Madden NFL 23 review: not a fumble, but still lost yardage

Madden NFL 23

MSRP $69.99

“Madden NFL 23 is an improved game when put next to Madden NFL 22, but that may not enough to make it good.”


  • Improved Gameplay
  • Madden Legacy Game


  • Extremely glitchy
  • Minimal mode improvements
  • MUT is unplayable
  • Lacks necessary features

EA’s Madden football series has been in a freefall of quality for years. Removed features, gameplay that felt prefer it was based on rigid animations greater than realistic physics and skill, and a plethora of game-breaking bugs soured each entry on this best-selling sports game series. All of them played like Justin Fields in that 2021 Browns game. The pitch for Madden NFL 23 from EA was that it will honor John Madden’s legacy by fixing these problems. In point of fact, the outcomes are mixed as latest additions are helpful but still overshadowed by some significant issues.

Madden NFL 23 is a transparent step up over Madden NFL 22 in some ways, with some key gameplay and animation improvements making the sport feel weightier, more precise, and fewer stilted. That said, other issues which have plagued the series for years are still here. The simulation facets of Madden NFL 23 aren’t as deep as they must be. Some bugs are gone, but other terrible ones popped up of their place. Core modes feel ignored, as EA can’t appear to balance each gameplay fixes and have improvements during its annual development cycle. While EA might need slowed the Madden series’ freefall barely with some pleasing gameplay changes, Madden NFL 23 is just not the franchise’s turnaround season (although I hope it’s for Justin Fields).

Madden 23 Official Gameplay Trailer | FieldSENSE™ Deep Dive

Fielding minor improvements

There isn’t one major overhaul to the core of how Madden NFL 23 plays, but a bunch of smaller improvements make the sport feel a bit higher than Madden NFL 22 and garner catchy monikers under the brand new FeildSENSE brand. To start out, animations flow more easily as there are various latest animations for pass rush, tackles, blocks, and turnovers. Lineman and linebackers feel more involved and threatening in Madden NFL 23 because they aren’t locked into play-determining animations.

“Gameplay improvements are the true star of the show in Madden NFL 23.”

Other FieldSENSE mechanics include ball carriers that make 360-degree cuts, and Cornerbacks and wide receivers have latest moves to counter one another. Those are minor additions in comparison with the true star of the show: Skill-Based Passing. Passing is reworked in Madden NFL 23 so players can aim and time the facility of their throws as a quarterback more acutely. While it isn’t tutorialized the very best in-game, this latest system gives the player so much more say on the ball’s placement and makes the passing game feel like greater than a quick-time event.

Overall, these minor gameplay improvements are the true star of the show in Madden NFL 23, and I’m glad that EA finally took the time to repair some issues that plagued the series for years. This does include a big caveat, though: I’m reviewing the sport on Xbox Series X. Be warned that should you don’t have a current-gen system and play on Xbox One or PS4, you won’t see any of those gameplay improvements despite the fact that EA still advertises FieldSense within the last-gen version of the sport.

It’s also hard to disregard the undeniable fact that these are all still just gameplay tweaks that EA gave a gimmicky name so that they’d sound fancier than they’re. Good core gameplay is pivotal for any sports game, but it surely’s also only one a part of a much larger package in any 12 months. Unfortunately for Madden NFL 23, FieldSENSE is de facto all it has going for it, and it’s somewhat incriminating that that is all they may do between entries.

Mode mayhem

The brand new additions to Madden NFL 23’s core modes feel relatively minimal. Just like the last couple of entries, the sport has Play Now matches, online Head-to-Head multiplayer, the managerial Franchise mode, the more player-driven Face of the Franchise narrative mode, and everlasting moneymaker Madden Ultimate Team.

Franchise’s most considerable improvements come to free agency, as players now have motivations and tags that determine whether or not they’ll accept your offer. Sadly, this technique seems to interrupt a few seasons in as talented and highly-rated players leave their teams. Scouting also got a bit deeper with position-specific attributes, but this could all be largely ignored and simulated by casual players without much of an impact on the sector. It’s nice that EA is not any longer completely ignoring franchise mode, but there must be more here to construct on its substantial overhaul in Madden NFL 22.

The dearth of considerable improvements means the experience feels lesser than the sum of its parts.

