Also On: PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Developer: EA Tiburon
Madden is synonymous with NFL video games. You walk into a Best Buy or Gamestop, you don?t ask the poor soul working there for the latest NFL title or if there are any other NFL games, you go and ask for Madden! There have been other football titles (I?m sure I?ll bring up this more later) but in the past decade plus, it?s strictly been Madden. To many, Madden is just the title of the only football game in town every year, but to old fans like myself, Madden stands for John Madden, the former NFL head coach and broadcast announcer. I?m not quite old enough to remember Madden as a coach but I do remember him on commentary. His partnership with Pat Summerall was the peanut butter and jelly of NFL commentary. Some of my favorite memories from the late 90?s and early 00?s featured Madden and Summerall on many of the calls (including my guilty pleasure movie; The Replacements). As many of you probably know John Madden passed away at the end of 2021 and this year?s release features Madden returning to the cover and many little touches to thank the man. I figured before I talk about Madden 23, I?d do my own tribute. Madden has been there for my entire football fandom. From commentary, turkey legs and of course video gaming, his legacy is certainly eternal and will continue to usher in new fans with this franchise for many years to come.
Now let?s talk some video games! This review is a tale of two Madden 23s, one for the current gen Xbox Series X and the other is for PC (both provided by EA). Let?s go into the one I admittedly was more excited about; the PC version. As many of you who read my reviews could put together, I don?t have a gaming PC and very rarely did any gaming on a PC, that was until last month when my long-awaited Steam Deck preorder was fulfilled. Saying the Steam Deck is a Switch on steroids is even an understatement. I?ve been building my Steam library so I could have some of my favorite console games on the go with the Deck and Madden was one of those titles I really wanted to see on a portable.
Not since the PS Vita has Madden been portable and I?ve missed the ability to play anywhere I wanted. Enter Madden 23. I downloaded the game onto my Deck and while it was not verified or even officially supported at time, it runs! Now you do have some weird installation quirks to deal with, as it made me install Origin and that caused a little headache for me to setup, but once it was, I was off to the endzone.
Madden NFL 23 on the Steam Deck is everything I?ve ever wanted from a portable football experience. While there?s a little more to it, it?s still an unbelievable experience to play Madden in this fidelity on a handheld. It is important to mention that this release is lacking the current gen features, like the new passing (more on this later) and the momentum bar that was introduced last season. The PC version looks to be built on the last gen console engine, which isn?t necessarily a bad thing. While it did throw me for a loop going back and forth from the PC and XSX versions, I didn?t mind. Remember take my PC review from a different perspective, because I looked at this release as a way to finally play Madden on the go and not settle for graphic or feature compromises, and in my opinion it more than delivers. I suspect this will be my primary go to for games this season.
But let us not forget about our (my) roots; the console release of Madden 23. One of the biggest changes to Madden in the past several years is Fieldsense. More realistic tackling and on field logic are some of the big changes introduced in Fieldsense, but the biggest change comes with all new skill-based passing. Gone is the on-field circle to show you exactly where the ball will be delivered from the quarterback. Playing against the AI this wasn?t a huge deal in the past but playing head to head with another human player, this on field circle showed the player exactly where to go to stop the potential completion. With the new skill-based passing you see more of a bubble on the field where the ball will be delivered, and as the quarterback you can decide where exactly in that bubble the ball is thrown and how much force is needed to get it where you want it. The level of risk verses reward with the new passing system is fantastic and easy to learn but tough to master. Paired with Fieldsense, Madden 23 feels like an all new experience while still looking very much like last year?s release.
Beyond the addition of Fieldsense, most features are carryovers from the past couple years? including the menu (eye roll). I did have some issues progressing in Ultimate Team and having to redo challenges, but I just chalk this up to playing during prerelease and release weekend. Face of the Franchise is a good time, but I don?t really gravitate to playing as a single player and the tried and true Franchise mode is my usual go to, and this year is no different. Outside of that, I?m going to hammer the same drum I have been with every Madden release. The game presentation just doesn?t do it for me and it?s definitely time for an overhaul. EA had the rights, I?m not sure if they still do, but they could easily license at least one of the many networks and use their TV overlay to enhance the look of Madden. The 2K series used the ESPN graphics and broadcasters in the early 2000?s, I still don?t understand why EA doesn?t emulate any of this. Even give the option of switching between presentations should be expected. If you look at MLB The Show, they provide overlay and commentary both from the MLB.TV team and The Show?s team.
Regardless of me being an old man yelling at the sky about the licensed presentation (or lack thereof), Madden NFL 23 is a win for console and PC. Now like I mentioned earlier, my PC use case is extremely particular, but I assume many players are now in a similar situation. Sports games on handheld have never been a great experience and Madden 23 is the first to really wow me, which is more of an example of how great the Steam Deck is, but I can?t hold that against Madden. As far as the current gen console release, Fieldsense is truly a game changer and made me think more about ball placement than I ever have in a football game. Dropping an over the should pass from Russell Wilson to Jerry Jeudy just feels extra satisfying, especially when it?s over Chiefs defensive backs. PC or Console, either way you?re a winner.
Note: EA provided us with a Madden NFL 23 Xbox Series X/PC code for review purposes.