EA attempted to make the game more realistic by bestowing perks that come from a crowd hyping up their home team. However, the emphasis on special abilities rather than skill and strategy has the opposite effect.
Madden NFL 22 review: Franchise Mode
Madden’s franchise mode has been watered down over the years, favoring the cash cow Ultimate Team instead. EA heard fans’ complaints and promised a revamped franchise experience in Madden NFL 22. To give credit where credit is due, EA took some steps forward with this year’s version of franchise mode. But the changes can’t be called an overhaul, and the most highly anticipated update — a new scouting system — isn’t available at launch. It’s coming via patch this fall instead.
For now, you’ll get improved weekly gameplans, letting you make decisions that have an impact in individual games. The new coaching carousel and coaching tree features in franchise mode provide more decision-making tools, too. You now have the ability to fire and hire coaches, as well as build a progression tree that provides meaningful rewards.
There’s one major franchise mode problem EA still needs to fix, though. The heinous salary cap treatment and broken trade logic enables users to flip special teams players for first-round picks. These front-office features can be frustrating.
Madden NFL 22 review: Face of the Franchise
Madden’s new version of a career mode, called Face of the Franchise, provides enough entertainment to make the experience worthwhile. I became a Quarterback, and the story began at Nike HQ, where my character teamed up with some of the NFL’s best to train.
The story mode features interactions between your character, your agent Jordan and your self-proclaimed “brand manager”, Zo. After a training session at Nike HQ, the story flashes back to your character in the College Football Playoff. I’ll admit that I failed most of the drills at Nike HQ, but my 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns in two playoff games were enough for the Jacksonville Jaguars to draft me at first overall, over superstar Trevor Lawerence. Believable, I know.
If you can suspend your disbelief and accept that NFL superstars are training in full pads at Nike weeks after the end of the season, this story is an enjoyable ride. Once you make it to the NFL, Face of the Franchise ends, and you transition to a version of franchise mode, with your player at the center. Finishing the career mode took just over two hours: a digestible length that doesn’t drag out the pre-draft process.
Madden NFL 22 review: Madden Ultimate Team
What was started as a simple, interactive trading card game for users to buy and sell player cards is now front-and-center in Madden. In the 2021 fiscal year, EA reportedly made $1.62 billion off of Ultimate Team microtransactions across catalogues.
If you’re willing to sink hundreds of extra dollars to make your team as competitive as possible, Ultimate Team is for you. While the microtransactions have the potential to be predatory, Ultimate Team is perhaps Madden’s most comprehensive game mode. Its growth has come at the expense of the rest of the experience, however. It seems gameplay and franchise improvements come second to expanding Ultimate Team.
Madden NFL 22 review: The Yard and Superstar KO
The Yard debuted in Madden 21. In many ways, this mode replicates the magic from the NFL Street series years ago. This playground-style arcade mode highlights cool trick plays and highlight reel runs. Multiple forward passes behind the line of scrimmage are legal, and users can snap the ball to any player on the field. Like Madden Ultimate Team, users might rely on microtransactions to build up their avatars. But The Yard looks to make football fun again, using small fields with gorgeous backdrops.
Superstar KO is a similar six-on-six battlefield, but plays more like a simulation. This game mode was refreshing and fun when it debuted in Madden 20, but the developers have made no changes since then. You'll see the same teams, coaches, playbooks and uniforms in Madden NFL 22. Whereas The Yard lets players use their own avatars, Superstar KO starts with a player draft and limited playbooks. Superstar KO is a knockout-style tournament in which users must win three consecutive games to earn rewards. When you beat a team, you have the option to steal a player from the team you beat, or add one from the pool.
Madden NFL 22 review: Visuals and sound
EA promised that Madden NFL 22 would be the franchise's most realistic-looking game ever. What I saw was rather unremarkable, as I found the game to look exactly the same as it has for the past five years. On a next-gen console, I expected at least a slight improvement in image quality. Instead, what I got was a mirror of Madden 21. If EA did not publicize Madden’s new “Game Day Atmosphere” I might not have noticed a difference.
As for the Madden NFL 22 soundtrack, if you’re not a hip-hop fan, I suggest you play the game on mute. However, I am a fan of hip-hop, and even I found it hard not to turn off my TV’s volume. The soundtrack is a collection of generic rap songs that make references to football. It’s as cheesy as it sounds.
Madden NFL 22 review: Verdict
The Madden franchise is the bakery that no one likes, but everyone eats because they have the only cake in town — except this time the cake has some new frosting. Madden NFL 22’s improvements to tackling and sideline catches, as well as early additions to franchise mode, make for a promising installment. But we’ve been down this road before.
EA still needs to release major scouting updates to the game mode, and address the same glitches that have plagued the franchise for years. Ultimate Team’s microtransaction push is getting a little exhausting, too.
For players who simply want a new sports game, you are better off waiting for the new NBA 2K and FIFA games in the coming months. If you want to play an NFL football simulation now, Madden NFL 22 is the best option, even if it’s the only option. For everyone else, you may want to take the season off and hope EA overhauls the game next year.