Madden NFL 24 review: Varsity Blues

Madden NFL 24 review: Varsity Blues

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

28th Aug 2023 13:22

As much as anyone can love sports, I've always had a soft spot for a good sports movie. They're formulaic, sure, maybe even a little predictable, but whether it's Varsity Blues or Remember The Titans, there's always a feel-good story in there as a ragtag team beats the odds.

In this story arc, Madden NFL 24 feels like the franchise is down, but not quite out. It's still some way from that big team talk that'll take it up another level, meaning at the moment it's at that "all is lost" moment.

There's a decent enough game of football in here, but it's struggling to take the field.

GGRecon Verdict

Madden NFL 24 feels like it needs a team talk that'll ruffle some feathers, but without it, the franchise feels like it'll be doomed to repeat the same season again, and again.

It's time for EA to break the cycle, but if history is anything to go by, we could be approaching a redemption story.

Maddening

Madden 24 gameplay of players on a pitch
Click to enlarge

Just as with those predictable movies, we've seen this coming from way off - each year, Madden's evolution has felt like it's slowed down to the point where some of it is actually regressing now.

Whereas menus used to be snappy, it's drastically slower now, with moving between modes almost comically slow and cumbersome (we didn't have the same issues on the field, thankfully). Still, at least the soundtrack is great, with the likes of Wiz Khalifa and Jack Harlow making appearances.

If we're in Madden 2006 territory where our plucky heroes are about to pick themselves up and have the season of their lives next year, then EA will want to look into building around its Ultimate Team star player.

The mode remains, as it ever was, a cash cow, but it's disappointing to see that everything else appears to have stayed in place or, worse, regressed.

Madden 24 gameplay showing a player tackling another
Click to enlarge

The Face of the Franchise mode is gone, perhaps the best analogue to my laboured metaphor throughout this review, and I'd be less inclined to look at it longingly if its replacement, Superstar mode, was more exciting. 

It's just flat throughout, lacking the manufactured tension of its predecessors, putting players in the cleats of blank slate 'Cap', and having him complete ever ridiculous feats of football to hit the highest ratings. Seriously, you can put in an all-timer performance and the game will give you the faintest pat on the back and a B or C grade.

Gridiron Gang

Madden NFL 24 screenshot showing a player's closeup
Click to enlarge

It feels, in many ways, like EA's focus this year around has been in on-the-field action, and to that end, they've succeeded big time in visuals - Madden NFL 24 is a great-looking game.

There are caveats (new celebrations are great, but when my injured player is taking part I have to question just how injured he is), but players look fantastic through improved lighting and textures, even in those sluggish menus.

I'd hesitate to put it on par with NBA 2K, which for me, remains the best-looking sports franchise around, but it's jumped ahead of FIFA by a few notches - at least until EA Sports FC arrives.

That extends to the new Skeletal Animation System, too, where I've seen more surprising catches that I'd given up on, and more realistic tackles that send players tumbling around on, and off the pitch. It used to be easy to predict when a player was going to drop a catch, to the point where you'd put the controller down early.

In Madden NFL 24, I went to do the same, only to hastily pick it up after realising that, no, my receiver had caught it in mid-air while tumbling over the shoulders of a defender.

It adds additional drama to a sport built on it, but in many ways, it feels too small an update to justify picking this up over last year's game.

The Verdict

Madden NFL 24 feels like it needs a team talk that'll ruffle some feathers, but without it, the franchise feels like it'll be doomed to repeat the same season again, and again.

It's time for EA to break the cycle, but if history is anything to go by, we could be approaching a redemption story.

2.5/5

Reviewed on PS5. Review code provided by the publisher.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.