Madden NFL 23 – Starter Guide

Love it or hate it, but there’s no denying that Madden ’23 is a pretty extensive game. Almost everything there is to do within NFL football can be done here, and I’m well aware that many new players get fully overwhelmed. So I figured… why don’t we look into this together?

How to Start

Editorial

Hi gang!

So, to give you guys a little bit of backstory… I’m from the Netherlands, in Europe, and last year (2022) I decided that I wanted to learn a bit more about “American football” as it’s usually called around here, so I ended up getting myself a copy of Madden ’22.

At first I didn’t really knew what I was doing but one thing was clear enough: I was having the time of my life, also because of the overal atmosphere. One way or the other the commentary in this game is something else indeed. I laughted so hard (at least afterwards) when I suddenly managed to reach the “endzone” after an accidental interception and did this:

This is not the way to score a touchdown it seems…

Needless to say but the other team quickly swooped in, grabbed the ball and they had the easiest touchdown ever. The best part? The commentators completely covered this: “I’ve never seen something like that before.” followed by: “Yeah, I have no idea what their plan was with that one”, leaving me completely flabbergasted as to what had just happened.

Just for contexts sake… another “sportish game” I sporadically play (WWE 2k22) also uses commentators and it’s the most static repetition you’ll ever hear…

I didn’t get very “deep” into Madden ’22 but I’ve had tons of fun following the roster and playing matches that either recently happened or were about to happen.

And then Madden ’23 got announced…

Not only did I pre-order, I got myself the most complete “full-Madden” version which got me quite some goodies to play with and yah, I’m having the time of my life. My only regret is that I discovered an actual favorite team (Caroline Panthers) after I started playing with ‘Ultimate Team’, but more about that later.

Gamepass FTW!

It didn’t take long before my gf also got interested and we started to watch a few real matches courtesy of my free-plan NFL International gamepass. A few weeks later we got ourself the Pro plan (split the costs) and we’ve had a lot of fun. When a game starts around 16:00 local time its usually around 19:00 our local time, so that makes it easy.

Though we’ve also had late nights because we really wanted to see a game (from 2am to 4 – 5am for example). Good times!

At the time of writing we’re well in the playoffs, gf and me are really looking forward to experiencing our first Superbowl live despite our favorite team not having made the playoffs, and yeah. I felt like sharing my experiences with Madden ’23.

I hope you can appreciate this one!

What is “Madden” All About?

Now, this may sound dumb to some of you NFL fans out there but trust me when I say that this isn’t as commonly known by people outside the US. And I always try to go into full detail within my guides.

John Madden within Madden ’23…

So… “Madden” is obviously a football game, but the name comes from John Madden who can easily be called a legend within the sports. First a coach, then an NFL commentator, and his name has meaning. It’s for a good reason why last year’s Thanksgiving game was fully dedicated to the late John Madden. And why his passing in 2021 didn’t go unnoticed.

If you want to learn more about John Madden then I can recommend watching “John Madden: A name synonymous with football”, from the official NFL Films YouTube channel.

As for the game itself… that has a major history behind it as well. “John Madden Football” is a game that launched all the way back in 1988 for several home computers, including the Commodore 64:

John Madden football, on the Commodore 64 (Vice emulator).

So yeah, when we’re looking at the line of Madden football games you can easily say that they have a 34 year legacy behind ‘m. Pretty impressive if you ask me! It’s for a good reason why the intro of Madden ’23 also shows you brief snippets of very old looking games.

And why you hear none other than John Madden himself say the iconic EA opening: “EA Sports, it’s in the game”, something EA doesn’t seem to take lightly either.

Sure, this game has a few issues

Now, going by this guide you can probably imagine that I’m quite happy with Madden ’23. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing all this, now would I? The thing is though, like so many games out there this game definitely isn’t perfect, it has issues.

But whether those issues will affect you…. is something only you can determine IMO. For example, if you select the “Learn to Play” menu option (which I’ll get to in a moment) you will probably see mentioning of: “Learn the new field-sense gameplay system!”. Yah, small detail: that’s not a thing on PC. It’s dumb, for sure, and sloppy too. But at the same time, not that big a deal either IMO.

For what’s it worth I can honestly state that I’ve been playing plenty of Madden ’22 and now ’23 and generally speaking I’m having the time of my life. Well… maybe unless someone is totally destroying me online.

Let’s Kick Things Off!

When you start the game you’ll soon see the Madden ’23 logo and eventually get the classic EA Sports introdocution followed by the Madden ’23 into movie. Press a key to continue and you’ll be taken to the main menu shown above.

…unless you play for the very first time.

If this is your very first time playing Madden (welcome!) then you’ll be immediately taken to a so called “Madden legacy game”: here the NFC and AFC will battle it out. What makes this game so special is the fact that each team has the same coach, namely John Madden, but from a different era!

Now, if you’re also somewhat new to NFL football then I’m pretty sure that this may not impress you in the very least. Heck, you may even be a little disappointed that you don’t get to see your favorite team in action! I’ve been there myself.

