The sports season did not exactly go as planned thanks to the difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this the traditional sports game opening title of the new season remains the same - Madden NFL. We need to wait a while longer for releases such as NBA 2K21 and FIFA 21, but with Madden NFL 21 in our hands, the wait is a bit less tedious.
Madden NFL 21: Old Product in a New Package
The coronavirus might be making things difficult for the NFL but that's not the case for its virtual counterpart. The best players in the league are entering the turf for a new wave of virtual football.
Madden NFL 21, despite many detail improvements, can be blamed or praised, based on preference, for being too much like its predecessor. Fans of the series should feel right at home aside from the new menu design, which raised our eyebrows a bit.
At gameplay level, EA Sports have made some small but useful adjustments on both ends of the pitch. Thanks to the new Pass-Rush controls, the defensive moves are easier and above all more intuitive to execute. This does not revolutionize the game feeling, but it makes the game more fun, which is how a game should be.
With the Skill Stick, you can combine special movements on offense and turn past opponents in the last possible second. Only the highest-skilled players can perform some of these moves though. Position-based tackles, which are equally effective for attackers and defenders, help balance it all out.
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With so little to speak on in this section, it's becoming apparent that this is not the year EA have gone for revolution in the Madden NFL series. As it often happens with serialized games, stagnation is very much evident here.
Face of The Franchise and The Yard
Face of the Franchise is Madden NFL 21's attempt at a story mode. You could tell EA are trying really hard here and as is usually the case, that's the mode's downfall.
Does a sports game really need a story to begin with? Not really. That's been proven on the field by the failure of every single attempt at one by whatever franchise, including EA Sports' very own FIFA series. Alex who?
It's nice to look at, Snoop Dogg's in it, you can influence the story a little with your interviews and press appearances. These all seem like enough positives to turn Face of the Franchise into something decent, but that's not the case. The story is extremely bland and cliché, lacks any sort of depth and the vibe it leaves most of the time is that of embarrassment.
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We like the new arcade game mode The Yard better. It is very much like VOLTA in the FIFA series or NBA Street. A smaller playing field with fewer players per team allows for a faster paced, more exciting game. You can unlock cosmetics through this mode, which keeps the incentive to play it going, in case you need outside motivation to play mini-American football.
This brings us to the fun part of it all. Of course, you can unlock stuff through playing, but you can, you guessed it, buy all of the stuff instead. Microtransactions are a regular feature of EA games by now, so that shouldn't come as any surprise.
This is hardly a new release. It gives off the feel of an update of Madden NFL 20. Gameplay is nearly identical and the features added or changed are either minuscule and/or bad. It's still not a bad game per sé, but if you own Madden NFL 20 with updated rosters, you basically have Madden NFL 21. A seasonal update like the one KONAMI did for PES would have been much fairer, but when have EA played a fair game?
We remain partially curious as to what and if EA will do anything with the title after the new console generation launches, but right now, we can't see much reason to buy NFL Madden 21.