‘Madden NFL 24’ review: Better blocking makes a world of difference

Every year around this time, gamers hold their breath in hopes that EA will actually release an improved version of Madden. Far too often, it feels like the same game with a new title, updated rosters and a fresh coat of paint on the menus.

While “Madden NFL 24” isn’t a massive overhaul or dramatic improvement from last year’s game, it certainly does have a more realistic feel and is more enjoyable to play. Physics are better, blocking is as good as it’s ever been and player animations mirror their real-life counterparts much more closely than they have in years past.

And I’m not just talking about the ability to throw a diving pass with Patrick Mahomes in Madden 24 ­– which will undoubtedly happen far more often in the videogame than it actually does on Sundays.

But overall, Madden 24 takes a sizable step in the right direction from a gameplay perspective, which means you’re less likely to throw your controller through the TV because the right tackle stayed in his pre-snap stance while watching Nick Bosa plant the quarterback in the turf.

Gameplay improvements

If you’ve played recent versions of Madden, you’ve probably grown incredibly frustrated by the blocking mechanics. It got to the point where the game became unenjoyable because too often, the guard would let a pass rusher run right by him and sack your quarterback in 0.5 seconds. I’m happy to say the blocking is way better this year.

I actually saw my tackle help block the defensive tackle before moving up to the second level to seal off the linebacker on a running play. And boy, was it a beautiful sight.

Defenders are much less likely to randomly teleport to the ball for an interception, making a ridiculous play despite not even having his head turned toward the throw. That’s a nice improvement.

You’ll be happy to know that defenders have gotten smarter against spam plays, too. According to EA, “run defenders play smarter, picking up on repeated use of the same play from the same formation, in which case they will hit their gaps quicker.” That’s far more realistic because if a team were to run the same outside zone play 10 times in a row, the linebacker would probably pick up on it. Probably.

Also on the gameplay front, I noticed fewer throw-aways by computer-controlled quarterbacks. One of my biggest gripes in recent Madden editions was how often AI quarterbacks would throw the ball away despite standing in the pocket with good protection – and no grounding penalty would be called. That doesn’t happen very much in Madden 24.

Where gameplay can still improve

Listen, drops happen in the NFL. I get it. But it seems like they happen an unrealistic number of times in Madden still. Even players with good catch ratings drop passes too much, especially with no defender around.

I wasn’t exactly pleased with Van Jefferson dropping this perfect throw from Stafford on fourth down despite it hitting him squarely in the hands. Again, it happens in real life but not as often as it does in this game.

Other bugs I noticed: Sometimes the game would pause briefly as the camera flipped after an interception. Other times, it wouldn’t. That might seem like a minor thing, but that tiny inconsistency makes it tougher to return interceptions after they’re made.

There are still some wonky physics when collisions happen, especially after the play, where players will carelessly trip over someone else who’s lying on the ground.

Or a receiver will make an impossible leaping catch over three defenders, like you can see here.

Or the quarterback will have acres and acres of open field, yet the AI will throw the ball away for whatever reason after failing to find an open receiver.

Think this would ever happen in real life?

These types of plays don’t happen a lot, but it’s the kind of thing that makes you sigh in frustration because it’s just nothing like what we see on Sundays. Granted, a video game will never perfectly mirror real-life football, but AI decisions like this don’t belong.

Franchise and other modes

Credit: EA Sports
Credit: EA Sports

Franchise mode is mostly the same as last year, but there are some notable additions. Rather than being limited to only three picks or players in proposed trades, there are now six slots available, which makes it more realistic when trying to acquire a superstar player.

You can also restructure contracts in franchise mode, which is a nice way to free up some cap space, while also hurting your financial standing in future years. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

Relocation is also immediate instead of having to wait until the following season, and there are 15 new cities available – both in the U.S. and internationally.

If you want to challenge yourself a bit, there’s an option in franchise mode for play-call cooldowns, which limits the number of times you can call the same play. It’s not required, but it does prevent you from running Four Verticals every other snap.

One of the biggest improvements in franchise mode is the reintroduction of minigames. There are 11 minigames available in franchise mode and 26 total in the game, from WR-DB battles to target passing. I did notice that in Superstar mode, the one-on-one tackling drill as a cornerback was unfathomably easy. As a rookie CB, I went against Derrick Henry and tackled him every single time for a score upwards of 120,000. He didn’t try to juke or spin once.

Speaking of Superstar mode, it replaces Face of the Franchise, which was much more story-heavy. This version focuses on gameplay, which is great. You can only sit through so many cutscenes before getting bored. You can play as a QB, RB, WR, LB or CB, building your name up from a draft prospect going through the combine to making an NFL roster.

Superstar Showdown takes the place of The Yard, which was a gimmicky arcade mode that featured a lot of bugs and frustration in Madden 23. It’s a fun change-up but probably a game mode that will get overlooked by most players.

I didn’t spend much time in Ultimate Team, which is microtransaction-heavy and at times tedious, but the new introduction and tutorial may draw in more players to start playing Ultimate Team.

Other notes and gripes

One thing worth mentioning is the improved player models. Offensive linemen look the way they do in real life, rather than the overweighted, out-of-shape models we got in last year’s game.

The graphics in Madden 24 are really good, even on performance mode. That seems to be because of the enhanced lighting effects, which were evident at SoFi Stadium with its hard shadows and translucent roof.

The overall presentation leading up to kickoff was really good, too. From the team entrances to the stadium shots, it was a nice way to start a game – even if you’re likely to skip it 95% of the time after the first viewing.