Madden 23’s ‘Face of the Franchise’ tries to fix two big problems with one small change

The polite way to describe Face of the Franchise’s biggest problem is that Madden NFL players just wanted faster access to the NFL in the game’s single-player mode. To put it bluntly, over the past three years they were forced to play through a slow-paced preamble peppered with story cliches, laughable dialogue, and barely-deserved progression.

“There were a lot of comments about the prologue, or Road to the Draft, whatever you want to call it,” gameplay producer Clint Oldenburg recalled during an interview at EA’s new Tiburon studio in Orlando. , in Florida. “It was like, ‘I want to go play in the NFL; take me there. […] And, it’s a headline, “The narrative seems aimless and purposeless and without context,” something like that. It was in one of the reviews.

Whether it’s two problems or the same under different names, EA Tiburon will try to solve it by starting Madden NFL 23‘s Face of the Franchise mode, The League, in the fifth season of the player’s career created. No more college, no more scrambling, no more dithering through half a dozen games locked on Madden’s easiest difficulty only to end up picked by the abyssal New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars.

Face of the Franchise players will start after their rookie contract ends, as a free agent able to sign with any team they choose. By my reckoning, this will be the first single-player career mode in any sports title where a created player starts out as anything other than a rookie.

“This is the first year of reprioritizing what’s important in this mode,” Oldenburg said. In the three years since Face of the Franchise picked up two chapters of a true story mode – Madden NFL 18it is and 19‘s Longshot – the developers had given the story the highest priority, Oldenburg said. It’s a somewhat mortifying admission, considering the stories I’ve seen of Maddens 20 through 22.

“What’s most important this year is the core gameplay and progression,” Oldenburg said. “We took a more modular approach this year; you’ll see much shorter, drawn-out storylines that lack context in what you’ve done in your career. What we’re going to do is get you into the weekly loop of preparing your game, playing your game, getting your game feedback and rewards.”

Any cinematic content will follow the performance, and by modular, Oldenburg means these scenes will respond to developments in the player’s career, rather than dictate them. “So, of course, the cinematic content that you and I see in our travels is going to be the same, but when you see it, and when I see it, it’s going to be at different times,” he explained.

Granted, many fans are conditioned to see a fifth-year player as a star or a bust, not someone with plenty of room for growth (the whole point of this career mode, of course) but who still gets the choice of his teams in free agency. “The story we’re trying to tell is that if you remember Matt Flynn [a quarterback from 2008-15] or Michael Turner [a running back, 2004-12]guys who didn’t have a great opportunity to play on their rookie contract, but when they played, they played really well,” Oldenburg said.

Receiver vs cornerback interactions will be highlighted in upcoming gameplay changes Crazy 23and the designers hope Face of the Franchise will feature them as well.
Image: EA Tiburon/Electronic Arts

“So now that you’re a free agent, there’s a lot of noise around your potential, but you’ve never really had the opportunity,” Oldenburg said. Created players get a new positional opportunity, cornerback, in addition to the returning options of linebacker, wide receiver, running back, and quarterback. They get a one-year contract with their favorite team, which means they have to be careful about the depth chart and the offensive or defensive scheme of their choice. A New York Giants fan creating a running back might think twice before challenging Saquon Barkley, unless he thinks he will grow so much that management will give him a new five-year contract and his competition will be canceled or exchanged.

In this way, this one-year free agent contract works like the prologue in previous years; it just takes place in the NFL and skips the nonsensical storylines and college cameos offered. If the player goes to a team other than his favorite, because it offers more playing time and better development, he will have the option of signing a longer-term contract, as a much better player, after only one year. ‘experience.

This pushes the player in a direction that the designers of Madden have been selling for a few years: an avatar wearable across multiple game modes and positions, ranking their attributes class by class and gaining perks to complement them. In Face of the Franchise, Oldenburg hopes the replay experience will come from taking this avatar to an overall 99 at one position and then starting this mode again at a new position. While careers of 12 or more seasons are still possible in Face of the Franchise, players should be able to reach 99 after five seasons of progression, he said.

And that will be underpinned by bringing Madden’s ’99 Club’ – which the game’s marketers have touted every time an actual superstar reaches that number – to created players as well. In this case, when they reach global rating milestones, they will unlock perks, cosmetics, and in-game abilities for their character.

Oldenburg also hopes that Face of the Franchise: The League can become a showcase for many Crazy 23The gameplay changes. “These gameplay mechanics were designed with Face of the Franchise in mind,” Oldenburg said. “Face of the Franchise: The League is now a true player lock mode; we got rid of full team control as an option.

While the new quarterback passing system and new running back “360 cuts” will likely be the most exposed, Oldenburg pointed to other gameplay nuances to bring life to positions that don’t see as much. the ball. Wide receivers, for example, can hold both left and right triggers, and combine them with right stick movements, to put more stutters, stutters, and full-speed cuts when running their routes. out of line. Cornerbacks will take advantage of a new press defense mechanism, which Oldenburg compared to defending on the ball in a basketball video game.

“We’ve had that in our game before, but it was more like scissors, where you picked a side, both sides of the ball, and saw the interaction play out depending on who picked the wrong side or the right side,” Oldenburg said. “It’s more branching and reactionary mechanics where you can see your opponent’s movement, which way [the play] goes, and you can branch off, in a small window of time, to take that direction. Players press the A/X button while performing their press coverage off the snap, then move the left stick to the side of the pitch they wish to ban.

Overall, Face of the Franchise: The League sounds like a stronger commitment to the things that make solo sports careers distinct and fun, and shedding the components that steered me away from a standard franchise run. Oldenburg noted that the designers paid attention to the fact that many Madden streamers and content creators are still streaming their Face of the Franchise careers, and the developers want to give them something as fun to watch as they are to play.

The last three FOTFs weren’t that at all; they seemed to be doing everything to keep me from continuing, and their basic experience could be substantially replicated elsewhere with just a few menu tweaks. In other words, EA Tiburon could have simply ditched that disappointing wrinkle on solo careers after three years, and sent everyone back to the created superstars of the 10-year Connected Franchise sequel.

They did not do it. We’ll see if what they saved was worth saving when Madden NFL 23 launches August 19 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The game will also be available the same day for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One, but this mode (and other features) is not available on those platforms.

[Disclosure: EA Sports invited Polygon and paid for its flight and accommodations at the one-day preview event at EA Tiburon’s studio.]

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