Madden 23 Tips: 11 Things To Learn Before Kickoff

If you're heading onto the field with Madden 23, take these tips with you to dominate in H2H, exhibition, and more.

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Madden 23 has arrived, which means millions of football fans are once again lacing up their cleats and taking the field to compete in the game's several competitive modes such as Madden Ultimate Team, Head To Head (H2H), and Connected Franchise. For many people, Madden is an annual tradition, while others surely find themselves new to the series in any given year. Our Madden 23 tips are designed to both welcome in new players looking for winning strategies and welcome back long-timers just looking to learn about the game's new mechanics. We'll start by explaining some of the game's big-picture changes and things to know before we get more nitty-gritty in subsequent tips. Here are 12 things to know about Madden 23 to keep you ahead on the scoreboard.

Skill-Based Passing is the real deal

The marquee new feature to Madden 23 is what EA Tiburon calls "Fieldsense," a wide-ranging change to on-field gameplay that affects things like wide receiver route-running, running back cuts, and tackling. But perhaps the biggest change under the Fieldsense umbrella is Skill-Based Passing.

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This is a new system that swaps out some of Madden's legacy RNG elements in the passing game in favor of more direct player control. Think of Skill-Based Passing as something like fielding the ball in MLB The Show or taking a shot in NBA 2K. A new on-screen meter and field shading system will show you precisely where you're putting the ball and how much zip you'll put on it.

We have a longer guide detailing just this new system, but the main thing to takeaway is this: It's going to look confusing at first, and even the tutorial may not help, but stick with it. The best practice comes in a live setting, and once you get used to it, you'll soon agree: There's no going back to the old way.

Is Madden Ultimate Team right for you?

If you're brand-new to Madden, you may be wondering where to invest your time. While many Madden purists still prefer Franchise mode, EA is happy to usher you into Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). In this mode, you complete challenges, normally shorter than full games, to earn coins and other rewards like player cards. As you slowly climb the game's massive ladder of content, you'll improve your team piece by piece, settling for incremental upgrades at most positions, while occasionally splurging to acquire a real playmaker.

The catch is, you can circumvent that long process with your debit or credit card. Yes, MUT is the game's microtransaction mode, and it is absolutely still a minefield of pay-to-win tactics. Those who invest only their time could take weeks or months to get their team to a state that those buying upgrades can achieve in just a few minutes. Strangely, the sports gaming world didn't enjoy the same revolt against pay-to-win games when the rest of the industry quickly moved away from them after Star Wars Battlefront 2, also known as "the last straw" for many players.

However, there's a sliver lining to this year's game. New Field Passes allow you to earn steadier and better rewards just for playing the mode for free. Think of these as free battle passes that dole out coins, XP, and some really helpful player cards. At launch, three separate Field Passes are already in the game, giving you more ways to compete without spending a dime.

Get familiar with Madden's different playing modes: Arcade, Competitive, and Simulation

Madden can actually feel different depending on the mode you're in. Arcade mode is skewed to allow more big plays, more broken tackles, and generally give the game a more exciting feeling for players who just want to see their stars shine. Competitive mode, the default H2H mode, is built more around the level of a human player's skill on the controller. In this mode, your athletes will be more reliant on you knowing how to use skill moves, how to effectively run routes, and how to out-maneuver the player(s) on the other side.

In simulation mode, arguably the Madden purist's preference, the game is meant to look and play more like an NFL game, with less chaos than arcade and more reliance on the skill levels of the virtual athletes themselves. This mode takes into account ratings deltas between players, like if a lousy corner is assigned to an elite wideout, and generates more realistic outcomes based on those matchups. Naturally, your own skill on the sticks is still totally relevant here too, but not as much as the game's competitive mode.

It's important to understand that some modes come pre-packaged in one of these modes, while others, such as Franchise, let you pick the style of play you want to use.

On-field strategies to help you win any game

Now that you know Madden's big-picture changes--and new players have a bit of an introduction--let's dive deeper and look at some winning Xs and Os that can help you win against the CPU, Franchise opponents, or the dreaded online community at large.

Use our Madden strategies to win in any mode.
Use our Madden strategies to win in any mode.

Don't spam the sprint button

Your instinct may be to sprint whenever you have the ball in your hands, but it's not always the best idea. Sprinting negatively affects your ability to make cuts or perform other moves at their fullest, such as jukes and spins. Instead of constantly holding down the right trigger, use it in the open field or right after you make a cut through the hole as a running back or kick returner. It'll help you get defenders out of position as you turn on the afterburners and leave them whiffing on a tackle.

