For the past couple of years, the Madden franchise has been hit with a lot of criticism. From the lack of additions every year to the broken gameplay at times, it seems that EA has just does a copy and paste the same game year after year. While that generally is the problem with sports games (and the microtransactions), the likes of NBA 2K and MLB the Show seems to always improve while Madden just sticks with what they have.

Madden 21 is set to come out in August and as the only licensed NFL game, fans know that EA can do a lot better. Here are a few things I think they can improve on as well as my thoughts on other modes in the game.

Ultimate Team

Personally, I have never been a fan of Ultimate Team. Since the introduction of it in Madden 10, EA seems to be putting all their eggs in one basket when it comes to the mode. It makes sense for them, as this is the only way for the company to make money during the season with the players buying multiple packs at a time.

Because of this, the likes of Franchise Mode and a bare-bones Superstar Mode have taken effect without any major updates. Want to make Madden 21 a great game, don’t put all your effort in that mode and branch it out to other modes and gameplay tweaks, which I will get to.

What the heck is Superstar K.O.?

They may have a lot of issues but don’t worry, at least we have DJ Khaled! (Credit: playstation.com)

Instead of fixing the problems Madden has had, they invested a ton of money in the new Superstar K.O., where basically it is just a quick play game with celebrities as coaches and players. I have no idea what the plans are going forward with this but EA should look to focus on a few other things first before pushing out this mode.

Get rid of Face of the Franchise – actually have a Superstar Mode

Really just a watered-down Superstar Mode from Madden 05. (Credit: Madden)

Longshot was terrible but Face of the Franchise was worse. What happened to the old Superstar Mode in past Maddens when you did a combine and worked out for teams? Instead, we only get to play two games in college with A LOT of terrible and unskippable cutscenes. Once that is done, you are basically playing Franchise Mode with one controlled player.

Look at NBA 2K’s MyCareer. It is excellent for the most part. Having an actual mode where you go through the ranks to be a superstar would be a lot better than playing a cringy storyline.

Gameplay

X-Factors were a nice addition at first but it needs to be re-worked. (Credit: Madden)

There are a lot of gameplay issues but here are a few that I think EA needs to focus on. 

  • Better blocking
  • Less clipping
  • Overhaul the animation cycle
  • Better defensive A.I. 

I put all of these together because they all co-exist. The game is clearly scripted and a lot of the animations are set from the start. On top of that, you can run the same play over and over again and the defense will not pick up on it and try to stop. The game engine has been the same for a while now and it might be time to overhaul it.

  • The X-Factors – great idea but a poor result

I actually liked the idea of X-Factors, showcasing the difference between superstars to regular players. I thought it would be similar to the player weapons we saw in past Maddens but really, the X-Factors are just overpowering an already broken game and making a lot of these players unstoppable. It is new to the series so I get that it would have some problems in its first year. Hopefully, they can fix this going forward.

Franchise Mode

I am a huge Franchise Mode and I have been pretty disappointed with how they seemingly have not touched that mode for the past few years. There is a lot of things that they can do (and mainly bring back). Here are a few main things they need to work on.

  • Coaching carousel/coordinators

It seems like a repetitive request from fans alike. The coaching carousel was huge in the NCAA Football series and was around in the early Madden days. In real life, we see Offensive and Defensive Coordinators get hired as coaches and vice versa. It would make the coaching aspect fun rather than just have the same 32 coaches at the start of the season and some made-up characters being added.

  • Historical stat tracking

This ranges here from the players season by season stats, playoff stats, to teams head-to-head records. Right now, you can see the player’s season stats but not with the teams they played for which is a slight annoyance. Playoff stats are non-existence as you cannot see how the players have done once the playoffs are around. Team head-to-head records were in past Madden as it was a cool way to see how division rivals fared against each other. Little things like this can make a difference. Adding the player’s award history is also a huge miss here (Pro Bowl selections, season awards, etc) as they are just added after you finish the season. It would be nice to see who on your team is already a Pro Bowler, etc.

