August 20, 2021
It’s August, so football fans all over the U.S. know what that means: another Madden NFL game is on the horizon. After the loud negative feedback and backlash from the community over last year’s game, EA Sports and developer EA Tiburon have been more transparent about the improvements, changes, and additions coming to Madden NFL 22. Following the initial reveal, EA Tiburon has continued putting out blog posts and videos detailing exactly what players can expect to encounter when they first go under center in the new iteration.
While this isn’t quite comprehensive given how much we truly know about this year’s game, we’ve compiled all the major beats and information in an easy-to-digest format for those hoping to get caught up on everything coming to Madden NFL 22.
The on-the-field action was solid last year, but it left plenty to be desired. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Madden NFL 21 implemented the NFL’s Next-Gen Stats into every play, and now, Madden NFL 22 is picking up that ball and running it further down the field. This year, the effects of Next-Gen Stats are wider-reaching. Players now feel more true-to-life thanks to additional route-running and player-speed data, meaning they’ll accelerate, cut, and move more like the real-life player they’re replicating. Receivers also have more situational awareness for things like sideline toe-drags and jump-balls against defenders, while quarterbacks have more control both in and out of the pocket.
These stats are also used to improve the A.I., against which more than 80 percent of Madden games are played in 2021. The new Star-Driven A.I. means players behave much more like their real-world counterparts, with each player feeling distinct in the decisions they make. For example, quarterbacks in Madden NFL 22 will make decisions under pressure similar to the real player. This applies to passing on the run, open-field pathfinding, and the A.I.’s knowledge of opposing X-Factor abilities. This means that on a team level, facing off against a pass-heavy offense feels very different from one that relies more on the ground game.
Speaking of different offenses, player momentum is taken more into account this year, with each ballhandler’s size, speed, and traits being weighed when they collide with defenders. This also comes into play with blocking for running and passing, leading to more dynamic pockets and running lanes.
Everyone who has ever been to a big game in any sport knows the rush that comes when the crowd is really into the action. EA Sports hopes to replicate that feeling this year. The new Gameday Atmosphere mechanics (available on new-gen versions of the game) bring the crowd to life in fresh ways through remastered crowd noise, new animations, “hero” crowd characters, and boosts and modifiers for the teams on the field. For example, playing a game in the Windy City of Chicago makes it tougher for kicks to fly straight, while throws and kicks soar farther in the Mile High City of Denver, but the visiting players will have a hard time catching their breath. Each stadium features different characteristics, rituals, and boosts that affect the way the game plays out.
The moment-to-moment action of Madden NFL 22 also introduces a new Gameday Momentum meter, which tracks which team is currently dictating the flow of the game and grants additional bonuses to them. Prior to this, the NCAA Football series used similar ideas, but Madden NFL 22 tries to be more direct with its approach to how it rewards bonuses. While these boosts are similar to the Gameday Atmosphere and stadium characteristics mentioned above, they are determined and doled out based on how well a team is playing at that point in the game. As the momentum shifts back and forth, teams and players unlock M-Factors, additional bonuses like making it difficult to call plays, causing the kicker to be less accurate, or making receivers less effective at running hot routes. Either team can capture the momentum and unlock their own M-Factors, but to further hammer home the notion of home-field advantage, the home team has one additional unlockable M-Factor.
Putting Franchise Back on Track
One of the biggest complaints from the community over the last couple of years has been how little emphasis has been put on the popular Franchise mode. It became such a big deal in the community that EA Tiburon laid out a roadmap last year and updated Madden NFL 21’s Franchise mode through three post-launch updates. Those updates carry into this year’s game while adding more enhancements, plus more post-launch tools and content coming in the months following Madden NFL 22’s launch.
Players can take better control of their staff thanks to a new Franchise Staff page that lets you build, grow, and customize four coaching staff positions with RPG skill trees. As you play, you earn experience points, which can be used to open more than 60 different talents for your head coach, player personnel, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator. Players can also expect more talents to be added following launch.
One of the big sticking points for EA Tiburon this year was making each week feel distinct. While the aforementioned crowd and stadium mechanics help, a new weekly strategy screen in Franchise hammers this notion home as you have to gameplan for your opponent’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. On top of that, you can manage practice intensity each week to further monitor player health on a week-to-week basis. Are the fullest benefits of hard, daily practices worth the health risks associated? You get to make the call using this new feature.
Franchise is already looking better right out of the gate, but EA Tiburon has committed to improving the fan-favorite mode in several ways following launch. The most substantial update comes first by way of a new in-depth scouting system. This update, targeted for September, will allow you to assign scouts to particular regions and see much more in-depth results from your scouting trips. Unfortunately, post-launch additions will require those already in the middle of a Franchise playthrough to restart in order to take advantage of the updates, otherwise they can continue on their saves without the new features.