My take: don’t think too much of this for now, just try to enjoy the game and if you can’t then simply press the pause button and quit to the main menu. However… do keep this game mode in mind, I really suggest that you give this another try (again?) at a later time and when you do: pay close attention to the playbooks that are being used. You may find that interesting because it’s quite different from the strategy and positions that are being used today.

Let’s go over some menu options….

So first things first: the menu is dynamic meaning so much that the option you last used will be shown on the far left: ready to be selected again. May take getting used to. As one could expect each option takes you into a different game mode:

  • Play now => If you just want to play a match then this is the option for you. Either set up a match of your own or use the roster to select one from the official NFL calendar. Other options are the previously mentioned “Madden Legacy”, “Pro Bowl” and you can also play online head to head.
  • Ultimate team => Always wanted to draft your own “dream team” and then have them take on all sorts of challenges? Well, then this may be something for you.
  • Franchise => Are you unhappy by the way your team is being managed? Surely those big bosses in the office know nothing about how it should be done, right? Well, here’s your chance to manage a team and call the shots!
  • Face of the franchise => Always wanted to become the next Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes or Xavier Woods? Well, here’s your chance!
  • Learn to play => Just a simple tutorial option you say? Bzzzt! You couldn’t be more wrong: this mode allows you to learn all there is about playing Madden and as a bonus you can also set up your favorite team(s) for some practice matches as well!
  • Play with friends => I think this should speak for itself. While this is focussed on playing online you can actually also play together offline using the same screen.

Pay close attention to the settings!

If you started playing for the first time then the game will probably have given you some basic options and determined the best settings for now. However, I still suggest that you select the cogwheel icon all the way on the right side of the main menu to go over your Game Options, shown above.

In specific you should make sure that you have selected your actual favorite team, but also pay attention to your skill level and game style. See, this game allows you to customize just about everything, including the way you want to play. Next stop: check the length of the matches, your preferred choices with regards to a coin toss and optionally check out the enabled assists.

About game style options…

If you just want to experience an action-packed game then you should definitely go for the “Arcade” playstyle. However, if you’re more looking forward to getting more realistic-ish gameplays based on the teams you’ve selected to play with then “Simulation” is the way to go. Seriously: try taking on the Eagles (92) or Ravens (88) using… my favorite team of the Panthers (81) or maybe the Rams (78), Falcons (74) or Broncos (77). You’ll soon see what this means.

And of course, if you want even more control over the gameplay and only wish to focus on player vs. CPU capabilities then you’ll want “Competitive”. However… if you go this route then I strongly suggest that you also go over both “Player skill” and “CPU skill” settings as well:

Keeping full control over the (CPU) gameplay…

As you can see you can adjust the probable chances of just about everything related to the game, thus truly setting up your own type of matches. For example… setting up a CPU opponent which has a superior quarterback while the receivers have a tendency to fumble the ball? Or what about a team who’s quick to intercept a ball yet need time to participate on changes during their defensive gameplay?

Of course I suggest that you don’t mess with these settings if you’re still new. In that case you really should focus on either the previously mentioned “Arcade” or “Simulation” gamestyles for now.

Learn to Play

Whether you’re completely new to NFL football or are merely looking to brush up your skills in playing Madden: “Learn to Play” has you covered. From learning the positions on the field, as shown above, to practicing all the different styles of catching a ball (posesive, receive and continue or aggressive).

From basic offense and defense, right to special teams (used for punting and field goals) and you’ll also learn plenty about run-passes, run / pass defense, as well as short, medium and deep passing.

In addition.. going over these tutorials will also unlock packs which can be used within the Ultimate Team gamemodus which is IMO a nice bonus.

However, “Learn to play” isn’t just for people new to Madden…

This mode also provides you with a “team practice” option in which you can make your team spar against another while practicing only offense, only kick offs or doing a normal practice run where you have complete control over the line-up for both teams.

The best part about all this? It doesn’t necessarily hold your hand and thus allow you to screw things up tremendously. How about using a special team to do a punt while you set up your opponents for a blitz defense instead of the normal team which should try and prevent the kick?

Hardly normal gameplay, but easily set up to practice with.

Never underestimate what you can learn from experimenting… especially when everything plays out while following standard NFL rules. And of course you can do full replays, change game styles, change the position on the field and also change the type of practice.

Of course I definitely agree that kicking the ball away like this during a normal game isn’t the best of ideas if you plan on scoring any kind of touchdown.

Play, Your Way (“Play Now”)

Even though we don’t really know either team my gf and me are looking forward to watching the Jaguars take on the Chiefs for the divisional playoffs, kickoff is in 30 or so minutes. But yeah, one of the key features of Madden should be the option to play real upcoming NFL matches. I suppose being behind schedule for a few days still beats 9 weeks out of date.

Fortunately you can also set up a custom game.

And this is why it’s important to make sure you selected a favorite team because by default your team will be home to take on a challenger. Of course this is easily changed if you want to, though I am a little surprised that you can’t swap teams (for example if you want your favorite team to take on the other in their home stadium).

