It's inevitable that both PS5 and Xbox Series X will be graced with Madden 21 – after all, the last three console generations have all seen an EA gridiron sim available at launch. That doesn’t mean it’ll be packed with new modes, but it’ll certainly be the best-looking NFL game of all time, which on its own will be enough for some. What else can you expect from Johnboy’s upcoming outing, on PS4 and Xbox One in addition to next-gen? Throw yourself into our Madden 21 guide to find out.
Madden 21 release date: current-gen in August, next-gen in December
Expect both next-gen versions of Madden 21 to be released in time for Christmas. Both PS5 and Xbox Series X are currently scheduled for ‘Holiday 2020’, and as outlined above, EA loves the launch of a new machine. Consider past Sony consoles, for instance: Madden 2001 emerged alongside PS2, PS3 hit shelves with Madden 07 alongside it, and the curiously titled Madden 25 accompanied PS4’s journey into stores. There’s no way the new consoles drop without Madden 21.
Current-gen editions are fairly straightforward to pin down too. Madden 18 hit PS4 and Xbox One on 25 August; Madden 19 on 7 August; and Madden 20 on 2 August. So the first week of August seems to be the current trend, with Friday 7 August being GamesRadar’s safe(ish) bet.
Madden 21 on PS5 and Xbox Series X: what to expect
Madden 21's feature set is almost as certain as its release date: this is unlikely to be a game which revolutionises an entire sport on day one. Previous launch editions have prioritised visuals over new mechanics, with devs still learning their way around new tech. This isn’t a rarity in the sports genre: both FIFA 21 and NBA 2K21 are likely to place a similar focus on panache over substance.
Still, it’ll be worth a look. Literally. 8K visuals are likely to make for spectacular hits, touchdowns and tantrums, although some notoriously wonky animations need to be eliminated if it’s to truly look like the real thing. With players hidden under helmets as live-action unfolds, you’d also hope to see more graphical power afforded to the finer details, such as authentic crowds and coaching staff reacting in real-time as events unfold in front of them.
Madden 21 cover star: Patrick Mahomes unlikely to repeat
Madden 20 cover vote winner Patrick Mahomes smashed the Madden curse in picking up this year’s Super Bowl MVP award, but EA never repeats its cover stars - so someone new will front Madden 21. The obvious choice by a wide margin is Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. A shock play-off defeat to the Titans crushed his Super Bowl hopes, but he was nonetheless the league’s best player during the regular season, and his mix of arm accuracy and ridiculous ground speed are perfect videogame attributes. Remember Michael Vick’s cheat-player years? Jackson is even better.
Leading the pack of less likely but still possible choices is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott: it’s half a decade since a running back appeared on the box, and that barren spell has to end eventually. Defensive players have also had a tough run of it, with Richard Sherman the last to grace a cover, for Madden 15 – perhaps New England’s 2019 defensive MVP Stephon Gilmore can buckle that trend. As for other QB options, veteran signal-callers Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) are always in the mix.
Madden 21 wishlist: fans want X-Factor and Face of the Franchise retooled
Superstar X-Factors and Face Of The Franchise were the big new series additions last year, and both seem certain to be back this year - although the always-opinionated Madden audience wants to see them tweaked. Tosstamer on the official EA forums wants X-Factors axed as he feels they make the game too unrealistic, with a few exceptions: “Route Apprentice, No-Look Deadeye, and Blitz Radar are cool because they don't make the gameplay feel like an arcade game.”
Over on Reddit, Patient-Scale outlines some sensible ways to improve Face Of The Franchise. “Make the college story and portion of the game longer,” he writes. “At least if [your guy] only plays his senior season make it more than two games. Add more cut-scenes from after college to before the draft. Add more cut-scenes after the draft. And add more cut-scenes at random points during the season: demanding a release, getting signed by another team. Make your character have a story. Let us play more positions, such as running back or defensive end. Have mini-games during the NFL season, like NBA 2K17 career mode.”
Both of the above are covered in more detail in GR’s Madden 21 features wishlist. Also included: a new physics engine, improved pass coverage, custom playbooks, and the immediate retirement of Bill Belichick. Okay, I made that last one up, but it really is well worth a read.
Madden 21 college teams: will we see more?
For many, the best element of Madden 20 was the outset of Face Of The Franchise. Here you got to briefly play as one of ten college teams en route to the NFL: Florida, LSU, Oregon, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, USC, Texas, Clemson, Miami and Florida State. Fan reaction was wholly positive, so you’d expect this option to return in some form.
If new teams are to be added, you’d expect EA to base their choices on last year’s CFP Rankings: five of the current top ten weren’t available in Madden 20. They are Ohio State, Georgia, Baylor, Wisconsin, and Penn State. At present, there’s no clue as to whether any will feature - but we’ll update this feature if and when any, or indeed all, are confirmed.