Madden NFL 18 Review

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EA Tiburon brought their interactive story, Longshot to Madden. Does a story mode translate well to a sports game? Find out in our Madden NFL 18 Review.

Release Date August 25, 2017
Genre Sports
Platforms PS4/XBO
Developer EA Tiburon
Price $59.99 US
ESRB Rating Everyone
Players 1-6 Players

 

Sports games are a different type of genre. They’re one of the most heavily criticized genres in video games. Let’s be honest, sports don’t really change that much. They are what they are and once a game is made, there aren’t many ground-breaking changes that the developers care to work on. It’s the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality and it’s one that the Madden series has dealt with a lot over the years. Madden NFL 18 breaks this cycle by adding a story mode called, Longshot. Unfortunately, that’s one of the only notable improvements that EA Tiburon has made this year.

Madden NFL 18 Review
Madden NFL 18 looks better than ever.

Madden NFL 18 made the jump to the Frostbite engine this year and the game has received a decent graphical upgrade in doing so. The lighting is so much better and you can easily see the glimmer of sunlight off of a player’s helmet and other subtle details like that. The players themselves look much more diverse than ever before with different body types which weren’t so well represented in past games. The jerseys, the players, the stadiums, and the crowd look so beautiful and lively. Everything just seems to pop off the screen and it feels like I’m watching an NFL game more than any other Madden game that I’ve played. 

The gameplay itself also looks a lot more fluid with players moving a lot more organically and interacting with each other in more realistic ways. There are still the occasional ragdoll moments in group tackles, but the animations seem much smoother this time around in one on one interactions. In one instance I had a receiver catch the ball in the air, land, get tripped from someone grabbing his right leg only to regain his balance with the other leg on his way to the end zone. It was satisfying to see my player not give up on the play during a tackle. It was also cool to see how the game nails something as small as a hand grabbing a foot. 

There is a new way of playing the passing game this year with Target Passing. This was a questionable addition to the game in my eyes. This type of passing allows you to lead your catcher and it requires a heck of a lot of speed and precision. I suck at this method of passing and that’s putting it lightly. I’ll be sticking with the normal button passing as I feel like that’s a much easier method, but I can see Target Passing really taking off with the hardcore crowd who like to be in control of every facet of the play.

Madden NFL 18 Review
Longshot features an impromptu singing session.

The big new addition to the Madden series this year is the Longshot single-player story mode. I had my reservations about how this mode would work in a sports simulation, but it seems to work quite well. The mode is anchored by a strong script and an enjoyable cast of characters. You’ll make RPG-like story decisions and decide how the story of the main character, Devin Wade, plays out during critical moments in his life. Longshot makes full use of the graphical upgrades of the Frostbite engine and looks a lot more lifelike than I would have expected.

Longshot mode takes you through the life of quarterback Devin Wade on his journey to the NFL. The experience is interesting because something as small as posting a social media video can have an impact on how the story plays out. There are many decisions to make and all of which can have a positive or negative effect on how Devin’s journey plays out. Unfortunately, the story is still fairly linear. Even if you make different choices, the big moments still mostly play out the same with only a few alternate scenes and endings. 

Madden NFL 18 Review
Longshot sees you play the role of Devin Wade.

While the Longshot experience is short and not worth much more than one or two playthroughs, it’s great to have a new single-player mode. It’s been years since Madden had Superstar mode and this is far superior to what that was albeit quite different. Longshot doesn’t really employ Madden’s core gameplay mechanics until the mid-way point. It’s actually a pretty good mode to introduce someone to Madden who has never played it before. I think it was a great first step for EA Tiburon and I’m excited to see them build upon it in the years to come.

Once you’ve completed Longshot, the game will transition you directly into Madden Ultimate Team giving you some collectible cards from the things you’ve seen in Longshot. There are even 27 solo challenges in MUT that let you relive some of the iconic moments of Devin Wade’s career. I liked the integration between the modes in this way and I thought that it gave people more incentive to go through Longshot even if they aren’t interested in it just to get some goodies for their MUT team.

Madden NFL 18 Review

MUT gains a new mode this year with MUT Squads. This mode is one that teams and two other players up to fill the Offensive Captain, Defensive Captain, and Head Coach roles. The rest of the team is a mix of the three users’ Ultimate Team lineups. This method of playing MUT is pretty awesome and I could easily see it becoming a big thing with eSports. I’m always game for anything that allows for more cooperative play and the ability to combine three great teams together to make a super-team is very exciting.  The only odd thing is that the camera angle is much more zoomed out than normal when playing these games. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it does allow you to see a lot more of the field.

Franchise Mode didn’t really receive much of an update this year which is quite a shame. It was pretty good on its own, but something would have been nice. The only difference seemed to be a few presentation tweaks here or there. Play Now Live is the only other new mode this year and is relatively pointless in my opinion. It allows you to follow along the real-life NFL season. There are in-game challenges to rewrite history or make your own history. This is very similar to the NHL Moments Live from the NHL series that ended up being abandoned. It’s not that the mode is bad, it’s just not that interesting and I can’t see anyone playing it for any length of time.

Madden NFL 18 Review

Madden has finally implemented the Arcade, Simulation, and Competitive styles of play. I’ve been wanting something like this in Madden for a long time as there are some times you want a more laid back experience which is what Arcade gives you. This mode provides tons of scoring, limits penalties, and takes away injuries completely. Simulation is the full NFL experience, while Competitive is more reliant on stick skill and is the default for online play. I don’t have a ton more to say about these. I tried each one and they all have their positives. It’s just nice that players can finally play the way they want to and it makes the game way more accessible to beginners.

Madden NFL 18 is a good football game, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to push the series forward. EA Tiburon spent the bulk of their time this year dealing with the move to the Frostbite engine and working on Longshot and it shows. Longshot mode is great, but it’s a 5-6-hour experience so that may turn some people off. If you’re a MUT fan, MUT Squads is a fantastic addition to the series and I would recommend this game based on that. This is a solid game and if you’re an NFL fan, you’ll certainly enjoy it. Just don’t expect any monumental leaps forward in gameplay because you’ll be sorely disappointed. 

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