Madden NFL 24 Starts to Refocus Stumbling Franchise

When the latest iteration of the Madden NFL franchise, Madden NFL 24, originally released, it was a bit of a buggy mess, especially on the PC. As such, I waited a little bit before writing this review. Many of the worst bugs for the PC version of the game have now been fixed, which is a good thing since we are getting into the latter part of the real NFL season at this point. The biggest problem for the PC version of the game seems to be optimization, meaning that it does not seem to be able to tap fully into graphics cards, relying heavily on raw CPU power instead and leading to sluggish performances and lag. On a dedicated gaming system, Madden NFL 24 runs well enough, although load times are still atrocious even when using a solid-state hard drive. On less than a top-of-the-line gaming PC, it’s still not really playable, although you can get it to limp along. And there is no way to make it work with a Steam deck either, just in case anyone had visions of playing handheld football.

It seems like every year I end up with a big hope that the Madden NFL franchise will be good again, able to capture that old magic the title had so long ago. And every year I am disappointed. In a lot of ways, my relationship with Madden NFL kind of mirrors my experience with my favorite football team, the Washington Commanders – although I still think of them as the Washington Redskins. Back in 1991 when the Madden franchise moved to the Sega Genesis, I got the game and played it so much with my friends that the cartridge started to get worn out. Yes, the graphics were pixelated, but this was one of the only games that provided a realistic 11-man football experience. The Redskins were a force to be reckoned with back then too, winning the Superbowl against the Buffalo Bills the next year, and we played Madden NFL many times to recreate that experience. In that way, I’ve kind of won the Superbowl dozens of times.

I’m not really sure when either Madden NFL or the Redskins (now Commanders) lost their way. Now it seems like every year I pick up the latest Madden game about the same time the Commanders are in pre-season. I end up with high hopes for both, and I am always disappointed. Madden NFL, like the Commanders, is not horrible this year. But it’s far from its glory days. It’s kind of like expecting to at least be in the playoffs and ending up with another eight and eight season – not bad enough to get good draft picks but not nearly good enough to be considered a real contender.

I don’t know how to fix things for the Commanders, but in terms of Madden NFL 24, it seems like EA has finally realized that they need to seriously revamp and refocus their efforts. As such, in a lot of ways Madden NFL 24 kind of feels like a rebuilding year for the franchise. There are hints that the future of Madden NFL might be bright again, but it’s not there yet.

On the PC, players finally have access to next-generation content, something that was missing before even though it was available on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles. That means that there is a suite of new animations regarding throwing, catching, tackling and blocking. This makes for a more realistic experience that is closer to what you will see on the real field. For example, with tackling, runners are no longer just stopped by one defensive player while the rest of the field stands there and watches. When appropriate, there are group tackles, and in general, every time you see a tackle it seems realistic. It will also be varied now, so it’s not the same few animations every time.

PC players also finally get skill-based passing. This is difficult to master, especially if you are playing with a keyboard instead of a controller, but it can really enhance your gameplay and give a boost to your favorite teams. How it works is that your quarterback drops back, and you can see the entire field. You then decide who to throw the ball to and depending on how you push the key that matches that receiver, you can change the type of pass being thrown. For example, holding down the button will result in a bullet pass while quickly tapping it will result in a high lob type of throw which is great for getting the ball over defenders and into your receiver’s hands.

In addition to just selecting the kind of pass, you also need to hit a growing meter at the right time, which is kind of like how a lot of golf games work to simulate perfect swings, although in those titles you don’t have 300-pound linebackers trying to smash you while you concentrate. If you hit the mark perfectly, it will result in a perfect throw. However, if you miss time your mark, it does not mean that the ball will be inaccurate or even intercepted. What happens if the player messes up is that Madden NFL 24 falls back to the actual stats for the quarterback to see how the pass is thrown. If you are playing with a superstar QB, then you are probably going to be fine, although if you mess up the passing mini game, the throw is not going to be a guarantee. The skill of the receiver is important too, because they will really try and catch the ball now, even going so far as to jump and dive towards balls that seem almost uncatchable. They sometimes can snag a catch out of a blown play too, although infrequently.

Other animations have also been improved. Players tend to celebrate a lot more after the play, or sometimes look dejected if things do not go their way. This is not something that affects gameplay, but it does help to make things seem a bit more realistic. There are referees on the field again too. Truthfully, they were removed last time, and I didn’t even notice until I was halfway through my first franchise mode season, but it’s good to see them back again for realism. There are female refs now too, which is also a nice thing to see.

I found that once I started playing, regardless of the mode, I could forget myself and have a pretty good time. Sometimes I found myself yelling at the screen after dropped passes or missed tackles, so pretty much like a normal NFL game, but one where I had an active hand in changing the outcome. The realism improvements have a lot to do with that, but overall, the core game this year seems to be more fluid once you actually get into it.

Speaking of modes, there are few surprises this year. It seems like EA put most of its effort on the field, which is fine with me, and a great place to start if they are trying to revamp the series. My favorite mode has always been Franchise, and having the option to be a player or an owner is nice. I actually like playing as the owner and setting the strategy for the team, plus dropping in and taking control over key plays. Also, Franchise mode has a Training Camp where you can take your players through mini-games and get them ready for the season. For me, that kind of adds a level of strategy into football, which I really enjoy.

Of course, the main mode that everyone likes to play, Madden Ultimate Team or MUT, is back. I don’t generally play MUT because for me it too quickly gets to the point where the best path forward is to purchase more packs of cards through microtransactions to build up my team, and the game (currently $70 on Steam) is already rather expensive as AAA titles go. Someone who is really into sports titles would probably gladly spend the initial money for the core game and then drop $30 to $50 more upgrading their MUT, but that is just not something I would be interested in. Still, the on-field improvements mean the investment in those microtransactions is better since they are getting more out of a stronger product compared with previous years.

Madden NFL 24 is starting to reach towards its former glory. Players who have said that this was a make-or-break year when they decide if they will keep buying each new version of the title will probably find just enough in the way of improvements to make it worth their while. And it’s great that those limited improvements have almost all taken place on the field, which is the core of the game. The Madden franchise has a long way to go to recapture the spirit of its glory days, but Madden NFL 24 is a big step in the right direction. If EA continues to improve the franchise, then next year might be a real winner for the Madden series – although I always say the same thing about the Commanders too, so I guess take that with a grain of salt.

Share this GiN Article on your favorite social media network:

4 thoughts on “Madden NFL 24 Starts to Refocus Stumbling Franchise”

  1. Pretty bias article here from where I sit. The only thing this game invests in is ultimate team. You don’t even get the real game week to week matchups with live NFL commentary anymore.

  2. Madden 24 has been a nightmare for me. What they don’t tell you is you have to have a “super computer ” to play it. They’ve upped the requirements to play substantially from 23. My computer is over the minimum requirements to play, and it still won’t work. 23 ran like butter, but 24 freezes on the loading screen before I can play my first game . The customer service is horrendous. You can’t physically talk to anyone anymore, the tips they suggested me to try to get it to work didn’t work. And to top it off, I can’t get a refund they told me. I’m done with EA and Madden.

  3. Ever since the xbox360, Madden has been “discovering” features that have been in games past. Skills based passing? Uh passing cone in Madden 06. And even precision based passing a few years later. New franchise owner mode content? Regurgitated from Madden 05. Pump fakes, hit stick, juke stick, and many more all removed and added back in years later.

Comments are closed.