The first thing you should know about the Madden Mobile franchise is that it isn’t meant to be a replica of its console counterpart. Like previous installments, Madden NFL 21 Mobile is more of an arcade-style convenience for those trying to burn 15 minutes on the go. There is nothing wrong with that, and the game has its own personality. Although it stumbles into typical handheld issues, this spinoff has some surprisingly thorough offerings.
This year’s edition still relies heavily on Ultimate Team, the card-collecting mode that allows you to gather up your favorite players and place them on one dream team. Through either in-game rewards or the game’s real-money currency, Madden Cash, you add cards and play in offline or online seasons. Obtaining certain players can be a hassle, as winning games doesn’t offer as much as expected, but this is a free-to-play mobile title, so it comes as no shock that the game presses you to spend at least a few bucks.
You’ll likely spend the bulk of your time in The Yard: Underground, Madden NFL 21 Mobile’s rebirth of the NFL Street franchise – sort of. This take on backyard football isn’t as boisterous as NFL Street, but without a release from that franchise in more than a decade now, the mode can’t be taken for granted.
You start by creating a player, putting a team together, and facing off against increasingly better teams. Along the way, you earn hundreds of colorful cosmetics that span from jerseys to shoes and even to mouthpieces, many of which have some stunning designs.
Two major features taken from NFL Street are its upgrade system and its campaign. Players can upgrade every single person on their team with each game won, and it’s obsessively interesting to watch how each can drastically improve. Early on, your team will struggle completing passes and won’t be too capable of running the ball. Dedicating a few hours will change this immensely, as you’ll end up pulling off some of the most absurd trick plays in the game.
The written dialogue within the game’s bare plot is another story. Most lines play like a bad Saturday morning cartoon, and I found myself urgently tapping through most scenes.
Madden NFL 21 Mobile’s struggles are mainly in its lackluster touch scheme. Each in-game button is painfully small, resulting in player moves being wildly different than intended. Oddly enough, it is best played with a controller. Using a DualShock 4, I played and won a handful of online games. For comparison, I lost most games when using the touch screen, ultimately due to missed tackles with the miniscule joystick. That being said, touch control accuracy probably won’t be a headache for users on sizable tablets.
Graphically, especially in The Yard, the game is easy on the eyes. So much so that even Washington Football Team’s jerseys appear more tasteful than they are in real life. You can spot the tiniest of shapes and stripes on every uniform, without any sacrifice to performance. At least on the iPhone XS, it seems to be one of few mobile sports titles that doesn’t face any serious framerate drops or bugs.
Ultimately, Madden NFL 21 Mobile is a surprisingly in-depth venture, with enough modes to last you through ‘21 and beyond. However, its questionable touch scheme is a frustrating learning curve at best, one that could turn off a chunk of its audience. Of course, a small patch could cure this issue, but for now, you’ll have to trade comfort for quality phone football.
7 / 10
|+||It’s hard to remaster a good game and make it worse.|
|+||Combat is still fun, and better class balancing is a welcome tweak.|
|+||The narrative, while fairly standard for the genre, still has a “bedtime story” charm.|
|_||In many ways, the eight years between the original and now has just changed RPGs for the better.|
|–||More could have been done concerning visuals and combat. As a remaster, it occasionally feels a bit thin.|