It’s impossible to find a more maligned video game series than Madden. Each year fans hope for massive changes that will return the game to brilliance, and more often than not they’re let down. While Madden 24 doesn’t quite represent massive strides in game modes some might hope for, the on-field play is better than it’s ever been, making this year’s iteration a must-play for lapsed fans of the franchise.
All it took was one thing: Embracing imperfection.
The biggest issue with Madden in recent years has been predictability. No matter how many gameplay tweaks or innovations were been added, there remained a prevailing sense of predictability. Certain plays would always work, and AI defenders would consistently react in the same way. This turned the game into rote memorization, with the only surprises being when a contested pass was randomly caught or intercepted from stupid, unrealistic angles that made the ball feel like a magnet and ruined the experience.
This year everything is different. Defenders play the ball like actual football players do. It might sound boring, but it completely changes the passage of play. A defensive back who isn’t square to the ball is far more likely to swat it away, rather than making a ludicrous diving interception we’d never see on Sunday. Cornerbacks don’t have the catching skill of a wide receiver, meaning they will drop picks as well — pounding their fists on the ground in frustration.
This would have been a pick in past games, now it’s a swat.
This change to passing extends to the entire field. Offensive linemen will miss their assignments, linebackers occasionally take bad angles on a ball carrier, a safety with poor awareness might blow their coverage and backpedal to a weird part of the zone, leaving open a massive catching window for a receiver to streak into.
It never feels overdone, or like the players are all roaming idiots — but it’s clearly a definite decision by the developers to make Madden 24 feel more like the NFL, and damn if it doesn’t work.
This commitment to imperfection makes defense more fun to play in years. Playing as an EDGE rusher has never felt better, as the game has transformed from simply picking the right pass rush move and collapsing the pocket. The possibility of a lineman missing a block opens up new angles into the backfield, and when paired with quarterback mistakes makes everything feel so good. In one of my first games I managed to blow past the Bucs’ line with Brian Burns, only to find Baker Mayfield flustered in the pocket running around desperately waiting for a receiver to get open. In the past he might have delivered a terrible deep pass, but with coverage blanketed I took him down for a 12 yard loss. It was just as exciting as a touchdown.
Ryan Tannehill runs for his life, giving up a safety.
This is part of new AI logic for quarterbacks. As a result you will see players being much more like their real-life counterparts. A gunslinger like Matthew Stafford is far more likely to risk throwing a contested pass to any of his receivers than someone like Kirk Cousins — who won’t throw risky passes outside of two minutes drills to anyone but Justin Jefferson.
Secondary play is overhauled as well. You won’t get as many highlight-worthy user picks in Madden 24, but by the same token a catch in traffic is much less likely to happen. The ball is much more likely to be jarred loose if you drop the boom with a safety moments after a catch the ball, resulting in an incompletion — rather than seeing a receiver magically hold onto the ball after a hit that we just wouldn’t see in the NFL.
The game isn’t perfect, make no mistake. Once again there will be no shortage of glitches, random moments, and especially with the commitment to mistakes on defense we’ll see some wild TikToks of players making boneheaded moves. That doesn’t preclude Madden 24 from taking the biggest strides the game has in years, and making it more compelling to play than ever before.
At the time of writing the online suite was not available, so I can’t speak to the competitive experience — but as a player who spends the majority of time playing vs. the computer it’s safe to say this is the best Madden has felt … ever.
This is the second year of FieldSENSE, which EA Sports released last year to mixed results. It was a positive stride last year, but felt incomplete. In Madden 24 it feels fully realized, resulting in the smoothest gameplay we’ve seen in years.
The biggest addition is to passing, which makes QB play more engaging (and difficult). Some fans will be turned off the added complexity of ball placement, but it really rewards those willing to sink some time in, rather than revert to the old system. Rather than the old trio of bullet-lob-touch pass, there’s now the ability to lead receiver better with targeted passing, as well as choose ball placement with elements like back shoulder throws and high throws, which allows for more control in critical passing situations like the goal line.
The ball being jarred loose more often results in a more realistic feel.
Outside of the in-game experience the improvements are a little less noticeable. Numerous small tweaks have been made to franchise mode, and it’s a step in the right direction — but not as pronounced as some had hoped. Notably the GM logic is better, however, meaning you won’t see as many random cuts and stupid trades that ruin the immersion of the season. Another welcome addition is the concept of “generational prospects,” who have a chance of appearing leading up to a draft — adding an element of depth and realism when it comes to teams tanking, and changing their fortunes overnight.
It’s been said that Madden 24 is “make or break” for the franchise, which is hyperbole — but expresses some of the frustrations fans have had with a lack of improvements in recent years. It’s unclear if the game will do enough to satiate desires, but I can confidently say that Madden 24 feels like a true evolution of the franchise in the best way, and the biggest jump the game has made in years. It feels more like actual football than ever before, and the on-field product truly feels revolutionary in a lot of way that die-hard football fans will appreciate.
You owe it to yourself to check out Madden 24 if you’re a lapsed fan who’s believed that the franchise has been the same game for years, because this truly feels like the start of a turnaround that could recapture the heart of players.
Madden NFL 24 will be released on August 18 on Playstation 5, Xbox Series X and S, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC. It was reviewed on Xbox Series X using a code provided by EA Sports.