Madden NFL 23 Review - High Upside
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Madden NFL 23 Review - High Upside

Every August, a new Madden launches with some major marketing buzzword attached. It makes for easy back-of-the-box material and quickly answers the question, What's new in Madden this year? These named features often fail to live up to their proper noun naming conventions, but in Madden NFL 23, that's not the case. This year's buzzword-y feature, Fieldsense, emcompasses several other features under its wide umbrella, with all of them relating to how it feels to actually play and move around on the field. In that regard, Madden 23 is a clear step up. But several other aspects of the game, including both returning issues and new problems, keep the game from achieving its full potential at launch.

Fieldsense is not one feature but the name for a collection of on-field improvements. Among them, the biggest and most enjoyable leap forward is the new Skill-Based Passing system. This is meant to remove some of Madden's attribute-driven outcomes and transfer decisiveness to the player. On the field, this is done by giving players a new throwing meter and shadowed target area that appears as the ball is being thrown. It allows players to pinpoint directly where they want the ball to go like never before--a bit like fielding in MLB The Show. Excitingly, this feature lives up to its promise, allowing skilled players to skewer defenses and hit gaps in coverage like never before in Madden history.

A wonky tutorial does this feature no good, making practice best done in a live setting. After a few quarters or games with Skill-Based Passing enabled, it becomes blatantly obvious that going back to the old system, while an option in Madden 23, is never a good idea. It allows the QB to keep a pass in front of the cornerback on a crossing route, hit back-shoulder fades in the end zone, and sneak into the space between two defenders' zones in ways that, in years past, almost always resulted in turnovers. I'd go so far as to say Madden 23 is worth playing for this feature alone, because throwing the football, something you'll do 15-40 times per game, has never felt so good.

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