Madden NFL 23 was recently revealed as the latest installment in EA Sports’ American football simulation series. Ahead of its launch this August, I was invited to check out the Madden NFL 23 Closed Beta and get a taste of the changes in-store.
The biggest change in Madden NFL 23 comes with the implementation of FieldSense, a new approach to on-field action that will hopefully provide a much-needed refresh to gameplay. Though my time with the Closed Beta was limited to Play Now and Online Head to Head, I got to spend a lot of time exploring the changes with the new system.
What immediately stuck out to me the most was tackling animations. After spending enough hours in Madden NFL 22, you had likely seen most (if not all) of the tackling animations that the game had to offer several times over. Playing Madden NFL 23, the tackles felt much more dynamic, with players coming to assist in-progress tackles, and animations being interrupted by additional contact. There was one instance where a running back was in the middle of stiff arming one of my defensive backs, when a lineman showed up and blasted the running back away before he could finish shoving the DB to the ground.
The branching animations also mean that anything can happen before the whistle blows. Playing with the Ravens, I was darting around with Lamar Jackson when he was tackled by a cornerback. As he was on his way to the ground, a linebacker came in and got in on the tackle. The extra force was enough to knock the ball loose from Jackson’s hands just before he could hit the grass and lead to a turnover.
When playing as the ball-carrier, players will be prompted to press a button as fast as possible in order to potentially break out of a tackle when contact is initiated. The ability to do so is influenced by the strength of the ball-carrier and the defender. Additional players coming to assist the tackle will prevent a player from breaking out. Having these branching possibilities will encourage players to keep playing until the play is actually over, instead of when an animation is triggered.
Another major aspect of FieldSense comes in what the developers call Skill-Based Passing. When passing the ball, players will now hold the receiver button to determine the strength of the pass, which is depicted by a meter that appears upon starting the pass. When releasing the ball, the player can then use the left stick to move the ball placement around a limited zone. This creates the opportunity to place a ball in a tight window, over a receiver’s shoulder, or somewhere that the defender can’t reach.
The interesting thing about Skill-Based Passing is that it makes even the most ill-advised of throws completable. Even when a defender is being closely pursued or is in double coverage, placing the ball in the right spot will lead to a completion. It will definitely encourage players to get experimental in the pass game, but not without consequence.
Madden NFL 23 empowers DBs with more in-air tackles and knockouts. Unless I was throwing to an elite receiver, a large number of catches were broken up before the receiver could get their feet to the ground. I noticed that this led to a lot of tipped interceptions whenever there was a second defender in the vicinity.
Madden NFL 23’s Closed Beta gives us our first look at FieldSense, which shows promise for long-standing concerns surrounding the game’s reliance on animations. Of course, we’ll have to wait until the full game is released to see if the core modes deliver something unique. Stick with Shacknews for more Madden NFL 23 coverage in the future.