Madden 21, the latest addition to the 32-year-old franchise named after the legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden, is about to drop. Here is everything you need to know about the game, from the new modes, new ratings, new "Yard" mode, the soundtrack, and more.  

Release Date and Pre-Orders

Madden 21 will be released on Tuesday for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It is the first Madden game to get a release for the ninth generation video game consoles later this year. 

It will be available on the Xbox Series X beginning in November 2020. It will be released on Playstation 5 and Stadia before the end of the year. And if you buy it on the current generation of hardware? You'll be able to upgrade to the next generation for free. Good stuff.

Early Access

If you can't wait until August 25 to get your hands on it, Madden 21 will be available for preview starting Friday. To play, you need to have an EA Play subscription, which will cost you $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. For that, you'll get 10 hours of play with the new game this weekend, pre-launch.

Pre-Order Bonuses

If you pre-order this weekend, there are some extra perks.

The Standard Edition pre-order costs $59.99 and comes with:
1 of 32 Players from NFL Team Elite Packs
5 Madden Ultimate Team Gold Team Fantasy Packs
1 “Your Choice” Uniform Pack

The MVP Edition pre-order costs $79.99 and comes with:
1 of 32 NFL Team Elite Packs
5 MUT Gold Team Fantasy Packs
1 -Your Choice Uniform Pack
3-day Early Access
7 MUT Gold Team Fantasy Packs
An exclusive Madden NFL 21 theme

The MVP Edition pre-order costs $99.99 and comes with:
1 of 32 NFL Team Elite Packs
5 MUT Gold Team Fantasy Packs
1-Your Choice Uniform Pack
Power Up for the Lamar Jackson Elite Item
3-day early access
12 MUT Gold Team Fantasy Packs
1 large Quicksell Training Pack
MCS Ultimate Champion Pack
1 Lamar Jackson Elite Item
An exclusive Madden NFL 21 theme

Cover Athlete

It's Baltimore Ravens quarterback and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson. It's no coincidence that the Ravens were also the most popular team in Madden 20; second and third place were the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.

The X-Factors

The new game retains the Superstar/X-Factor feature from Madden 20. Reserved for the best, once-in-a generation players, Superstar Abilities are always "on," while X-Factors each have a trigger and then a subsequent buff to the respective player.

For example, if your quarterback has the "Gambler" X-Factor and manages to complete three consecutive plays for 5+ yards each, the AI won't be able to intercept his passes until he cools down after 2 incompletions.

"The Yard"

New to Madden 21 is "The Yard," a more informal experience where you play backyard football in 6-on-6 formations. For example, just like when you played football during recess, there's a blitz count (1 Mississippi, 1 Mississippi…") before you can sack the quarterback.The key to winning in The Yard is to be a creative ball carrier who can think on the fly. 

Kansas City Chiefs tight end talked about "The Yard" on the latest episode of the Load Management podcast

Super Bowl champion & one of the best tight ends in the game! @tkelce joins the podcast to talk:
- Super Bowl LIV/2020 NFL season
- The NBA playoffs
- @EAMaddenNFL

Episode: https://t.co/gq3yj65s1U pic.twitter.com/30RiMaClep

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 18, 2020

Extra Points

In "The Yard," there is no kicking after a touchdown, but you can earn extra points by fulfilling certain requirements. For example, you'll get two extra points for a touchdown play that includes a double pass or a lateral. You'll get one extra point for scoring a touchdown that's over 40+ yards, or for getting an interception.

Older players might recall the joys of NFL Street (2004), which allowed you to play football with playground rules, combined with the skills of elite players. If you like football, but you're tired of everything feeling so lock-step in the NFL, The Yard might be what you're been looking for.

Trick Stick

Madden 21 has gone the way of many sports games before it and added a 'trick stick' mechanic for the ball carrier. You can lean the right stick in different combinations to juke, spin, and hurdle in seamless combinations. This should make it more accessible to newcomers and more of a learning curve for the traditionalists and purists.

Madden Ultimate Team Ability Caps

The Madden Ultimate Team mode will receive some quality of life modifications, but the most noticeable change is to the abilities mechanic. You're no longer limited to upgrading the ability of three players on offense and three players on defense; instead, you're given a set number of ability points on offense, defense, and special teams, which you can then distribute however you please.

The Spokesplayer

The public-facing spokesperson for Madden 21 is the Spokesplayer, a character performed by actor Keraun Harris (Insecure, Black-ish). It's a neat concept, but it's one that may backfire (particularly for Keraun!) if the game doesn't live up to the hype.

The Ratings

The individual rating for each player is always a major point of contention and fun—most of all for the players themselves. EA has a searchable database for every player and his respective rating on the official Madden site.

The Soundtrack

Madden 21's official soundtrack will also be released on August 28. The tracklist is below. You can preview the playlist on Spotify and Apple.

1. Anderson .Paak feat. Rick Ross "CUT EM IN"
2. Big K.R.I.T. "KICKOFF"
3. Blacc Zacc "Flag On Da Play"
4. blackbear "lil bit"
5. Childish Major & JACE "Kick It"
6. Earthgang "Powered Up"
7. HDBeenDope "Top"
8. Jack Harlow "Automatic"
9. Jucee Froot "Champion"
10. Lute feat. Blakk Soul "Get It And Go"
11. NEZ feat. DUCKWRTH & Saint Bodhi "Work"
12. Nimic Revenue "Win Again"
13. Party Favor & JAHMED "ACTUP"
14. Smino with Monte Booker & The Drums "Backstage Pass"
15. Stunna Girl "Rotation (Game Mix)"
16. Terrell Hines "On Fire"
17. Tokyo's Revenge "Irresponsible"
18. Yungblud & Denzel Curry "LEMONADE"

The Verdict?

There's little quality of life improvements. There's a renewed emphasis on frame-to-frame micro control. But the online criticism directed toward Madden 21 (specifically, franchise mode) is the same one directed towards all annual franchises: is this a mere repackaging of an old game, or something unique and fun in its own right?

Of course there are repackaged elements. That's both the benefit and drawback of a legacy game that hones its subtler technical points over a period of years. It ultimately comes down to a subscription mentality; are you willing to pay for a quality experience that is similar to the quality experience you had before, and do you want to re-up for the next 12 months? No one can tell you what $59.99 is worth; it comes down to how much you like Madden in the first place. If you're into it, we'll see you on the gridiron. And if not? At least you know there will be another edition next year.