Incremental updates are usually the name of the game for EA’s annual sports titles. However, now entering its third year on current-gen hardware, EA Tiburon’s upcoming football sim Madden NFL 23 promises a back-to-basics approach that’ll best utilise the processing power and supreme AI capabilities of top-spec PC’s, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5. Controversially, if you’re on previous generation hardware then Madden NFL 23’s unique gameplay features won’t be accessible.
And what of those new features? Well, most headline-grabbing is the introduction of fieldSENSE, a new gameplay system said to deliver consistent, ultra-realistic gameplay, equipping players in every position with a heightened sense of control. Detractors reckon fieldSENSE is simply gameplay mechanics that were removed from earlier entries that’re now repackaged and reintroduced. The question is, will Madden NFL 23 feel massively different to play compared with last year’s edition? Let’s take a closer look at some of these new features and see if we can gleam any insight before the game’s release on August 19th.
FieldSENSE Offensive Line Overhauls
Madden NFL 23’s offensive game is said to have received a massive overhaul, with runners now able to slow their pace, immediately transfer weight or perform ultra-fluid 360-degree cuts for swift changes of direction, granting ball-carriers the freedom to penetrate any open gaps in the defensive line. The running game sounds like it’ll be a much more subtle affair as opposed to overreliance on speed or pure power.
FieldSENSE Defensive Line Overhauls
Like offense, Madden NFL 23’s defence receives an update too. In a development EA are defining as ‘Hit Everything’, defence now encompasses next-gen Hit-Stick physics, meaning you can perform mid-air knockouts, blow up blocks, force turnovers, and, in a feature not seen since Madden 16, perform physics-based gang tackles, whereby you can assist in a tackle already taking place. With Madden NFL 23’s upgraded offensive mechanics, a string of defensive updates that’ll encourage a tactical approach to halting zig-zagging ball-runners is certainly welcome.
Possibly where the biggest change lies, Madden NFL 23’s all-new method of passing introduces a targeting reticule and passing meter to judge power, enabling quarterbacks to distribute with surgical accuracy, passing the ball to where only your wide receivers can catch it after combining the reticule and passing meter to lead receivers and drop in back-shoulder throws.
Wide Receiver vs Defensive Back Battles
A feature intended to compliment the new skills-based passing mechanic is Madden NFL 23’s focus on one-versus-one battles between wide receivers and defensive backs, with receivers able to execute moves to drop defenders and escape into space, whilst safeties and cornerbacks can press at the line slowing the receiver’s progress as the ball is snapped. Again, this extra tactical consideration should hopefully add an extra element of thought to every play.
Upgraded Contracts System
Franchise mode also gets an upgrade for Madden NFL 23. Authenticity is the name of the game here, with athletes motivated by salary and place of residence, in addition to the appeal of playing for your team, having a real-time effect on contract negotiations. EA Tiburon hopes increasing athlete determination to secure the best deal for themselves will add to the drama of NFL free agency.
Overhauled Bye Week Scenarios
Bye weeks are when your football team takes a week off to recover from the gruelling slog of an NFL season, and they’re yet another feature to receive an upgrade in the upcoming Madden NFL 23. In fact, EA Tiburon routinely update Madden’s franchise mode throughout the year, and the additions to bye week that’re announced for Madden NFL 23 so far came into effect in April. In short, there’re choices to make; should your team take a week off to re-establish relationships that have fractured during a tough season? Should the week be spent on the training field? Which aspects of the team need development? It’s up to you to decide what your team needs to drive success come the end of bye week.
X-Factor Abilities Return
The superstar skills that mirror their real-life counterparts returns for Madden NFL 23. The list of players who’re bestowed with an X-Factor ability has already been announced via the PS5 beta. However, there’s every chance more players will be added come the start of the NFL season in September. Superstars – that is, those who have skills that outperform their stats but aren’t quite X-Factor level – are set to continue too. New for Madden NFL 23 though, is the addition of X-Factor hot streaks. This means that one or more opponents will start a game with their X-Factor skill activated, adding to the challenge from the get-go.
At the time of writing, crossplay for Madden NFL 23 has not been officially announced. And, regrettably, it’s possible it won’t be implemented in time for the latest iteration of EA’s football sim before its release in August. EA are arguably the largest developer who’re still yet to harness the fruits of crossplay. If Apex Legends doesn’t have it, it’s likely Madden won’t either, although next-gen hardware was treated to a crossplay update in FIFA 22, so there is at least a shred of hope.
Create-A-Team Mode Still Missing
Unfortunately, create-a-team is not making a return in Madden 23, despite this being one of the most requested features from fans of the series. EA Tiburon claim they’re adapting feedback from previous iterations into Madden 23, so it’s befuddling the chance to customise your own team from a raft of randomised options or craft a fantasy franchise by handpicking NFL players.
Ultimate Team and Face of the Franchise Modes Return
Perhaps create-a-team is still left out on the sidelines due to EA’s Ultimate Team mode; the chance to develop your dream roster of current NFL players, hall-of-famers, and legends of the sport continues in Madden 23. Face of the Franchise is back too, offering players the chance to ‘play their way into the history books’ in control of their own player striving for NFL glory. The point with all these game modes is EA Tiburon recognise there’re many ways gamers will want to engage with Madden 23, whether that’s Ultimate Team, Face of the Franchise, multi-player, single player – aside from creating your own team, EA Tiburon are trying to cover all bases.
Rookie Ratings Starting to Emerge
One of the most exciting aspects of any new NFL season is seeing how the rookies fare. Ordinarily, EA announce rookie ratings during draft week, but this year they’ve remained largely tight-lipped. We are starting to see details come through in the last week, with new players sharing stories across their social media pages. Expect their ratings to be announced during EA’s rating week, set to commence on 18th July.
Commitment to realism
Not only is the in-game franchise mode updating with more realistic aspects, from staff management to weekly scouting, but EA Tiburon are updating the dynamic gameday mechanics too. That is, home advantage will be more noticeable, athletes will mishear plays due to crowd noise, momentum and team confidence will shift play-by-play. Touchdown celebrations are said to be more intimate too, with 4K touchdown camera angles harnessing what EA Tiburon are calling ‘animation branching technology’.
Madden NFL 23 comes out on August 19th, which is smack bang in the middle of the NFL 2022 preseason which runs from 5th to the 28th of August. This is in keeping of Madden’s of old, of course, ensuring players can get up to speed with the game’s updated mechanics in time for the NFL season to start for real on September 8th.
Alongside the boxed and digital standard editions of Madden NFL 23, there’s the All-Madden Edition up for pre-order with a host of higher tier bonuses, like 3-day early access, choice of two elite players, 4600 Madden points, all Madden gear and strategy items. There’s a premium price tag to go alongside the All-Madden Edition, of course, but at the time of writing there’s still a week or so for an extra pre-order bonus of an All-Madden Team Elite Player.
John Madden is Coverstar
This year, the cover star for Madden NFL 23 is the legend John Madden himself. Eschewing the usual trope of the ‘Madden’ curse, for cover stars of previous iterations have mysteriously gone on to have lacklustre seasons. Instead, John Madden being on this year’s cover is a fitting tribute to the iconic coach and commentator – and namesake of the series – after his untimely passing last December.
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