Madden NFL 22 review: A fresh change of pace

The long-running franchise finally gets some big changes.

Madden 22
(Image: © EA Sports)

The common criticism around the Madden NFL franchise (and a lot of other sports game franchises for that matter) is how the game feels stale despite multiple annual releases. For years now, some of the complaints surrounding the game have been that a handful of core modes — namely Franchise mode — haven't seen any major updates in some time.

Thankfully, with Madden NFL 22, things have finally changed. EA Sports came into this game clearly knowing what it wanted to change, and did so while also adding some big tweaks that make it feel even more like the real-life product on the field.

Madden NFL 22: What you'll love

Madden 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)
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TitleMadden NFL 22
DeveloperEA Tiburon
PublisherEA Sports
Xbox VersionXbox Series X
Game Size55.4 GB
Play Time30+ hours
PlayersSingle-player, Local/Online Multiplayer
Launch Price$70

When it comes to the world of sports games, change isn't something that happens all too often. When trying to replicate the on-field experiences of a sport, there's only so much a studio can do to make it all feel truly different year in and year out (just look at Madden NFL 21). However, with Madden NFL 22, instead of focusing on adding different game modes, developer EA Tiburon has instead turned its attention to many of the existing modes, and delivered what many fans have been wanting in the form of some pretty major overhauls.

Much like past entries in the Madden franchise, one of the first things you'll notice when jumping into the game — especially on a current-gen system like the Xbox Series X — is just how incredible the game looks. Not only do the upgraded graphics make for a much better-looking game, but the small tweaks to things like the broadcasting and crowd reactions make Madden NFL 22 look even realer than before. The detail you'd see in an actual NFL game is there, with players reacting both on the field and on the sidelines as if it were a real game. Similar to Madden NFL 21, EA Tiburon has continued to add to that level of detail, with quarterbacks like cover star Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers having their throwing motions and other small quirks they have at the line of scrimmage show up in the game.

Perhaps the biggest and strongest addition to Madden NFL 22 comes in the form of Dynamic Gameday.

EA Tiburon's committment to realism has also extended beyond just graphical upgrades. Perhaps the biggest and strongest addition to Madden NFL 22 comes in the form of Dynamic Gameday, something the studio added this year. As its name suggests, it helps dictate a multitude of things you'll experience in any given game. It's broken up into three components — Gameday Atmosphere, Gameday Momentum, and Next Gen Stats Star-Driven AI — all of which take the act of playing to the next level.

Gameday Momentum, much like its name suggests, is an addition that brings with it changes to the ebbs and flows of how you're playing. While homefield advantage has always existed in sports games, Madden NFL 22 tweaks this a bit with the addition of a new Momentum Meter and unlockable perks called M-Factors (Momentum Factors). These M-Factors are similar to how X-Factors exist in the game for specific players, but only for the 32 different stadiums in the NFL. Now, how you play in the game will either add or subtract from the the Momentum tracker that appears above the scoreboard. Each stadium also has its own unique M-Factors, ranging from playart not showing up to the buttons for receivers no longer appearing if you're performing too poorly.

The second piece, Gameday Atmosphere, isn't something you'll experience firsthand in gameplay, but rather something you'll feel while you play, bringing the scale and experience of the actual NFL to fans. Brand new crowd animations are now available, along with the additions of things like super fans in the stands and remastered audio that helps make any given stadium feel more alive. It isn't as big of an addition as say Gameday Momentum, but it does help make every round feel more like you're actually watching an NFL game and not simply playing a video game.

Finally, Next Gen Stats: Star-Driven AI is the latest addition and tweak to the games physics and overall gameplay feel. After initially being introduced in Madden NFL 21's Xbox Series X|S and PS5 versions, Next Gen Stats are back, and more detailed than ever. Similar to the real-life tool that the NFL uses to help break down the game of football, Next Gen Stats in Madden NFL 22 uses real-world data such as speed, separation, and more finer details like the routes players run or how fast players can break tackles.

The game then takes the data and applies it right to the AI behavior of the players on the field. Now, when you make a big play or break free of some tackles en route to a huge gain, the game will show you how fast you're going or just how much airtime you got on a pass. Alongside giving you more information on how certain teams play, Star-Driven AI will also affect how the non-player-controlled football players operate on the field. Smaller, faster linebackers will be able to hit a gap faster than before, while bigger, bruising hitters will have to make up for their lack of speed by landing some intimidating hits on their opponents instead.

Franchise Mode: Big changes where it matters

Perhaps the single biggest and most exciting change to Madden NFL 22 isn't in any new modes or new tweaks. Rather, it's in big changes to some of the core game modes, specifically its Franchise Mode. While the incorporation of Dynamic Gameday and changes to how the game plays and feels are always welcome, fans have been hoping for years that one of the most played modes would get some changes. Thankfully, EA Tiburon finally listened, and the result is the best Franchise Mode that Madden has ever put forward.

