Madden NFL 21 (Xbox One)


Coaches pace Madden 21’s sidelines holding branded Microsoft Surface tablets. That’s accurate. Surface’s became indelible to the NFL after announcers were shamed for incorrectly calling them iPads.

But Madden 21 isn’t the real NFL. It wants to be; the NFL licenses says as much. This year’s Madden releases alongside a global pandemic, of which football’s home country failed to contain. Yet, polygonal stadiums fill with cheering fans, every game a sellout.

It’s not fair to call out a development team – Madden 21’s design happened amid mandated shutdowns, certainly adding to the complexity. Even masking virtual fans is a monumental ask in coding terms. Yet this year, it feels like playing football in a Trump-ian delusion, as if the world moved on, every packed stadium isn’t a super spreader event, and players take the field without worrying about injustices. Racism is solved. It’s an absurd image given the date.

The only sign of social change in Madden 21 is Washington renamed the Washington Football Team after vocal derision finally forced a change from their racist name prior.

Madden habitually avoids controversy; a clean corporate image is everything under the NFL banner. From concussions to Kaepernick, Madden kept being Madden. In 2020, with a President keen to tweet about kneeling players, Madden 21 still avoids the National Anthem. Having people sing goes against the CDC’s COVID guidelines, so maybe that’s it.


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