Time for some payback

As you can see you can customize some specific settings, check the x-factors of the players involved and once the game is all set up you can also apply more customizations to that as well. Things like the length of a quarter, the time of day, the weather but once again also settings like game style and event type.

Kick Off!

The Panthers make their way onto the field…

Once the game begins you’ll be treated to an introduction that truly resembles an actual live event on TV. The teams are being introduced as they come onto the field we get to see some stats, the commentators introduce themselves for the “EA sporting event” and before you know you’re fully into the game.

And the best part? No commercials! Also: every intro can be easily skipped so if you’re eager to get started A.S.A.P., you can!

You can always get a full overview of the field and your receivers

So what about this “play your way”?

Let’s say you love playing offense but are still struggling with defense. And to be perfectly honest you currently hate playing defense. In fact, every time you play a custom game you get the feeling that you always end up stuck in defense. Because the good parts are over before you know.

Fortunately there is a solution: super sim.

If you don’t want to play defense.. then why not just skip that part and leave it up to the CPU?

Speaking of which…

You can also simulate full matches if you want to….

Maybe I’m biased, fair enough, but at the time of writing we’re watching this actual game on my second monitor and while the real stadium grass looks a lot darker you can definitely recognize parts of the playbook. You do realize that Madden can use the official NFL playbooks?

All optional of course, just like pretty much every setting you can overrule this and use your own.

Ultimate Team

Opening a pack…

In all due fairness… this gamemode definitely has a sense of “Pay to win” over it. But then I ask you: how do you expect to “win” this? Also considering that there are tons of solo challenges and battles to play out?

I first learned of this mode in Madden ’22 and kinda steered away from it because I am completely not interested in “pay to win” nor lootboxes. But… I don’t think you can call packs lootboxes.

As mentioned before: before you start your UT session do make sure that you set up your actual favorite team, because UT is going to use that setting. And if you’re not careful….

Last year I discovered NFL football, soon my gf also got involved and she had been sporadically watching the Dallas Texas cowboy cheerleaders show. “Making the team” or something? Where several girls compete to get hired for the cheerleaders team. Because of that we focussed on the Cowboys as our favorite team at first.

Then we got an NFL gamepass, learned more about other teams and before you know we’re die hard Panther fans. Unfortunately I forgot about this when I started playing Madden ’23 and as I mentioned earlier: if you played a previous Madden title then your settings will be picked up. So before I knew I had the Cowboys stadium, uniforms and even some general strategy items while I was already pretty much siding with the Panthers.

That definitely changed. See, the thing is: if you’re lazy then sure, I can see how you may want to pay your way out of a situation like that. But if you do so then you’re seriously denying yourself some really good fun!

Because UT also provides you with an auction house where you can sell/buy items with/from other players, options to trade with others and most important: you can earn in-game credits by playing and taking on UT challenges. The same kind of credits which you can use within auctions and such.

UT may have a “Pay to win” impression surrounding it… truth be told I’m not seeing it like that at all.

In addition, there’s also a Madden ’23 Companion app for Android (and I assume Apple too, I dunno) and this app allows you to keep track fo your inventory and on-going auctions.

Not exactly the best app ever, the loading times are sometimes definitely challenging, but in the overall… it more than often just works for me. It was the app which allowed me to snatch some UT Panthers merch.

In Conclusion…

GO Panthers!

This game has some issues, no question about it, but at the same time it also has a lot of good things going for itself. Even though it lacks cheerleaders.

If you’re new to the game and maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed then my suggestion would be not to take in too much at once. Enjoy the opening game, pick up some basics with “Learn to play” and then have some fun with “Play now”.

Then maybe back that up with a few “Ultimate Team” sessions where my honest strong advice would be to respect your limits and to work with them instead of staring into the virtual distance looking for other green pastures and wondering what might have been.

Because that is exactly what the developers want: trying to lure you into pouring in extra cash to strenghen your position. But why not make the best with what you have? Not to mention… the auction house and trading options are a thing too here. And they work!

It’s the sport that counts!

Of course… all of this is coming from someone who doesn’t live in the US, who wasn’t brought up with football and who realizes like no other that he’ll probably never truly understand the depth which the legacy of John Madden has.

But then I’d like to ask you something in return: why do you think we moved from following the Cowboys and decided on rooting for the Panthers? The Panthers had a terrible season this year, didn’t quality for the playoffs and even some of their die-hard fans (like… people actually living in Carolina?) even some of them don’t consider the Panthers mid-carters anymore.

The answer is simple: because while I am definitely a Panthers fan for quite some time to come (we even got some Panthers merch, all the way out in frickin’ Europe!!)… the thing is: we’re also NFL football fans first and foremost. There’s a reason we’re watching Jaguars vs. Chiefs live right now.

And I really think that same vibe holds true for Madden. No, it probably isn’t perfect. Yet I still have nothing but fun playing.

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