With the new NFL season just around the corner, the next Madden game has, as usual, arrived in a timely fashion. While the Madden formula has been tweaked just enough for the experience to not feel stale, there are still definitely some problems. One thing’s for sure though: Madden NFL 18 stands tall as an enjoyable experience for any type of football fan.
Arguably the most notable addition to the game this year is the new story mode: Longshot. In this mode, you play as Devin Wade, a drop out Texas Quarterback who’s looking for a second chance. Devin’s ticket to the NFL is the reality TV show called, you guessed it, Longshot. Along with his best friend Colt Cruise, you go through skills and training drills to help you compete in the show as well as showing off to NFL scouts. How well you perform as a quarterback in certain drills and challenges will affect your draft score and where you could possibly be drafted to. Along your journey, you will also be given a helping hand by some pretty famous NFL figures.
Overall, the Longshot mode turns out to be a welcome addition to the series. Previously, the only main story mode in the Madden NFL series was player/coach creation. While you did get to customize your own character or coach to your liking, they ultimately felt generic with boring dialogue options. Longshot allows you to connect personally with Devin, and this refreshes Madden‘s well worn formula (to an extent). Seeing the highs and lows of Devin Wade’s past helps make him a compelling character that you will find yourself rooting for. As for the other characters you interact with, they can also be interesting, but for the most part they’re just two dimensional tag-alongs. Longshot is all about Devin’s journey to the NFL, so some of the big narrative developments regarding the other characters do get overshadowed. During this journey, you are provided with choices that will ultimately shape how Devin acts and how scouts view him as a person. While some choices do feel meaningless, the RPG elements of Longshot are still effective.
All in all though, Longshot is basically an interactive movie. During the four and a half hours it takes to complete, probably 10% of the story is actual gameplay. A lot of the action comes by way of Quick Time Events. For the most part, the QTEs add a level of strategy to the experience. However, you aren’t really given that much time to react to these QTEs, and this can feel frustrating – especially since failing a QTE can sometimes lower your draft grade.
Narrative-wise, there are some interesting themes tackled in Longshot, but unfortunately aren’t focused on enough. There’s a moment where Devin goes on a rant about how some fans treat players as object, and I found that to be a interesting conversation. Unfortunately, this issue is never addressed again, and this happens a fair few times throughout Longshot. Many people may not have been expecting a think piece, but there was the potential for some really excellent storytelling that just wasn’t capitalized upon. Longshot isn’t the most refined story mode out there, but at least EA tried something different. Fortunately the change does end up paying off on the whole, as Longshot is an enjoyable story mode to play through, even with the Quick Time Events.
Speaking of QTEs, there is another another instance where they crop up: go to throw the ball during a game, and you’ll discover a newly added gameplay mechanic named ‘Target Passing’. This new feature allows quarterbacks to see where the ball will go before it is even thrown. It may be a little challenging to get the hang of at first but is definitely a challenge worth tackling. Plus, it is very simple to turn this mechanic on or off by pressing the LT/L2.
The other notable change Madden NFL 18 comes with is in Madden Ultimate Team. While the core foundation of Ultimate Team is the same, the big addition to is MUT ‘Squads’. You and two other players can team up, tackle specific roles, and compete against other MUT Squads online. The idea of collecting cards of famous football players to help improve your Ultimate Team was already addicting enough. With the addition of MUT Squads, it makes the Ultimate Team even more rewarding. Here’s a handy tip: if you think you’ll be pouring your time into Ultimate Team, then complete the Longshot story mode. You get unique players for completing the story that you can use for your Ultimate Team.
The Franchise Mode returns but unfortunately brings nothing new to the table. You control a coach of a current NFL team or customize your own team, and while there are a lot of creative choices at your disposal, nothing significantly new has been added to the mode. The gameplay itself hasn’t been changed too much either, but that is not necessarily a bad thing – it’s still as crisp as ever and very strategically. There are three new game styles that you can choose from which are Arcade, Simulation and Competitive. Arcade mode is Madden at its craziest with high scoring games and fast-paced gameplay. Simulation is the more authentic football experience where the gameplay is slowed down and is a lot more strategically compared to the Arcade style. For the players that are looking toward the online competitions, the Competitive style is for you. This style is more attracted to the ranked online community where the best players in the world will battle it out. These different styles can be completely ignored but these styles do add new ways for players to enjoy and shape their Madden experience. A minor change that deserves to be mentioned are the improved options a running back has while on the run. The options like juking out a defender or stiff-arming an incoming linebacker feels much more natural and fluid then in previous entries. Little tweaks like this are very appreciate and help improve the overall experience.
As well as this, ‘Play Now Live’ will please all the football nerds out there. Through this new mode, you can follow along the NFL schedule and play whatever games are happening that week. Real player stats will be transferred into this mode making each game you play have a sense of realism. What’s more, the commentary team will mention certain real-life events, like how well a rookie running back is doing or how a veteran quarterback is struggling to find success.
One area in which Madden NFL 18 struggles to innovate is the online portion – nothing new is brought to the table. Just like local co-op, the core gameplay itself seems to be the same, apart from a few changes. While it is disappointing that nothing new was added to the online mode, it still remains a smooth, lag-free experience. The only significant technical issues can be found in Longshot. Sometimes there would be a blur stuck on the screen from a previous graphic, as well as occasion lip-syncing issues. Aside from this, Madden NFL 18 is gorgeous. The level of detail on the players and coaches has really been fine-tuned.
It’s surprising that after all these years, the Madden NFL series remains an enjoyable football experience. But to say the series isn’t showing a little age would be a false statement. There are some flaws to be found in this year’s Madden game that should and still need to be fixed. With a revamped story mode and tiny additions here and there, Madden NFL 18 is another successful entry to the classic football series. No matter if your favorite football team does well or not this year, you can always count Madden NFL 18 to cheer you up!