It’s hard to find any optimism in the Madden NFL 21 community, but a few football fans with a glass half-full of Gatorade had hoped that this year’s PlayStation 4 game was so disappointing because EA Sports was all-in on the next-gen upgrade. Now the PlayStation 5 version is readily available, we’re afraid to say this is another fumble in the long-running franchise.

Let’s make one thing clear from the outset: the game is a tiny bit better on Sony’s new system. While the graphical enhancements don’t come anywhere close to FIFA 21, the bump in resolution and new Next-Gen Stats replays are pretty nice. The weather effects are also a bit better – particularly the rain – while the sidelines are a bit more active.

The loading times also make a huge difference, particularly in Ultimate Team which has been designed around small gameplay challenges for some time. The fact that you can now work your way through missions without having to wait for each one to individually load over and over again dramatically improves the flow, and is a real game-changer.

The problem is there just aren’t enough game-changers across the rest of the package. EA Sports said pre-release that it would integrate real-world NFL data using Next-Gen Stats, and it has made a minor difference to the flow of the game. Unless you’re controlling speed demons like Tyreek Hill, you’ll find your players move in a more lifelike manner, which is nice.

But by and large, aside from some minuscule alterations to the way players balance on the turn, the gameplay is almost entirely identical, using the same animations as the PS4 version. While it’s not as horrific as some Reddit commenters would lead you to believe, it’s disappointing – especially when you compare it to what NBA 2K21 delivered for its next-gen debut.

In fact, we’d argue some elements have gone a few yards backwards. The new playcalling menu – which now allows you to favourite plays like in some past Madden NFL games – is really cumbersome to use, and has forced us into half a dozen inexplicable delay of game penalties while wrestling with it. We’re still looking for the QB Kneel play, actually.

Elsewhere, this is the exact same game. The godawful tale of Tommy Matthews and his dicky ticker returns, but we wouldn’t recommend playing through it. We still think there’s promise in the Face of the Franchise concept, but EA Sports needs much better writers, and we’d prefer it to segue into something more meaningful, as the watered-down Franchise mode that follows is disappointing.

In fact, even with all its options enabled, Franchise mode is still a pale imitation of what you find in other sport games. While there are some minor management mechanics, like negotiating contracts and trading players, it’s clear fans want a deeper experience – like the ability to hire and fire coordinators, design schemes depending on the opponent, and so forth.

The Yard, a kind of arcade-themed backyard football mode, is still a lot of fun on PS5, and it has expanded with new environments and challenges since the initial PS4 release, which is nice. Other than that, though, you can read our Madden NFL 21 PS4 review and our thoughts are unchanged – this is, by and large, the same game.

Conclusion

Madden NFL 21 has all the same problems as its PS4 predecessor, because it’s basically the same game. The presentation has taken a half-step forward owing to the increase of hardware power, but it’s many yards behind the standard now set by FIFA 21 and NBA 2K21. The increased loading times improve the flow of modes like Ultimate Team, and the gameplay is marginally more authentic thanks to the implementation Next Gen Stats, but an ageing Franchise mode and some tired animations mean this is hardly the improvement fans anticipated.