Few game series’ have ever lasted as long as John Madden’s NFL. Electronic Arts Tiburon has carried this franchise for almost 30 years now, iterating on the series’ staple mechanics and game modes such as Franchise, The League, Madden Ultimate Team, and more. These games are jam-packed with content, offering different ways of play that could keep you passing the ball for hours alone or with friends.
This review will take a different approach to what Madden NFL 24 is. For the many players that buy this game (often on a yearly basis), this entry is tailored to them and those players know what they want from the game anyway. But what about those who don’t know much about American Football? The last time I played a Madden NFL was the same year Halo 3 smashed records on the Xbox 360. I know little about the NFL and how their games play, so this time around I come in as a player wanting to learn more about the sport. It’s only natural, considering this is the only officially licensed NFL series on the market as of this writing.
Let’s find out how Madden NFL 24 onboards the sprouts.
Get Your Head in the Game
Starting up NFL 24, you’ll be greeted with a number of settings off the bat to tweak and play with. This ranges from what passing systems you prefer to accessibility settings that include colourblind modes, menu narration, and the like. You can test the control schemes of the passing systems as well in this menu so you can get a better idea of what will work for you.
You can also change the difficulty of the computer bots as well choose whether the game plays more arcade like or focuses on the simulation aspects. Me, being as green as I am, went with the easier difficulty and the arcade mode since I’d like to have some fun. And of course, being a Chicagoan, I picked the one and onely team I know besides the Green Bay Packers: The Chicago Bears.
After all that, you’ll have multiple modes of play to choose from. You could jump right into Madden’s Ultimate Team, load up and manage your own NFL Team Franchise, build your own lineman in The League campaign mode, jump into a tutorial mode to learn some of the basics, and lastly simply jumping into a quick play session for a solo or coop round.
Madden NFL 24 offers me a lot of choices. Honestly it’s a bit overwhelming, but there is one thing I noticed as I was trudging through these options and that was the overall user experience. NFL 24’s user interface (and as whole, the experience) is not very intuitive nor pleasent. You’ll immediately notice how slow and unresponsive it is as you wade through options. Some modes, such as Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team, have it far worse. I would watch as my menu either failed to load, loaded menu options offscreen, or simply ate my controller inputs. For a game that could have you spending a lot of time looking at its menus, experiencing these performance issues made me want to stay far away from either Ultimate Team and Franchise.
But before I get ahead of myself, lemme talk about these two menu-heavy modes: Ultimate Team and Franchise. Ultimate Team is all about building your dream team through paid packs of cards that contain players, coaches, and everything that makes a sports team to begin with. These players are rated based on their real-world performances and getting the best players is key to destroying your opponents when you take your team online.
I’m no stranger to gacha games and I was willing to put the work in setting up my team. And although the game mentions how much easier it is to get into Ultimate Team, my time with it was burdened with performance issues that kept me away as I would spend minutes trying to get card packs to open or even put together my team. But also I’m not particularly fond of modes that encourage heavy microtransactions so ultimately I chose to pass on this mode. On a positive note, this mode does get crossplay between PlayStation and PC users so returning players will have more teams to challenge.
Franchise is up next and this mode is all about managing a team to your own time frame as opposed to Ultimate Team, which is a league that continues throughout the game’s lifespan. You can choose to pick up a preexisting league or make your own. You can choose to have that league played online or simply make an offline league and keep to yourself. I went with an offline league at first, having good fun getting the Bears to win games, but ultimately moved on from this mode because of how slow the overall experience was. Simming games was dreadfully slow.
Now up to this point I’ve had nothing but complaints regarding the game’s user experience. Thankfully, when you get into the game, NFL 24 is really fun to play. Well, for my time it was a lot of fumbling about figuring out what all the jargon meant. But between choosing the right strategy and passing the ball with perfect accuracy, it’s pretty satisfying making a touchdown after a tense standoff with the defense. I can’t comment all that much on physics, but I love how there’s a lot of unique animations for particular situations, like when one of my players caught the ball through a gaping hole of other players and a hail mary that I spotted as one of my linemen sprinted to the goal.
Quick play gets you into the action the fastest and if you want to have a good time just playing the sport. Or you can go into The League, a playable campaign that takes a custom character of your making and brings them to an NFL team right outta college. I liked this mode a lot as I have with other sports games because micromanaging one person’s growth over a whole team’s is just more enjoyable for me. I thought the cutscenes were pretty well done, too. Speaking of, visually the game looks nice. Performance never drops even in image quality mode and the players have a lot detail on their clothing as well. I did run into some funny visual glitches, some more annoying than others such as overlapping menus including prompts, however.
But one thing I couldn’t help but notice was that my eyes were glossing over a lot of the game’s terms. As a new player to American Football, I felt that the tutorials were inadequate. Heck, when the game gave me tutorials, the information was often presented in giant blocks of text that was hard to parse—almost like it was made for a monitor rather than a large TV (and of course, the laggy menu didn’t help). And running through the training modes still made me feel like I was being left in the dark with how to best manage my teams, players, or even getting a feel for the core mechanics of the game.
Madden NFL 24 is made for the returning fans. One title in a series that will continue to go for many years to come. You can see it in the features they’ve added, such as returning modes and iterative improvements on the presentation and gameplay mechanics. But technical issues compounded with an unintuitive user experience and unhelpful tutorials make it difficult for someone new to the sport to really sink their teeth into American Football. Still, the core gameplay is solid and fun to play—I just wish it were easier to get to.
Madden NFL 24
Xbox Series X
- Strong gameplay and simulation mechanics.
- Lots of modes of play to choose from.
- Good visuals and animations are top-notch.
- User experience and menus are unintuitive and really slow, affecting some of the game's pillar modes.
- Tutorials aren't the best. Players new to American Football will easily feel bogged down.