August 28, 2017
Madden NFL 18 - Review
Another year means another season of football, which in turn means it's time for another edition of EA Sports Madden Football. This time around much like its brother franchise FIFA, Madden steps onto the Frostbite engine allowing for more realistic animation and better graphics all around.
The move to the Frostbite engine is one of the bigger changes this year along with the addition of the "Longshot" story mode (more on that later) along with these two changes comes the ability to team up as a squad with up to 2 other friends in Madden Ultimate Team mode and the "play now live" feature which allows you to jump straight into the weeks best match up using the latest rosters, custom commentary and up to the minute stats from the NFL. This mode is great for when you just want to jump into some quick action and not worry about managing the ins and outs of your team as you do in franchise mode.
The Longshot story mode included with this years version of Madden is probably one of the most controversial new features, the vast majority of feedback from people I encountered when this was announced was that they would rather EA Sports concentrate on features within the main game modes rather than introduce a new mode which is essentially a choose your own adventure story along with some quick time events and a spattering of actual gameplay on the field. I must admit that I was one of the people that weren't that interested in Longshot but now that I have actually played through Longshot I actually think it was a worthy addition to the series, it's far from perfect but it does a lot well. In Longshot you take control of Devin Wade a former high school football star quarterback who progressed through to college football but then left the game behind when he could not handle the tragedy of his father's death and walked away from the game, after 3 years Devin decides that walking away from the game was a bad thing and now wants to play the game again.
Longshot is a story of redemption, personal growth, and friendship and through the story and overcoming the obstacles that Devin encounters and how you choose to get past them you will find that you really start to care for its cast of characters. Though wonderfully presented and for the most part very well written the mode does have it's missteps and you will encounter certain moments that will make you cringe or feel like you are watching a scene from any one of the hundreds of sports movies about triumph and overcoming obstacles produced in the past 20 years. Longshot is more of a Telltale style than a sandbox that allows you to whatever you wish to do, however, for the most part, it does a great job of pushing the story forward at a nice pace but at times it jarringly breaks the immersion when you fail at a mini game and presents you with a "press X to try again screen", I would of rather they found a way of moving the story forward and somehow included your failures in the narrative.
Is it worth buying Madden 18 for Longshot alone? The answer to that would be a resounding no as it's quite short running at around 4-6 hours long. Do I think it's a worthy addition to the Madden series? That would be a resounding yes and I cannot wait to see how this mode develops in future editions, it would be great for them to turn it into a fully fledged career mode NBA 2K style. At the end of the Longshot story (there are multiple endings) the game transitions into Madden Ultimate Team mode or MUT as it is known and even presents you with a few cards featuring characters from the story to include in your squad.
The Frostbite engine is a great leap forward and you can really notice the graphical improvements compared to last years edition, the animations look much more realistic and players now have more widely represented body types, however there are some teething problems as I have noticed some significant slowdown in frame rate at points in games and some weird graphical glitches (playing on a standard PS4) I expect these problems to be addressed in future patches though and they can be forgiven seeing as this is the first year using the Frostbite engine.I am a big Franchise mode player and it was disappointing this year that there were hardly any changes made to this mode apart from a few presentation tweaks and the ability to start your career in either arcade, simulation or competitive mode each of them tweaking the style, speed, and rules of the game to suit how you like to play, arcade mode caters for high scoring quick games with no injuries and limited penalties, simulation does its best to provide the experience of a Sunday afternoon out on the gridiron while the competitive mode gears itself towards the growing Madden e-sports community focussing more on players skills with the sticks. Graphically of course franchise mode benefits from the use of the Frostbite engine however not a lot of attention has been paid to the sidelines, as in previous years you will see cut scenes of coaches and players on the sideline, however, these are much less detailed than those on the field and in some cases don't even accurately reflect the correct players, nor do any of them have nameplates on the back of their jerseys, this does break the immersion quite a bit. One great improvement with the new engine is that in the cut scenes between plays players don't seem to trip over each other and fall to the ground comically as much as they have in years past.One thing I have noticed is that tackles now seem to feel more realistic along with the animations that go with them. Regardless of the lack of improvements to franchise mode this year the game is still great to play and EA sports has provided a great foundation for this mode to hopefully receive some great upgrades in the years to come.
Madden Ultimate Team mode or MUT is a mode that I admittedly don't play that often, but it has received a few upgrades this year the biggest one being the ability to play with 2 other friends as a squad. MUT starts you out with a bunch of player cards much like MLB The Show does in it's Diamond Dynasty mode and using these cards you create a team in order to complete challenges or win games online against other players with victories earning you the chance to unlock better players for your squad, you can also purchase packs of cards through the store using cash. MUT mode seems to be becoming more popular each year and for a lot of people it is the main game mode that they play, EA Sports also seems keen on keeping the popularity of MUT alive as it is a rather nice cash cow for them given that people spend money to purchase packs.
If you are an American Football fan then I would definitely consider Madden 18 an essential purchase this year even if you already own last years version the improvements to MUT and the new Longshot story mode add a lot of depth to a game that already has a truckload of options. The upgrade to the Frostbite engine has me excited for the future of the franchise and hopefully next year EA Sports decide to give us franchise mode players some love.
Thanks to Electronic Arts for supplying the game for review