Madden 21 Wishlist: 7 Additions We Want to the League This Year
.Though 2020 has been almost totally devoid of any real-life sports, the video game world has kept sports fans afloat during this strange offseason. Here in the States, there is no bigger sports series than Madden NFL because there is no bigger sport than football.
Madden 20 boasts the greatest year in the history of the series, EA revealed at a recent earnings call. That comes in part because of its overall improvements, as well as a string of interesting post-launch updates, including more depth to MUT and even some new modes to the game.
That means Madden 21 has big cleats to fill, and with EA revealing that the first look at this fall's iteration is coming next week, it's time to write our wishlist to football Santa Claus, which I pretend is actually Andy Reid. Here are seven things I want to see in Madden 21, from significant gameplay improvements to nitty-gritty details.
1. More Offseason Activities
Franchise mode has taken a backseat to Ultimate Team over the last decade for obviou$ reasons, and maybe it's foolish. Still, every year I hope it's finally the season EA pays closer attention to the original timesink of Madden. Should I and so many others get our collective wish this August, one feature I hope is added to Franchise is a complete offseason.
The NFL Draft is an exciting part of every year spent leading my team, but there's a lot more to an offseason than that. I want a full Combine, rookie mini-camps, OTAs, and a full training camp. Let me really get familiar with my players before we hit the field for the preseason, especially those rookies. My first on-the-field experience with them shouldn't be in August.
"If it's in the game, it's in the game," right?
2. The Sam Spence Soundtrack
Years ago, Madden soundtracks featured some of my favorite bands like Saves The Day and Taking Back Sunday. Nowadays, it's almost exclusively a hip-hop soundtrack. I'm okay with that, and I get it. The series moved on without me. But as an alternative to the new soundtracks I don't like anymore, I usually turn to the orchestral football music, which EA turns off by default.
There's just one problem: for the last several years, this music has been limited to EA's original score, even removing the classic Sam Spence soundtrack that exists as the anthem of so many football fandoms. I assume this was a cost-saving measure — pay for your own music once and never have to license the Spence works again — but come on, EA. After the year the series just had, can you open up the wallets and get the brilliant Sam Spence football score back in the game?
3. More Hands-Off Storytelling
My favorite feature of Madden 20 is its reimagined story mode. Rather than go another year with the laughably bad Longshot scripted story, Madden NFL 20 gives players a rough outline of a quarterback's career, starting in college before letting them loose into the Draft and a legacy that is yet to be written. It is everything Longshot is not, and everything the NBA 2K series has been doing for many years itself.
In Madden 21, I'm hoping for more of that. Give me context, but don't guide my hand too strongly. I appreciate some background to my character, but let me tell my own story. Last year's game focuses entirely on the QB position, and this year's game can easily keep it fresh by pivoting to a new position. Wideout, running back, or even linebacker all come to mind as fun next steps.
Wherever we take the field, so long as we aren't doing it as Devin Wade and company, I'm sure it will be worth a try at the very least.
4. Pick-up Games with Loose Rules
One of NBA 2K's greatest assets is its Neighborhood, a social hub that allows players to load out into several different modes, including the ever-popular streetball mode. FIFA does something similar in last year's game with its Volta 5v5 mode. While Madden 20 experimented with different arcadey modes, I'm still waiting on the streetball equivalent.
I don't expect a second physics engine here, so it won't exactly be NFL Street reborn, but something like a 3v3 or 5v5 mode with lineups featuring QB, RB, WR, and two defenders could be a lot of fun. Players could pick their players from the boundary like we all did back in gym, and it could be a totally new way to play Madden. While we're at it, where's Madden's social hub?
5. More Weekly Gameplanning
For Franchise players, the game remains about pure Xs and Os and team-building. While Madden has made consistent steps in the right direction in this regard, they've not felt like huge leaps in a long time — again, blame MUT. But in this year's game, I hope to find more nuance in my weekly game-planning abilities.
No coach worth his salary takes the same gameplan into every game. There are matchups to consider and opponents' weaknesses to exploit. Madden has never really let players approach games in such a Belichickian way.
Sure, we can do a quick practice session that plans for some element of the opposing team's repertoire, but that feels short-changed. It always has. I don't just want to practice the same passing play five times so I can look out for when Julio Jones runs that route a few times in my next game.
I want to alter my playbook to shut him down; I want to prepare my team so that my playmakers are making plays how I want them to. No one can control all 11 players at once, so Madden needs to give players more freedom in preparing their teams to behave how they need to on a game by game basis. Versatility: isn't that what the best coaches always utilize to create advantages?
6. Make Offensive Lines Matter
Last year's game does well to make football's biggest playmakers stand out from the pack of 1,800 players in the NFL. Superstars like Deandre Hopkins and Stephon Gilmore can take over games at a moment's notice.
This X-Factor feature mimics real life in a smart new way for the series. Having said that, there's still one position — really a line of positions — that fails to display this sort of separation between great, good, and mediocre players: the O-line.
Don't get me wrong, in some situations, it's clearer that having a great offensive line pays dividends, but this is mostly in PvP games where the opponent is often freelancing with their defender of choice, and you're relying on a lineman to do his job while you play QB. Against the computer in MUT or Franchise, however, there remains a lack of important difference between star linemen and the middle of the pack.
It's not flashy, but Tiburon needs to spend more time on improving this facet of the game. Some teams have notoriously bad offensive lines, but you'd hardly know it in a game of Madden most of the time. Let's let the deserving big boys shine in Madden 21.
7. Show Me the Next Generation
Madden 21 will be the first game in the series on next-gen hardware such as the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Historically, that has meant an impressive display of visuals and a lackluster gameplay suite as EA adjusts to new systems. But this year's incoming hardware sounds more iterative than ever before, with many games already announced as seamlessly cross-gen.
That makes it sound like the team behind Madden should have an easier time developing the game, as it won't be making two versions of the game as has been the case in previous seasons (looking at you, Madden 06).
All that time saved will hopefully mean this year's game on new consoles looks and plays remarkably well. Perhaps given the solid-state drives and other high-tech features coming to our homes soon, we will get faster load times and more immersive features like better crowd details, audio, and gameplay presentation more closely mirroring a real broadcast.
The future is here, or so we think. Now, hopefully, Madden 21 can show it to us.