Madden 21: Top Reviews and Scores from Around the WebAugust 29, 2020
Madden NFL 21 launched to big expectations and had an on-paper outlook seemingly ready to match the hype.
Boasting notable gameplay changes, a Rise to Fame story mode and a streetball-style arcade mode reminiscent of the NFL Street series, the latest from EA Sports seemed to promise big things—especially with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on the cover.
But as we noted in our official review, while gameplay changes make this one of the best-playing Madden games ever, a lack of attention to some core modes is hard to ignore at the end of a console generation. Reviews from around the web continue to file in and largely echo such sentiments.
Mark Delaney, GamesRadar: 3/5
The Yard stands at the center of Madden NFL 21, so reviews understandably dial in on all aspects of the mode.
And GamesRadar's Mark Delaney did a succinct job of summing things up while giving the game a three out of five:
"With laterals galore, an ability to hike the ball to anyone on any play, and some wild mechanics such as punching or kicking the ball to teammates like a one-timer in soccer or hockey, The Yard infuses Madden with a sense of arcadey fun that's been missing for the game's less serious players. An in-game cosmetics store and tons of "Prototypes" (think character builds) reveal a months-long tail which will easily carry the game into next summer's renewed marketing campaign."
It's streetball at its finest, at least from a Madden franchise. The smoothness of the usual gameplay with on-screen players just casually pulling off behind-the-back passes is a blast to play. The seemingly endless amount of customization items is a bit overwhelming, but it's good for players to be able to express themselves.
As Delaney noted, the transition to having an arcade mode as the big talking point is a rather smooth one for Madden, though it did come at the expense of more traditional modes, such as Franchise.
Steven Petite, Gamespot: 6/10
Madden has done some superb work in the singleplayer department in recent years, especially with the high production values that came alongside Devin Wade and friends in modes like Longshot.
But the series has notably taken a step back in this area. While the theme is player agency and letting players put themselves into the NFL, potentially trailblazing a path to the Hall of Fame, the mode has some big problems.
As Gamespot's Steven Petite pointed out while giving the game a six out of 10, a player's decisions don't seem to matter much at all in the story-driven affair:
"It's nice that Madden has continued its focus on narrative modes that mirror offerings in NBA 2K and MLB The Show, but Rise to Fame entirely misses the mark. Unless you really want to guide a player with your name to the Hall of Fame, it's not worth checking out—you're far better off jumping straight into the normal Franchise mode. Groan-inducing writing, stiff animations, and a disjointed story arc make Rise to Fame every bit as lackluster as last year. Since there's more of it here, it's actually even more disenchanting."
On paper, starting in high school, competing for collegiate titles and making career-altering decisions along the way sounds good. And there's some fun to be had, and a variety of storylines once a player makes it to the pros keeps things fresh.
But paired with the lack of changes for franchise mode, players who don't want to dive into multiplayer are left hanging a bit in the singleplayer department this year.
David Jagneaux, IGN: 6/10
Thankfully for players, this year's Madden is a hit on the field.
The introduction of the Skill Stick was a big talking point in every review, and IGN's David Jagneaux—while giving the game a six—hit on the "fluid" keyword that fits the on-field offering so well:
"The way the 'Skill Stick' change works here also makes it far easier to combo together moves really fluidly, so you can prepare a stiff-arm right after a spin, for example, without breaking animation or waiting for the spin to finish. Madden NFL 21 still relies heavily on a canned animation system rather than actual inverse-kinematics physics simulation, so it's easy to spot repetition, but the smoothness of it all is great."
Indeed, Madden gameplay this year is a joy. Linebackers have been nerfed a bit, and the Skill Stick's impact on controlling a pass-rusher along the defensive line is huge. It's now a smaller game-within-a-game to pull off the proper pass-rushing moves to get after quarterbacks.
And on the offensive side of the ball, it's easier than ever to chain ball-carrier moves together, be it stutter steps or jukes. Add in a bigger emphasis on player fatigue and the ability for quarterbacks to throw while taking a sack and gameplay is impressively upgraded while still remaining rather balanced for both offenses and defenses.