Punt and kick returns aren't mindless anymore

Time was, you'd go to return a kick and rarely make it past the 25, but so far in Madden 23, that's not been the case. Perhaps the studio will patch this later, but right now, kick and punt return TDs feel more possible, and teams are consistently getting past the 30. With that in mind, be sure to defend the field thoughtfully. You can't just sprint down and expect the CPU to bail you out. Leaving a running lane open for the returner can hurt you like never before.

The new stand-up tackle quick-time event (QTE) can be sink-or-swim

Sometimes your ball carrier may get stood up on a tackle and you'll be prompted to mash the A button (X on PlayStation) to get out of it. You should know that this is optional, and while doing so might wiggle you free to keep running, it also puts you at greater risk of fumbling the ball. This will more rarely happen against the CPU, but if you're playing a human opponent, you may be best to settle for the yards you got and not try to break out for more. To give up on the play in the middle of the QTE, you can press X (Square on PlayStation) to go to the ground and prevent disaster.

Match cornerbacks to wide receivers however you see fit

You don't have to settle for lining up your corners on their default assignments. When picking a play, click the right stick to bring up the coaching adjustments menu, then look for "cornerback matchups." By default, it'll be set to balanced, which lets the CPU decide for you. But you can change this to align corners to wideouts by speed, overall rating, height, and more. This means, for example, if your best corner isn't so fast and you've got to worry about covering Tyreek Hill, you can try shadowing him with your fastest corner all game long.

Don't "user" a position you can't handle

In Madden, user-ing relates to the defender you decide to play as. You can change this at any point, even mid-play, but you should pick a position you can play with skill. For example, if you find yourself late to react to crossing routes and double moves, you shouldn't be playing corner, or else you'll become a liability to your team. The safest position in most cases, for those who feel they have a lot to learn on defense, is defensive tackle, as your job will usually just be to plug up the inside running lanes, leaving the CPU to handle coverage, pass rush, and spying the QB.

Call fake hot routes and audibles to keep online opponents guessing

When you break the huddle, even if you decide you're going to run an offensive play exactly as it appears in the playbook, you can keep defenses on their toes by calling fake audibles and hot routes you don't plan on using. Calling an audible at the line lets you completely change the play, while a hot route will instruct a target to run a different route. The trick is you can call out these play calls even without changing anything. To call a fake audible, press X (Square on PlayStation) at the line of scrimmage, then select "reset play." This will have your QB call out an audible even though you haven't changed anything.

Similarly, I like to sometimes call hot routes even though I won't even be passing. If I see a CB creep up to the line of scrimmage, I may tell the blocking WR lined up on him to "hot route" to a new route, even though he was never going to run a route in the first place. It can get defenders thinking you're going to that guy or that you believe you've noticed a weakness in their defense they may then frantically try to spot before you snap the ball. It's 4D chess-level stuff that you don't need to break out in a blowout, but in a close game with a master playcaller, having a few tricks up your sleeve can really help.

Set up chunk plays later by calling the same play a few times

This is as good in real life as it is in Madden. You've got to run to set up the pass. If you can successfully break off two or three runs early from the same formation--or even with the same play--coming out in the same formation later could get your opponent guessing wrong that you're about to run it again. This makes for the perfect time to set up the play-action pass from the same formation. It'll look exactly like what they're expecting right up until the moment they've bit on the play fake and you're bombing the ball over their heads to your wideout on a deep post.

Choosing a play call is just the beginning on defense

Playing defense in Madden is more than just picking a play and executing it. If you know your opponent's tendencies, you can set the corners to favor inside, outside, over the top, or underneath routes. If you guess correctly, you'll be more likely to be in a position to deflect or intercept the ball. More than that, you can crash the defensive line--meaning direct the linemen to push in toward the center-- as well as have them spread out, shift left or right, and more. There's a ton to do in the pre-snap phase on defense and if you think you know what the offense is going to do, you should plan for it. If they like to run with the QB, assign a spy. If they keep running it up the gut, crash the line. If they keep throwing to the sideline, anticipate the outside pass with your DBs. Every punch in Madden has a counter-punch, so get in the habit of knowing when a jab is coming and get ready to deliver your haymaker.

For more on Madden 23, check out the list of X-Factors and Superstars, rosters and ratings for all 32 teams, and everything else you need to know about Madden 23.

Mark Delaney on Google+

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