If Franchise isn’t really your thing, Madden NFL 22 still has plenty to offer, including The Yard, Madden Ultimate Team, Face of the Franchise, and Superstar K.O. This time around, your progression in the arcade-style The Yard and the story-driven, single-player mode Face of the Franchise are intertwined. As such, you have a unified character that jumps between the modes. When you create your character, you equip various Player Classes, including classes based on Jalen Ramsey, Chase Young, Travis Kelce, Jamal Adams, and more. While some Player Classes are shared between the two modes, others are exclusive to either The Yard or Face of the Franchise. The shared classes can be leveled up in either mode and feature Superstar X-Factor abilities, which, once unlocked in one mode, are also available in the other mode. Each class unlocks skill points to spend, boosting specific ratings to make each class play uniquely and more suited for your play style.
Looking specifically at The Yard, you still have challenges – both solo or co-op – to complete. This year, you can visit friends worldwide in the mode, battle powerful boss characters like Patrick Mahomes, and unlock new gear for your player. The Yard’s campaign is split into four chapters with different venues and modes. Each venue features house rules like more points awarded for interceptions or defensive touchdowns. The ultimate goals are winning the game, achieving statistical objectives, and accomplishing an in-game action like a diving touchdown. After you beat each venue’s boss, you have the chance to recruit them to play on your squad in the future, plus you unlock venue-specific rewards like exclusive gear.
If you’re more of a single-player fan, Face of the Franchise’s new iteration is called United We Rise. Starting in the Road to the Draft, you step into the cleats of a generational prospect entering the 2021 NFL Draft. This year, you can choose between quarterback, wide receiver, halfback, or linebacker. You start out training with and competing against some of the biggest names in the NFL at the Nike Headquarters. You can improve your draft by playing in the College Football Playoff, attending NFL team interviews, and participating in private workouts.
The mode requires you to make difficult decisions to help shape the trajectory of your career. For example, early on, you’re invited to a Hawaiian charity game that conflicts with a Nike-sponsored exhibition match scheduled to take place in New York. Depending on which game you choose to attend, you’ll head to that event’s unique venue for some six-on-six ironman football alongside some of the NFL elite. The mode also presents you with flashback games and interviews, all building up to your budding NFL career.
The decision-making also includes side activities you can complete for weekly buffs and a storyline system used to set up new challenges and gameplay moments within the context of the season. Finally, Face of the Franchise tasks you with handling the most clutch situations in the NFL with Pressure Moments. These unique scenarios include bouncing back from a slow start or pushing your team into comeback mode after a thunderstorm delays the game. For PS5 and Xbox Series X/S players, these moments stack with the native Dynamic Gameday mechanics mentioned above.
The Best Players and Teams
The reveal of the Madden player ratings is always a big deal for fans, and at this stage, we already know who the best players are in Madden NFL 22. The 99 Club, as EA Sports has dubbed it, includes the best of the best, with only a fraction of a percentage of players in the league receiving the highest rating by the developers. Interestingly enough, the five highest-rated players in the game are spread across just three teams. The following players are starting the 2021 season with the elusive 99 overall rating:
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Aaron Donald, DE, Los Angeles Rams
Jalen Ramsey, CB, Los Angeles Rams
The players who just missed out on the 99 Club include Arizona Cardinals WR Deandre Hopkins, Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett, Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill, and Dallas Cowboys RG Zack Martin, all of whom received 98 overall ratings. The best quarterbacks in the game (aside from Mahomes) include Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady (97 overall), Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (96 overall), and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (94 overall). The best running backs are Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey (97 overall), Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (96 overall), and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (96 overall). Meanwhile, the best wide receivers in the game aside from Adams, Hopkins, and Hill are Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs (97 overall), Tennesee’s Julio Jones (95 overall), and New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (94 overall).
If you’re looking for the best teams, the defending Super Bowl champions bring up the front of the pack, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers grabbing a 92 overall rating, followed by the team they beat, the Kansas City Chiefs, with a 90 overall rating. The Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns round out the top 5. For those looking to start their Franchise mode in the rebuilding phase, the three worst teams in the game are the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and Detroit Lions, all of which have lower than a 75 overall rating.
Madden NFL 22 launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC on August 20. However, if you preorder the MVP Edition ($100) or the Dynasty Edition ($120), you can get early access starting August 17. If you purchase the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One MVP or Dynasty Edition, you can upgrade to the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S version at no additional cost. As usual, the upgrade must occur within the same console family (PlayStation 4 upgrades to PlayStation 5 and Xbox One upgrades to Xbox Series X/S).
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