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New Year, Same Problems: Our Official Review of Madden NFL 21

Madden 21 was released this past week in advance of the upcoming NFL season and, while it's definitely good to have something new to play during quarantine, I'm of the opinion that there are still several issues with the game as a whole. Don't get me wrong -- EA has definitely succeeded in making the latest version of Madden better than its predecessor, that much is certain. For example, they actually made it possible for you to pass and win a game, among other improvements. However, although EA has done a somewhat decent job with this game, it definitely still needs some work.

Let's start with 'Madden Ultimate Team,' commonly abbreviated and referred to online as MUT, the mode I play the most. This mode allows you to collect virtual cards of different NFL players and create a team to play as within the game; you can either play against friends (or strangers) online or simply take on the CPU. I must say: the Menu lag within MUT, both during the EA Access period and at the launch of the game itself, was simply unacceptable. It would take you about a minute to go from one screen to another; thankfully, they did send out a patch to fix that issue, but it was really annoying. One interesting wrinkle from EA was its choice to give Lamar Jackson the 'Escape Artist' ability, which helps a player escape sacks and also helps you move faster in the backfield, on day 1. If people weren't excited to try and build their MUT around Lamar already, they certainly are now.

Something else that really stuck out to me was the card art for this's not good. Obviously, the card art doesn't matter a lot, at least not to everyone who plays Madden, but it still matters to me. It's 2020, let's improve something like this that seems easily fixable. One final point I'd like to make on this topic has to do with 'MUT Squads,' which is a game mode within the Madden Ultimate Team feature. Unfortunately, MUT Squads is a disappointment. It's full of glitches at the moment, the biggest of which is the fact that the game will randomly swap out the person who's playing QB without warning, instead forcing one of the other gamers in the group to play the position instead. The MUT Squads loading screen is glitched right now, too and if you decide to exit the mode, the game still keeps you in the squad. This isn't a big problem, as you only need to go back and select 'Leave Squad' in order to...well, leave the squad, but it's still annoying. These glitches will likely all be patch fixed eventually, but seeing them right at launch of a new game is just unacceptable. EA needs to do better.

Now for 'Franchise Mode,' one of the most commonly used among players. Once again, this mode is largely a disappointment, as it's pretty much an exact copy and paste of last year's version. I'm not kidding -- I don't think a single thing has changed. The Madden community actually had #FixMaddenFranchise trending on Twitter for a brief time and, despite the very public outcry from players, EA still did nothing to address the feature. As of right now, all EA has done is put out a statement saying that Franchise Mode for Madden 22 will be different. In case you forgot, this is a Madden 21 article. So basically, the people who only play Madden for Franchise Mode essentially have to wait another whole year to get a new game. This ignorance on the part of EA to make improvements to franchise mode has been an ongoing problem for years now and, quite frankly, the Madden community is pretty sick of it. While we're talking about copy and paste, Madden 21's 'Superstar KO' feature is also essentially the same as the year prior and its 'Face of the Franchise' mode has only a few changes.

The final thing that I'll touch on is 'The Yard,' which is a new game mode completely unique to Madden 21. Honestly, this particular game mode is a lot of fun and you can tell just how much effort EA put into it, which is awesome. Basically, you have a character capable of full customization that you can continue to upgrade as you wish. The only slight problem is that, as of right now, there are only three places where you can play with your create-a-player. I'm not too upset about that, though, because the game just came out and I assume that EA will eventually add new locations; if they're not planning to, though, I'm sure there will be quite a few players who voice their displeasure. I haven't played in this mode too much as of yet, but the games that I did play were definitely enjoyable as a whole -- I certainly had a blast.

So, there you have it, folks! As I said before, this game is definitely better on the whole than Madden 20, but it's still a bit of a mess overall. I'd give the game a rating of 3 stars out of 5, which tells you how little I thought of Madden 20. However, if the folks at EA can address the problems that I listed above, we'll have a fairly impressive game on our hands for the next year. Have you played Madden 21 yet? Do you agree, disagree or have any additional insight? If so, feel free to sound off in the comments below!

- Nate


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