Face of the Franchise reels back much of the mode’s narrative elements and adds the Cornerback position and weekly side activities for slight boosts as a substitute. Considering how miserable Madden NFL 22’s Face of the Franchise narrative was, it’s nice that Madden NFL 23 focuses more on gameplay as your fourth-year player tries to achieve the Madden 99 club. Unfortunately, Cornerback isn’t probably the most exciting position to play for a complete season, and a few frequent glitches prevent this mode from happening easily.

A Bears player prepares to tackle a Lions player.

Meanwhile, Ultimate Team got a few tweaks to things like MUT Champions, but a menu glitch has rendered that mode near-unplayable throughout the review period, so I never really engaged with those elements. Other than that, there’s a special game honoring John Madden that players will experience upon booting up Madden NFL 23 for the primary time. It’s a stunning tribute to the series’ namesake, with restored audio clips of Madden and a presentation that feels distinct from standard games. I do yearn for something narratively deeper, like a mode where players could experience moments from Madden’s profession as a Coach, especially with the dearth of story in Face of the Franchise. However, there’s only a lot they may make within the seven months of development EA had following his death. 

Don’t call it a comeback

Madden NFL 23 appears like a game made by developers most concerned with just making minor gameplay improvements to hopefully quell fan outrage and get gameplay in an excellent place before the NCAA spin-off arrives. While this works in some cases, glitches and the dearth of considerable improvements means the experience feels lesser than the sum of its parts. The restraints of EA’s vision for the annual sports series are starting to point out.

The more time I spend with Madden NFL 23, the more its issues proceed to harass me. The FieldSENSE improvements feel good in your first few quick matches. Nonetheless, over time you’ll still notice that it’s a lacking NFL simulation with animations that appear to cancel out as soon as you get a touchdown, the dearth of real offensive and defensive coordinators, a pre-game coin toss, or referees on the sector as you play. Madden NFL 23 is likely to be the best-playing Madden game in years, but that doesn’t mean it’s realistic. Players may even need to take care of a plethora of bugs. Despite Executive Producer Aaron McHardy detailing to Digital Trends how EA systematically fixed bugs present in previous games, loads of issues are still present.

A Saints player catches a pass meant for a Falcons player.

Some long-running glitches, like player and coach models getting weirdly morphed or players continuing to run after a play is over, are gone, but other bugs remain and pop up of their place. Lighting in stadiums flickers, and Madden NFL 23’s menus, specifically, appear to glitch out so much. I’ve already mentioned Ultimate Team’s menu issues, but at one point, my Face of the Franchise menu turned completely invisible once I modified my difficulty settings. This made the mode nearly unplayable until it randomly fixed itself after I advanced a few weeks. I’ve also gotten stuck on loading screens, and a fast look online exposes many other issues. Releasing a game with this many bugs is unacceptable, even when Madden NFL 23 has barely fewer bugs than Madden NFL 22.

If anything, that bug situation is emblematic of the undeniable fact that the Madden series dug itself right into a hole that may take greater than a 12 months to get out of. While Madden NFL 23 technically stopped the series’ decline in quality, it hasn’t began the incline. I need to avoid cliches, like saying that Madden NFL 23 is “a step in the precise direction,” but EA can improve this series if it iterates faster, more substantially, and with fewer bugs. It’s clear that EA doesn’t intend to ever take a 12 months off this series, but Madden NFL 23 shows that is likely to be what the series must if it desires to reclaim all it has lost and surpass expectations.

Our take

Madden NFL 23 makes lots of good gameplay improvements targeted at its hardcore players. Sadly, that approach also exacerbated among the series’ other lingering problems. For those who actually need a Madden game on your next-gen system, that is the very best option. That doesn’t mean it’s an excellent one, though. Casual players might benefit from the few improvements as they play a match or two online, however the glitches, unsubstantive mode improvements, and other problems with its situation make Madden NFL 23 more frustrating than fun in the long run for hardcore players.

Is there a greater alternative?

Currently, EA has the exclusive rights to simulation NFL games, so there isn’t. For those who need a Madden game with fewer issues, you’ll probably need to return to the Xbox 360 era. Still, the present state of the Madden series does have me interested to see what the non-simulation football game 2K has in store is like.

How long will it last?

Madden NFL 23 doesn’t have an endpoint, so playtime will vary from player to player. I put over 20 hours into the sport for this review.

Must you buy it?

No. Madden NFL 23 continues to be not an excellent football simulation game. If it’s essential purchase a Madden game on your next-gen system, make it this one, but in all honesty, you’re best off avoiding the series until EA builds more on the foundations it began to lay here.

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