With the NFL regular season kicking off only 48-hours away, that can only mean it’s officially also Madden Season. It’s been 2-weeks for yours truly, who opted for some Early EA Access on August 22nd; so there’s no excuse with not getting enough time under my belt for this review (the same can’t be said/sad for the “Monsignor”, who only picked up the game a few days after Madden 18‘s official August 25th release .. the slacker)!
After getting my palms sweaty with the demo back in June at EA Play, this longtime Madden vet was impressed with the gameplay improvements. EA Tiburon tightened up the man-to-man coverage and posts, D, C and drag routes; stuff far more important to a diehard like me than the usual bells and whistles. I’ll go over more gameplay details in the pair of paragraphs to follow, while Moody counters with a focus on the game’s new story mode.
The single clear biggest improvement to Madden NFL this year is a cosmetic one: the new Frostbite engine (Battlefield 4, Battlefront 2). Hell in 4K, Frostbite feels like you are watching an actual game on Sunday. With a new 4K widescreen in the lab, it’s hard not to notice the new player likenessess, muscular realism, facial features and expressions. This won’t make Moody thrilled, but Franchise Mode is pretty much the same from last year with the addition of three different game modes: Arcade, Simulation and Competitive (so, yeah; no halftime show, highlights around The L, or anything like that). At least Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) has a new 3-on-3 mode, which allows you to play with two friends online and more co-op opportunities with MUT Squads.
Also new for Madden 18 is Direct Passing, but this one’s a bitch; it may take a ton of practice to learn, and it’s a damn near necessity to hav a team with a bulky enough O-Line for the process to work. In short, DP allows your QB to guide your “Hot Zone” Wide Receiver to wherever you throw the ball.
Of course, this is Madden we’re talkin’ about; so what needs patching? The QB Scramble. While it sounds like a good brunch item to have this Sunday, the new Madden gameplay basically allows the QB to run downfield — no matter which QB you’re handling, from a boom-truck like Dak Prescott to slow locomotive like Jay Cutler — the D doesn’t seem to react, even if you play contain. Also, the RB spin move is overkill, as well as a few of the jukes, and the running protection can be a bit over-the-top as well. Clean up these minor nuisances, some of the player animation too, and EA has itself another beast of the annual gridiron. 4/5 QB Scrambles w/ Cheese.
Since this was the first Madden NFL game in years I did not get a review copy of, I was going to skip this season entirely. Yeah, that’s right; even with my fav football player of all time FINALLY on the cover, “The G.O.A.T.” Tom Brady (just one year after the series graced Tom’s teammate and my 2nd fav, Gronk, on the front plastic), I just didn’t see the need for Madden 18 in my life.
Boy, was I wrong. This year’s Madden introduced its first ever single player campaign/story mode during its EA presser at E3 2017; but, if you asked me a few months ago, I’d say it was a name fitting of the bill: Longshot. Thankfully asa Telltale-like experience, a swervy football story (written with plenty of humor and charm by St. Louis buds Mike Young and Adrian Todd Zuniga) and entry into the realm of Madden 18, it’s awesome. I’ve read some criticism on certain character tropes (TV exec, washed-up football coach, goofball “loser” teammates, etc.) that seem to pervade Longshot‘s narrative; but, for a video game, I still loved Longshot more than football movie I can remember. At least, you know, the majority of stories that predictably finish with a cherry on top.
More importantly, if you’re an RPG guy like myself who happens to also love sports, Longshot is the perfect amalgamation of the two video game subgenres; compare this to Spike Lee’s “Livin’ Da Dream” from NBA 2K16, and it’s not even close. The title also seems to make sense, considering this entry’s coverboy was drafted in the 6th round…
A mere mo-cap guy in previous Madden NFL games, former Stanford RB J.R. Lemon (NBC’s The Night Shift) is oustandingly relevant/relatable as former college-turned-reality-TV-star Devin Wade; Hart of Dixie‘s Scott Porter (also the voice of Robin/Star-Lord/Scarlet Spider in various games and cartoons) is an hilarious stand-out as Wade’s bestie, Colt Cruise. His character growth is arguably the finest part of the script. A few NFL Legends also make impactful cameos that I’d rather not spoil, while Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Luke Cage) adds some instant legitimacy as Wade’s coaching father.
Moreover, players can continue Wade & Co.’s legacy in the insanely deep MUT, to which players can upgrade/level-up their squads with ease and new tokens (to the sounds of a well-rounded Lit AF soundtrack!), and the full online MUT draft is where it’s at. Oh, as for the rest of the game, Madden 18 (in wonderful 4K or not) is a much prettier/more fluid version of Madden NFL 17 — a fine enough bonus this year, if you ask me. 3.75/5 Torn ACL’s.