Madden Shouldn't Continue to Ignore Football's Narrative Potential – GameRant


Madden NFL is often criticized for the lack of innovation between each release, and to truly change it has to use the narrative potential of the NFL.
The strong sales of Madden NFL every year means that EA is doing something right, despite lacking a focus on football's narratives. Its annual release is the source of frustration for some players, but it's an essential day on the calendar of so many more. The start of the NFL season comes around each September, and its video game counterpart does well to entertain fans of the sport through the week. It captures so much of what makes the circus of football so good, but while the way Madden NFL approaches realism, tactics, and players rosters is consistently strong, the franchise always seems to ignore the narrative potential that both the regular season and the off season could bring.
From the unpredictability of the Draft to the frenzy of free agency, the NFL provokes intriguing storylines that are largely overlooked by Madden. The series has flirted with storytelling before, but the things that could be weaved into a compelling story are usually obstacles that players have to overcome in the now-simplified Face of the Franchise mode. The NFL has a real human element to it, and Madden has rarely taken advantage of the potential it provides.
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Longshot was a short-lived two-part story told in Madden 18 and 19, and presented fans with an experience that focused on well-developed and expertly-acted protagonist, Devin Wade. His journey from big time college QB to draft prospect was fleshed out by a personal tale that rivaled any football-centric Hollywood flick, perhaps in part because highly successful Uncharted director Amy Hennig consulted on the story. Madden 19 saw the character return in a more gameplay-focused mode and while it was a faithful follow-up, it scales back the dramatic story, which was a real shame.
There's no telling if Madden will adopt a similar philosophy in any future releases, but Madden NFL 18 and 19's Longshot was proof that the franchise is capable of telling a fantastic, accurate, and heartfelt story. It was short but sweet, and placed emphasis on the humanity of a sport that is so dominated by statistics. This was lacking from past entries, and hasn't been seen since with the same quality, despite being one of the best aspect of both Madden 18 and 19.
With the improvement in technology, Madden has been able to give players more options on how to play and tailor their experience to what they want out of an NFL game. Be it the daunting task of Ultimate Team to online ranked matches, Madden has expanded its horizons greatly. Fans invest time in the NFL for a myriad of reasons, and Madden only captures a few pieces of the action, as do the games. There's so much more to the sport that Madden can take advantage of, and trimming the fat to make room for modes that are more narrative-focused would be a wise decision.
Madden's Face of the Franchise has done well to show some of the trials and tribulations of being a player in the NFL, yet the inner workings of a team are often far more interesting. Player performances are critical, but the way back room personnel react to a successful draft or the stress of preseason roster cuts are fascinating, and could be taken advantage of in a more narrative-driven way instead of career mode simplifying the process without building any sense of drama. Hard Knocks and All or Nothing do well to dig into player dynamics and the coaching process in the National Football League, and Madden could bring the same philosophy to gaming to make the future of the series something really great.
Madden NFL 23 is available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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