Bottom line: Madden NFL 21 is a tremendous foundation to jump in with if you haven't played Madden in a while, but if you keep track of the franchise every year and were looking for something new or groundbreaking, you will be sorely disappointed. EA has not made significant upgrades or changes to this series in about a decade — and this is one of the most egregious copy-paste jobs in recent memory. Franchise mode is literally unchanged from a year ago and the new modes do very little to get people excited. The core foundation is excellent, but it's most more of the same.
- Strong core gameplay foundation feels like authentic football
- Lots of game modes to pick from
- Solid first Madden game for Stadia as a platform
- On-the-field visuals are excellent with good player models
- Franchise mode is literally unchanged from last year
- Weird spike in turnovers on some difficulty settings
- New modes like The Yard fail to impress
- Gameplay has barely changed in years
The Stadia community is in a weird spot with Madden NFL 21. On the one hand, it's not a great game in the franchise and has very few updates or changes that make it stand out from recent years. However, on the other hand, it's the first and only Madden game on Stadia and as a debut, it's actually quite robust with a really good foundation. It's not one of the best Stadia games by any means, but for sports fans, it certainly scratches an itch.
So if you want to show EA that you're eager to have Madden and other sports titles on Stadia, buying it is the best way to do that. That said, it could also further encourage the laziness that's become so prevalent with this franchise over the years. Bit of a toss-up either way.
Madden NFL 21 Stadia review Gameplay, Modes, and Presentation
|Category||Madden NFL 21|
|Title||Madden NFL 21|
|Play Time||15 hours|
|Players||Single-player, Local/Online Multiplayer|
|Release Date||Jan. 28, 2021|
I've been an avid player of NFL video games ever since the Sega Genesis era. Super Tecmo Bowl on SNES is an all-time favorite, as are Joe Montana Football on the Genesis and NFL Quarterback Club on N64. Of course NFL Blitz as well. Madden is the only licensed NFL game these days, so I've adapted to settling for it despite actually preferring the fluidity of the 2K football games when I had a choice. This is all to say that, if you like the NFL, you have no choice other than Madden if you want something that attempts to simulate the real thing.
To its credit, Madden NFL 21 arguably has the best core gameplay the series has ever had. AI for defenders is formidable without feeling like it cheats the system and the CPU can put up a real fight on All-Pro and All-Madden difficulties. They added more options for pass-rushing so you don't feel useless as a defensive lineman this year and all of the Superstar abilities do a solid job of making high-impact players feel actually impactful.
For example, after Ezekiel Elliott rushes for more than 10-yards three times in a game, he becomes much more difficult to bring down on the first hit from the line of scrimmage. That emulates the sense of momentum running backs experience as a game wears on where the defense will slow down and get tired, opening up space for RBs to have bigger gains in the second half. It becomes a bit of a chess match for each team to try and 'activate' their Superstar players to give them an edge in different scenarios.
The biggest disappointment with Madden NFL 21 though is the Franchise mode. Other than a few tweaks to how things like offseason drafts and trades are handled, it's literally identical to last year's Madden. Plus, the version we get on Stadia isn't even the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S version of the game, it's the PlayStation 4 / Xbox One version. This means the new playcalling features, improved visuals, streamlined animations, and 'Next-Gen Stats' integration features are all absent.
The story mode this year, Face of the Franchise: Rise to Fame, is awful. Voice acting is poor across the board, character animations are stiff in cutscenes, and just as things start to get interesting it more or less ends and dumps you into a merry-go-round of scripted moments during your career. The new mode, The Yard, attempts to be an arcade-style pick-up-and-play experience, but is so watered down it fails to deliver.
The reality of Madden is that if you are craving an NFL football experience then you don't really have any other options. Buying the game on Stadia could show EA there is interest in more of their sports titles coming to the platform, which is an overall good thing, it's just too bad Madden couldn't have a better entry to serve as its debut.