  • Improved free agency period (some examples)
    • Contract holdouts
    • Customizable contracts
    • Compensatory picks

Free agency in Madden just seems like a drag, where you just give them a contract offer that sometimes is not realistic depending on the player’s rating or performance. On top of that, there is only a two week period where you can sign players but most of the time you have to wait and see the following week if they accept. Free agency is a huge part of the NFL so it should be a huge factor in Madden. Adding contract holdouts, backloading (or frontloading contracts), and giving teams compensatory picks would be good here too, given the free agency period a more realistic feel

  • Realistic awards

While the league MVP, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year are in Madden, we are missing another major award and that is the All-Pro selections. Right now, they just have the AFC and NFC best position player (which really does not have any impact as it is just shown in a separate menu).

  • Pro Bowl tracking

Something minor but it would be cool to see Pro Bowl votes as the season progresses in Franchise, rather than just having it after your season is over.

One of the few teams you can use if you want to relocate your team (and no you cannot change the name/city/uniform). (Credit: Madden)
  • League expansion

NBA 2K does league expansion perfectly. You can create a new team or download one from community creations. On top of that, they have a lot of pre-made teams as your disposal (Madden has had the same six ones since 13). Madden does not have an expansion, rather you can just relocate a team to pre-set location. EA should take a page out of 2K’s book when it comes to expansion.

  • Training camp battles

Right now, it is whoever has the highest overall is the starter which yes does make sense but if a certain rookie or big free agent signing is performing better, why not make in interesting. On top of that, adding offseason practices to improve teams would make franchise just a little more playable.

  • Improved scouting for college players

Right now, it is just finding the top three attributes for college players and that’s it. Past Madden’s had in-depth scouting all the way up until the draft. They started on the right foot by adding custom draft classes but having personal visits (much like in past NCAA Football games) would improve this area greatly. 

  • Improved A.I. when it comes to roster control

This I feel has been a problem in Madden. Pretty much most of the time, players with a low overall (which is rookies majority of the time) are getting cut, and sometimes they are high draft picks from the start. This ties in with training camp battles to an extent. If rookies are outplaying veterans in the preseason or early in the regular season, they should be getting more playing time and vice versa. In the regular season, roster moves should be a big factor also as the CPU does not do many transactions outside of re-signing players to huge contracts (which is not realistic).

Presentation/Other

  • Create-a…
    • Player
    • Team
    • Stadium
    • Play

Technically, we still have a create-a-player but it is very bare-bones with not a lot of customization (they have had the same 10-20 player head scans since Madden 15). Create-a-team was one of my favorite things to do in Madden but they took that away after Madden 12 and that is the same with create-a-stadium. Create-a-play has been in past Maddens so why should it not be in the newer editions. We can already create playbooks, what better way to add it then adding your own custom plays

Imagine that you can play as the 2000 Ravens against current NFL Teams? (Credit: Getty Images)
  • Legendary teams

NBA 2K and MLB the Show (to an extent) have done a great job honoring past teams. The 90s Bulls with Michael Jordan and the 2004 Detroit Pistons are just some examples of the many teams they have added into the 2K franchise. Imagine if we could see the likes of the 2000s Ravens or Patriots going up against modern teams. Licensing may be hard with the number of guys on a roster but if they can do it, why not.

  • Drafting your own Pro Bowl rosters in quick play

Just a thought here. I personally like to play the Pro Bowl from time to time in Madden as it is cool to play as multiple superstars on the same team. It would be cool to have the option to make those teams in quick play, rather than just use the default roster or wait to complete a season in franchise.

  • Long Snappers

Hey, Long Snappers need love too! They are currently listed as Tight Ends in Madden with overalls ranging from 39-50. They have no use as TE so why not add LS as an official position in the game.

  • Alternate commentary teams

A lot of sports games have this problem with repetitive commentary but the NBA does it right with having different announcers in the booth to give it a fresh feel every time you play a game. Having different people like Tony Romo or Al Michaels in the booth would be a nice touch and make each game feel different.

  • Actually have the player faces at launch

Minor thing but they really should not be an excuse for not having a majority of star players not scanned into the game.

  • Add referees

I really don’t know why they took out referees in the game after having them in since the BEGINNING.

Again, I may sound nitpicking but after playing Madden for so long, I know it can be a lot better. These were just a few things that I think they need to work out but they’re a lot more. What else do you think Madden needs to change come Madden 21? Let me know!

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