When details of Madden NFL 21 were released a year ago, longtime fans of the football video game series were disappointed. Franchise mode was mostly being ignored, and there weren't enough upgrades to justify buying the newest edition.
But EA Sports laid out plans to make the series better, which included substantial improvements to franchise mode. Some of those came via updates to Madden 21, but many were going to have to wait for Madden 22.
As of Friday, Madden NFL 22 is here. And as EA Sports indicated, franchise was the mode that received the most attention. There were still changes to other areas of the game, which was needed with the series making its debut on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. But much of the attention was placed on franchise mode.
However, are these upgrades enough to make Madden 22 a substantially better game than its predecessor? There are varied opinions on the matter.
Kat Bailey of IGN, who scored Madden 22 at 6 out of 10, wrote that the results of EA Sports' focus on franchise mode upgrades are "decent, if a bit mixed." While there are new features such as staff management (with talent trees and skill points), improved game plans and a more developed story engine, there's more work that could be done.
"Madden's franchise mode lacks that joyful sense of wish fulfillment that accompanies the best career modes, its rigidity betraying Madden's overall lack of verve and creativity," Bailey wrote.
Bailey also had criticisms of other modes, noting that Face of the Franchise is "short, pointless and ugly" and that the redesigned hub is an "eyesore."
GameSpot's Richard Wakeling was more generous with his Madden 22 rating, giving the game a 7 out of 10. He even called this year's edition of the game a "recent high point for the series."
While Wakeling praised the changes to franchise mode, he also believes Face of the Franchise needs to be better, stating that the career mode "tells a dull story with unrewarding gameplay." Wakeling's other big issue with Madden 22 is technical, with glitches preventing the game from running the way it should.
Mark Delaney of GamesRadar also gave Madden 22 a 7 out of 10, while Anthony J. Nash of Windows Central scored the game a 4 out of 5. So while this isn't a perfect football video game, things do seem a bit more positive than some recent years.
Although the critics have mostly been positive, the fans rating the game on Metacritic have not. It seems that plenty of people who play the series are still expecting a lot more improvement and fewer issues. Both PS5 and Xbox Series X editions have user scores of 0.9 out of 10 (though both also have under 200 ratings at the time of publishing).
It's possible the fans' early ratings are tanking the score lower than it should be. But we may not know the general consensus until more people are voicing their opinions of the game once they have had more time to play it.
Still, it's clear that Madden 22, no matter how many upgrades and improvements there are, could be a better football video game.
"It's smoother and marginally more refined, but in so many ways, it's the same old Madden," Bailey wrote. "In short, if you're hoping for a massive leap forward for the series on the new generation of consoles (or on the old ones), you're apt to be disappointed."
Maybe there's enough of a foundation here that Madden will be getting better in the years to come. Only time will tell.