For a more in-depth analysis of the game itself, check out our Madden NFL 21 review over on Windows Central. Now let's dive into the differences on Stadia.
Madden NFL 21 Stadia review Stadia performance and comparisons
Fortunately, the Stadia version of Madden NFL 21 plays great and looks fantastic. As is the norm now with the Stadia version of AAA games, it plays wonderfully and doesn't have any noticeable issues with lag or latency if your connection is good enough. Anytime you play Madden online kicking does suffer from minor latency issues, but that's the case across all versions of the game — not just Stadia. This year it's worse than usual so you should absolutely expect to miss a few field goals and extra points. They must have changed the net code for how kicking is handled or something because even on PS4 and PS5 I was having issues hitting kicks just right and those issues persist in the Stadia version.
According to a SpeedTest I've got a 599Mbps download speed, 12Mbps upload speed, and 14ms of ping on Comcast XFINITY as I write this. Google recommends at least 10Mbps download speed for 720p streaming, 20Mbps download speed for 1080p streaming, and at least 35Mbps download speed for 4K streaming.
Personally, I pay an extra fee to have unlimited data on my personal home network. But for those without that option, data usage is a big factor for Stadia games.
In terms of data usage, it will of course vary based on your quality settings. If you're aiming to play Madden NFL 21 with Stadia Pro at 4K then you're likely looking at around 16-20GB of data usage per hour. Since this is a game you can play solo, online, or locally with friends on the same Stadia connection (via Chromecast with multiple Stadia controllers or on mobile or a PC browser with multiple controllers plugged in), it's impossible to know just how much data it will suck up since hours will vary for everyone.
I played Madden NFL 21 on Chromecast through my 4K TV, on PC in a Microsoft Edge Browser, and on mobile both with the Razer Kishi and using just touchscreen controls. Remarkably, Madden is actually quite playable using touchscreen controls once you get accustomed to where the virtual buttons are located. I'm still frustrated that I can't remap or change where the buttons are on my screen since doing things like holding R2 to sprint are awkward when you'd like to also be able to cover up the ball before an impact or quickly juke with the right stick. When it comes to the basics of playing though, you can finish an entire game on Stadia using just touchscreen controls if you really wanted or at the very least do some management functions like admin work or go through trade offers.
Unfortunately, the Stadia version of Madden NFL 21 does not include any Stadia exclusive features, such as State Share, Crowd Play, or anything like that. If you decide to get Madden on Stadia, you'd do so simply to have the flexibility of accessing the game on so many devices seamlessly. The mobile-native version of Madden is nothing like actual Madden, so getting the full thing on mobile devices via Stadia is pretty cool.
Madden NFL 21 Stadia review Should you buy it?
People have been waiting for a long time to get Madden NFL 21 on Stadia and it absolutely delivers. While it's true that this iteration of the long-running series does not have any major improvements over last year and is actually worse in a lot of ways (specifically Face of the Franchise) it's still a great foundation to start from on Stadia. If this is the first Madden game you've played in a while, you'll probably be pretty happy.
3 out of 5
Unfortunately, it just hasn't evolved enough to warrant a higher score. If they had included some Stadia features, like State Share to send game scenario challenges to friends, or at least cross-progression or cross-play in some way that would have helped, but as it stands this is just a straight barebones port of the Xbox One / PS4 version of the game. It's good for what it is, but not much more.
Madden NFL 21 on Stadia
Down and distance
Madden NFL 21 is a tremendous foundation to jump in with if you haven't played Madden in a while, but if you keep track of the franchise every year and were looking for something new or groundbreaking, you will be sorely disappointed. Franchise mode is literally unchanged from a year ago and the new modes do very little to get people excited. The core gameplay is excellent, but it's most more of the same.
'Gameplay not changing much in years' is kind of the point. Its football. I mean you literally praise the gameplay as good authentic football feeling in the pros list then complain that it hasn't changed much in cons...how stupid.
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