EA Sports has finally delivered a proper, overhauled version of Franchise, and it's great.

In case you're unaware, Franchise allows you to take over as the owner, general manager, or coach of a team and run it how you would like to. It's an excellent way to simulate being in charge of a football team, but it rarely got the care and attention it truly deserved. Following some massive outcry from fans last year, EA Sports has finally delivered a proper, overhauled version of Franchise, and it's great.

This year, many highly-requested updates to Franchise have been introduced, including a more detailed way to manage your staff as a general manager and coach. Now, instead of simply being the coach or owner of a team, you'll be able to see more of your coaching roster, including various coordinators, a player personnel department, and more. You can upgrade your straff now thanks to a newly included skill tree progression system that allows you to tweak exactly how you plan on building your team, whether it be going for an all-out offensive juggernaut or a more balanced team.

Alongside those two core changes, the ability to study and focus on plays for your team has been tweaked with a more comprehensive weekly game strategy system. Adding in week-to-week activities was a big focus for EA Tiburon, and it shows here, as ahead of each week's game, you'll be able to try and strike the right balance when it comes to how you want to prepare. If the team you're playing is a pass heavy offense, for example, you may want to focus on different defensive scenarios then you would if you were playing a run heavy team. Now, you can do this by tweaking your week-to-week strategies to tailor a specific gameplan for the opponent you're playing.

Further changes are also in the works for Franchise Mode, including an overhauled Scouting system that promises to add a more structured and robust way to scout future players. While these changes may not sound like much to players who don't dive into Franchise Mode, the changes are huge, and show that EA Tiburon is dedicated to actually listening to fans and addressing changes where they need to be made.

Madden NFL 22: What's not so great

Madden 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)

Elsewhere in Madden NFL 22, you'll find many of the same modes you've come to expect. Madden Ultimate Team — or MUT, as it's known — is back again, and continues to allow fans the chance to build up their own custom team by collecting cards. Thankfully, this mode has seen a bit of an upgrade over the last couple of years and relies a lot less heavily on microtransactions than it used to. Modes like Superstar KO and The Yard have also returned, although, unfortunately, neither of them seem to have been given any major changes.

Face of the Franchise doesn't feel like you're actually taking your custom character through the NFL.

The modes are still much of the same, offering bite-sized versions of football to play when you're not looking to dive into a full, simulated NFL game. While The Yard does feature more locations to explore, the gameplay can get a bit boring after a time. Superstar KO is similar; the 3v3 and 2v2 squad gameplay is fun, but hasn't changed or been improved too much since its initial release a couple of years ago.

One of the mainstay modes that did get changed a bit, however, is Face of the Franchise. Instead of a full-fledged narrative story, the rebuilt season instead drops you into the shoes of a player as he prepares for the life-changing aspect of being drafted into the NFL. Along the way, you'll experience a few cinematic moments that take you through working out for teams, signing deals with brand sponsors, and much more.

As nice as the mode getting reworked is to see, it never really feels all that different or enjoyable from a storytelling perspective. Small glimpses into the story such as signing on with brands or playing with a college team do more to show what could be than anything else. In a time where plenty of other sports games, including the FIFA and NBA 2K series, all sport nearly full-length singleplayer modes that allow you to create a character and grow them throughout multiple seasons, it's a bit disappointing to see that Madden's version is so barebones.

Once your Face of the Franchise player makes it in the NFL, you're essentially just playing a version of the game's Franchise Mode, which isn't bad, but doesn't feel like you're actually taking your custom character through the NFL.

Elsewhere, Madden NFL 22 sports some of the the problems that arise in other Madden entires, including various glitches and bugs that pop up while playing. While some of this can be explained thanks to the game not technically being out yet, it is disappointing to see so many of the same technical problems continue to pop up over the years.

Madden NFL 22: Should you play it?

Madden 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)

At the end of the day, fans of football are going to play the latest Madden entry in one way or another. However, for fans who may have left the series after years of stagnation, Madden NFL 22 is perhaps the best entry in the series in a long time. Tiny improvements to the way the game plays, ranging from better catch controls to tackling improvements, make gameplay feel even better than it ever was.

Tweaks to gameplay aside, not only is it still the most realistic way to play an NFL game, but the addition of things like Dynamic Gameday make the game feel much more like a fully-fledged experience than simply a simulated video game. Along with huge changes to its Franchise Mode, Madden NFL 22 is a must-play for any fans of football, and would be the perfect entry to dive back into for fans who may be ready to step onto the field once again.

Madden NFL 22 retails for $70 ($60 on last-gen consoles) and is available on PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

Anthony J Nash

Anthony Nash has been writing about games and the gaming industry for nearly a decade. When he’s not writing about games, he’s usually playing them. You can find him on Twitter talking about games or sports at @_anthonynash.