Madden’s reign as the premier American Football title has remained unchallenged for a number of years, and it’s fair to say that as the sole place to get your NFL fix, players’ expectations are high. Top of the list each year for many Madden fans is an updated Franchise mode, and while the last few years haven’t felt like much more than an incremental update, Madden 24 looks to be making a positive step downfield.
Madden 24 is year one on a longer journey for Franchise, and the biggest new addition for this year is the return of mini-games, a series of fun-focused events that might task you with breaking targets like in Target Attack, or avoiding a sack for as long as possible while a series of obstacles litter the field as in Backfield Survival. There’s 25 different mini-games so far, and there’s going to be more coming as EA continue to support the game through the year. They serve a dual purpose, letting you play the game in fun and unique ways, while surreptitiously helping you to get better at the game. Sneaky, huh?
Mirroring the real-world off-season in the NFL, Franchise mode begins with training camp. Training camp is made up of a series of mini-games which both test and improve your own abilities and allow you to level up those on the digital field with improved stats as well.
Mini-games aren’t solely locked into Franchise mode though, with all mini-games playable straight from main menu. These are currently only single player, but during our time with the team they did talk about the future potential of leaderboards and multiplayer options, though this might not be something we see this year.
A number of top community requests have made it into this year’s edition, and that includes an array of trade improvements. You’ve now got six slots to play with in trades, allowing you to capture more NFL authenticity and build meaningful packages by trading up to three players at once, and as many picks as you like up to a total of six. Those draft picks can also be up to three years in advance, so you can go all Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch and bet the house on a player who’ll get injured after two games.
There’s also what they’re calling Free Agency 2.0, as well as coaching trees and draft class generators. There’s now a third tree for all coaching staff, and position-focused coordinators to enhance position groups. Those coordinators then have 24 unique play-style trees for a greater range of variety.
Free agency will now also give your more options for contract restructuring. There’s the addition of a fifth year option in the re-sign UI, and a huge emphasis on AI improvements for those fifth-year options and restructuring. Teams will now no longer let their biggest players go in an unrealistic fashion, making the whole process feel more grounded and believable, which is going to be a huge boon for multi-season players.
There’s new draft class generators too, with the possibility of generational talents at every position. Add to that more 99 club generators, legend generators, and even out-of-position generators for creating those hybrid utility players like Taysom Hill, Deebo Samuel etc. so as your franchise mode progresses, new talent will continue to grow and evolve in unique and meaningful ways.
Relocation has now been moved to Coach Mode. There’s new city options, and more uniform and logo varieties. In fact there’s a grand total of 32 new uniforms, with 3 variations for each bringing the total up to 96. You can then mix and match tops and bottoms for a bit more variety. The ones we saw during our preview session looked very cool, particularly the dragon-flavoured option and a surprisingly gentle woodland theme.
Tinkerers will be swayed by the commissioner settings which will give players more control over their leagues. You now have a host of options to play with including age XP sliders, trade difficulty, toggling home field advantage, adjustable draft timers, progression/regression sliders, toggle reorder depth chart, play cool down counts, player motivation impact, fantasy draft order, and Free Agency negotiations per stage. It feels as though Madden 24 is trying harder than ever to make this year’s edition one that players will stick with, and become fully immersed in, for the next 12 months, and it’s these details that will hopefully help to make it a reality.
Beyond Franchise, one of the other key elements is the return of Superstar. The Superstar Career mode begins with the NFL Combine, and thanks to those shiny new mini-games, EA Tiburon has been able to build it from the ground up. Performance here impacts the start of your progression loop, so if you do well in the Combine that’ll reflect in your player’s stat floor. Take them into a game situation and they’ll be continually assessed and awarded a grade based upon how well they’re doing out there, with real-time feedback on every play for every position.
That includes rewards for simply doing your job, even if you’re off the ball or not directly involved in the play. From there you have new post-game reporting, and the inclusion of missions (which they brand as side quests) which include building your brand, your team and your influence. If you choose to grind for it, you can make your player into a true generational talent, and one which you’ve led on the path to get there.
Finally there’s Superstar Showdown, which is the spiritual successor/replacement for the disappointing The Yard. We were told that it’s a new way to play, though personally, it looked like a sensible evolution of The Yard’s better ideas. This 3v3 or 6v6 arcade focused mode lets you take your created player online for both ranked and unranked play, and there’ll be live events throughout the year. The score goes to 21, rather than The Yard’s three plays each, with deadlocks being broken by Last Stand which kicks in if you started with possession and reached 21 first and your opponent is within scoring range. This is really the only place where the pieces for Madden 24 felt a little misaligned, but that’s probably because I’d rather they went ahead and made a new NFL Street instead. Still, with cross-progression for your created player there’s reason enough to spend time here as a way of cooling down from the more serious stuff elsewhere.
Madden 24 launches on 18th of August, and for the first time will feature cross-play across PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.