Madden NFL 24

Madden NFL 24

How good is this year's version of EA's annual NFL simulator? We've tested it vigorously.

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This is the year that EA Sports themselves called "make or break" for the Madden NFL series. The year when they would show everyone out there who has complained about the game year after year that they can actually make a good American football game. So why does it feel like another disappointment and that the series is not really going in the right direction?

Every year, Madden kicks off the sports gaming year. It is the first title released each year by the major sports games developers. NBA 2K, FIFA (now EA Sports FC), and NHL follow shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, it's been a long time since they kicked off to a big cheer instead of a shrug. One of the problems is of course that EA has no competition as they have exclusive rights with the NFL until 2026. We have seen this with most sports games, because as competitors fall away one by one, the powers that develop them make the smallest possible updates year over year. Madden NFL 24 falls under this category, but there are actually some improvements from last year.

Madden NFL 24
It's still fun on the pitch.

For example, quarterbacks are smarter and players block better, especially further up the field to give the receiver more room to run. In addition, there are now better animations for tackling and receiving the ball where the receiver doesn't have to stop to catch the ball but the ball leads him on. According to the developers, over 1700 tackle animations have been added and updated, and while it's obviously very difficult to notice all of them, it's at least possible to notice some, including my new favourite where the defender picks up the player in possession of the ball and throws him to the ground like some kind of wrestling move.

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The problem is that many frustrating animations and movements are still there. What still annoys me the most is how computer players usually completely ignore the ball and players seem to have soap in their hands at all times. They still don't seem to understand the concept of an interception even if the ball hits them right in the chest, the ball can land at a player's feet without an ounce of effort to catch it. Receivers aren't any better and also drop far too many balls. In addition, computer quarterbacks are sometimes completely stupid. Just look at the picture below where he has an entire empty field in front of him to run, a wide open teammate, but chooses to throw the ball straight out into the stands. But at least the referees are back on the pitch.

Madden NFL 24
Why would you throw the ball into the stands?

It's also hard not to get annoyed when the game constantly tries to make you buy things. Ultimate Team is shoved in your face as soon as you start the game. Have you checked out these new card packs you can buy in the shop? Limited edition for only X amount of money. This cash cow of a game mode is also for the most part exactly the same as it has always been. What's different is a new Field Pass, which I don't think anyone asked for. Otherwise, it's exactly what you'd expect with cards of various strengths, a store to get new packs of cards, challenges for various currencies, matches against computer-controlled teams, and online matches. You can win games with skill, of course, but by and large it's still pay-to-win.

So, this year, when it's all or nothing for the series, shouldn't there have been a huge investment in mismanaged game modes like Franchise Mode? Well, there isn't. Sure, training camp is back with eleven different mini-games that can improve the skills of your players, with each mini-game, i.e. training, can only be done once per training camp. The other big things are that up to six players can now be included in a trade, a team can now move to a new city in the middle of the season, small changes to the salary system, and the draft classes have been improved.

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Madden NFL 24
The NFL Combine is now part of career mode.

The second major game mode is the "Superstar" career mode. It is split into Superstar The League and Superstar Showdown, which replaces Face of the Franchise and The Yard, but is basically the same thing with new name, but I have to admit that I was thoroughly fooled when I started this. The introduction led me to believe that there would be a story mode such as found in the NBA 2K series when cutscenes appeared at regular intervals. From the NFL Draft Combine, with its own mini-games that give you the final draft spot, to the draft and then the introduction to your new team, all done with animated film clips. But then it ends abruptly and it's back to the old system of going week to week in menus with practices and games in between. That's exactly what you get if you've been playing for the last few years. Superstar Showdown is just The Yard, which is American football's equivalent of FIFA's Volta or the NHL's World of Chel, with a different look.

Madden NFL 24
Some animations are much better.

I must say I'm disappointed in what was supposed to be the big year for the Madden series, as it's either success or failure, all or nothing. That "make or break" statement from the developers really made it seem like we were going to see something very special, which we haven't. Some prettier animations and smarter quarterbacks don't save this from being an okay game at best.

06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
New and improved animations. Players in certain positions have been made better. Still fun to play on the pitch. Tackles that are felt in your bones.
Slightly buggy. Too little new content. Computer players can be dumb. Really wants to make you spend money in the game.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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REVIEW. Written by Johan Vahlström

How good is this year's version of EA's annual NFL simulator? We've tested it vigorously.

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