Madden 21: Early Expert Reviews of Top Modes Ahead of Official Release Date

Jake RillSenior Writer IAugust 27, 2020

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs onto the field during introductions before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Although Madden 21 isn't fully released until Friday, many have already gotten their hands on this year's edition as those who preordered the deluxe or MVP editions got it three days early. And so far, it's been a mixed bag of reviews for the game's various features.

One of the most marketed game modes in Madden 21 has been Face of the Franchise: Rise to Fame, which expands on the version that was in Madden 20. Users get to create their player and play some college games before taking him to the NFL.

In this year's mode, it starts with your created player's high school career. After playing several games there, more college games have been included. There's also the NFL Scouting Combine to participate in before your player gets drafted and begins his NFL career. And that no longer has to be as a quarterback, as your player will have the opportunity to switch to running back or wide receiver in college.

It all sounds great, and getting to see the 10 included college teams and the College Football Playoff in the game is always a treat, considering there's no college football video game on the market. But there are some noticeable problems with the mode.

Nick Schwartz of USA Today criticized the storyline and writing in Face of the Franchise, noting its "unrealistic and unbelievable obstacles" while also pointing out how the game results have no impact on how the mode progresses. Schwartz also noted that the mode is limited by "one of Madden 21's many glitches and bugs" that have negatively affected the game this week.

"Face of the Franchise is an absolute mess," Schwartz wrote. "Instead of reflecting your on-field performance or giving the player any sort of power over the narrative, Madden 21 relies on a truly ridiculous story arc that only delivers frustration."

Bleacher Report's Chris Roling calls Face of the Franchise: Rise to Fame a "one-and-done experience," as the mode quickly becomes a familiar franchise mode once your created player's college career is over, just like in Madden 20.

The Yard is one of the other big additions in Madden 21, as the six-on-six backyard football mode brings a bit of a new flavor to the Madden franchise, one that hasn't been around since the days of NFL Street. While there has been some criticism regarding some other areas of this year's game, IGN's David Jagneaux calls The Yard a "bright spot" in Madden 21.

Jagneaux praised the backyard-style rules and features in The Yard and the avatar customization, although he noted its "lack of depth." However, it's also not a mode that may have a ton of replayability down the road.

"I enjoyed The Yard for what it is—a nifty distraction from the real core of Madden—but it doesn't have enough meat to satisfy on its own," Jagneaux wrote.

Among the early reviews, there remains a consensus that not enough has been done to improve franchise mode, which has always been a favorite for longtime players of the game. The only real noticeable differences this year are just some cosmetic tweaks to the appearance.

Jagneaux noted that franchise is "again relegated to background status and completely neglected." Roling criticized some of the "glaring issues such as trade logic," as some teams are way too open to parting with star players for too little.

When Madden 21 unveiled some of the updates to features in this year's game last month, #FixMaddenFranchise became a top trend on Twitter, and these early expert reviews of the game highlight why. The Yard may be a fun addition, and Face of the Franchise: Rise to Fame gives players the chance to partake in some college football, but it's become clear that consumers want to see improvements to franchise mode in the future.

As the first-week bugs and glitches get resolved, the game will be more playable. But as the reviews point out, there may not be enough substance to make this a top-tier Madden game. More reviews will be on the way later in the week when the game is fully released, and it wouldn't be surprising if the scores this year are lower than some past editions.