The Super Bowl is done. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are World Champions. Tom Brady has his seventh ring. But there will be no NFL downtime: instead, all eyes are on next season, where Matthew Stafford lines up in a Rams jersey, Urban Meyer coaches the Jaguars, and Brady yet again torches cornerbacks in his 21st pro season. It’s no different on the virtual turf, where fans are already sharing ways in which they want the NFL’s official videogame improved in its second campaign on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Curated from social media and myriad independent forums, below we delve into the seven Madden 22 features and fixes you want most come August.
1. Blocking, blocking, blocking, blocking, blocking
GR runs this feature annually, and as a rule the first dozen responses on social media all insist that blocking should have made the number one spot. So this year it makes the number one spot.
“There isn't run blocking or pass blocking in Madden 21,” writes klindraPSN on Reddit. “On pass plays the O-line takes a step back and on a run play, they take a step forward in real life. But in Madden, the only simulation-based NFL game on the market, they almost always run block. If you want to try it, move your LB up a yard and the guard will come at you 75% of the time. This needs to be fixed before another basketball player comes into the game.”
“I will buy Madden 22 if blocking logic is fixed, pass coverage is fixed, LB’s actually pursue and clog holes rather than stand still and let themselves be blocked, and OL/DL positioning isn’t based on shifting/warping or animation triggering,” writes xCoachDx on Operation Sports. “I’d honestly be surprised if one or two of these happened.”
“Please fix the offensive line,” writes rumka74 on the official EA forum. “The blocking in these games [is] terrible – please bring in an actual lineman and ask them what assignments they [use] in real life.” One small issue with that plan: former Washington guard Clint Oldenburg is the series’ current producer.
2. Coaching carousel and skill trees
For years on PS2 Madden successfully implemented not only head coaching moves, but also offensive and defensive coordinator movement across the league. Incredibly, it was never brought back on subsequent generations. That has to change.
“Like everyone else I have been expecting it for years and no luck,” writes melodicmarc on Reddit. “What we need is very similar to what was in NCAA 2014. Offensive and defensive coordinators, [and] a coaching carousel where the good ones move up and get hired. Also [as an advanced wish] when designing this system, there should be a plan to integrate positional coaches into the system as well.
“Just as important is the skill tree,” he continues. “The current XP system for coaches needs to be replaced with a skill tree. This skill tree should give in-game bonuses to stats, player development bonuses, morale bonuses, player retention bonuses, free agent bonuses etc. NFL Head Coach 08 did an awesome job with this and a system that mimics that would be ideal.”
3. Fewer immersion breakers
Nailing every real-life foible and intangible of real sport is impossible, so any NFL sim is always going to require you to suspend your disbelief to a degree. Even so, the folks at Operation Sports have picked out some Madden 21 gamebreakers which would vastly improve its successor, if located and removed.
“Start cold games earlier in the season,” writes JasonZimmerman. “Or for the love of god, give us control of the weather! For example, it’s cold in Chicago pretty much all of November, but the “cold games” don’t start until last week in November if that. The coach and everyone running around in shorts and tees week 11 or 12 kills it. Speaking of that, we should have control over our coach’s attire.”
“The whole entire Madden 21 on-field presentation is an immersion breaker,” adds Americas Team. “It’s made for the online competitive crowd to get through games as quickly as possible. This may be OK for online but it's a total disaster for offline franchise players. They need to give us presentation options like MLB The Show.”
“As a franchise player the biggest immersion breaker for me has always been ridiculous moves by the CPU,” says Sphinx. “Signing a big free agent QB after literally resigning their franchise QB earlier in the off-season. Unrealistic trades is another one that makes me crazy. I could go on and on but pretty much everything related to CFM at this point is immersion breaking.”
4. Get the Super Bowl right
Next-gen Madden 21 offers bespoke Super Bowl Sunday presentation including both teams emerging onto the turf, brief pre-game clips of individual players and a few lines of bespoke commentary, but it isn’t enough. The opportunity to play in – and win – this single game is the pinnacle of the season for every player, team and fan, so it needs more. More build-up, more fanfare, more in-game highlights, more oomph. And, as greg_ramz7 points out on Twitter, more details:
Going on three console generations of SB patches on the wrong side of the uniform, no ref patches, no SB football, no helmet/hat decals/patches, same sideline camera personnel as a preseason game, same intro and postgame. How is the most important game still the most neglected?December 9, 2020
5. Complete scouting overhaul
In the NFL, there’s no way to mirror the tactics of major European football (soccer) clubs and spend your way to success by paying monster transfer fees for elite players. Instead, it’s a league where nurturing young talent is imperative, and so the annual NFL draft should be key to playing season after season of Madden. To that end, Reddit user DeuceDouglas echoes fans who want scouting completely retooled this year.
Regional scouts are the foundation of this change. “Your scouting department would consist of four regional scouts (East, West, Midwest and South) with varying skills and traits. Each scout would have skills and traits to differentiate their skill as well as making them more unique. Those skills/traits would be Evaluation Ability, Reputation, Specialty and Bias/Influencers. [For instance] Bias/Influencers would [define] what scouts prioritize or value more than anything else – you could have a number of different things here but I ultimately decided on Athleticism, Intangibles, Potential and Talent.”
According to his blueprint, these scouts from the across would then deliver reports from across the US, gradually fleshed out over the course of an NFL season. “At the beginning [of the scouting process], each prospect would have a couple of bullet points. No more going into the draft with just a combine grade on a ton of players… Each week that you scout a player you're going to get 2-3 bullet points until he's fully scouted.” The NFL Combine would then be used to fine-tune the prospects at the top of your draft board. “[It] would work just like real-life, where there'd be around 330 players with combine data, and around 120 without. [There’d also be] a college tab that shows a players’ stats, as well as awards and accolades.”
6. Dynamic attendance
“A 1-14 Bengals with a full stadium of fans jumping up and down breaks Madden 21 for me,” writes loungefly85 on Operation Sports. “It’s a shame the NFL demands they don’t have dynamic attendance. [Clearly it] absolutely wants people to believe that every ticket is sold and every group of fans are a rabid bunch of idealistic diverse fanatics wearing $80 jerseys.”
Hard to disagree with this one – both in terms of the poster’s wish for proper dynamic attendance, and the reason for its non-inclusion. As GR explained in our look at 13 lost sports game features, dwindling crowds were removed from the series at the NFL’s request.
“We incorporated accurate attendance for all the teams, and Jacksonville always had these terrible turnouts," a former EA Tiburon producer told Sports Illustrated. "The Jags owner got all pissed off when he heard there were empty seats when you played as his team in the game. The team called the NFL and we had to fix it immediately.”
7. Classic teams
“Why doesn't Madden do classic teams and all-time teams like NBA 2k does?” asks murdlelicious on the official EA forums. “Those are some of their best options to play with. I would love to play with my childhood teams all the time. I think this would be a huge hit for the Madden franchise.”
He’s not wrong. NBA 2K21 is a retro sports fan’s paradise, with more than 60 legendary teams immediately playable, including seven different versions of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls. Given how much pride the NFL places in its Hall Of Fame, it’s a shame to see the likes of Deion Sanders, Reggie Wayne and Dan Marino limited to Ultimate Team. But therein lies the problem: while players continue to spend real dollars in chasing those highly sought-after FUT cards, EA is unlikely to give them away in another mode for free.