August 30, 2018

Madden NFL 19 - Review

Quicker than you can say "National Anthem Controversy" another year has passed and it's football season again! Not only that it means it's time for the yearly update of Madden NFL Football and it's new features to be put to the test, and this time its available on PC for the first time in over a decade.

The move of the franchise to the Frostbite Engine last year was certainly a big step in the right direction for the future of Madden Football and this year it seems it has certainly settled into its new home with lighting, animation and control improvements that are great improvements over last years game, unfortunately some old bugbears such as low player detail on the sidelines return, it makes no sense to have players on the sidelines that bear no resemblance to their real-life counterparts, not to mention the fact that sideline players do not have their names displayed on the back of their jersey, it is a big immersion breaker.

Longshot returns this year and once again follows the adventures of Devon Wade and Colt Cruise post-NFL Draft and sees them trying to make it in the NFL. Last year I was very sceptical of Longshot but by the end of the story I was excited to see how EA Sports could improve and expand this mode unfortunately in Madden 19 I feel Longshot mode has been a bit "dumbed down", last year players had the ability to make choices through dialogue trees when speaking to the various characters in the game, unfortunately this year this has been largely stripped from the game and ruins the immersion. Longshot this year follows the formula of cutscene, mini-game, cutscene, mini-game rinse repeat which is disappointing as there is a great story and voice acting here (don't get me started on the high school game announcers though, those guys are terrible) and I would've of absolutely loved to just have a bit more control of it. It is still a great mode and worthy of inclusion in the whole package but this year it feels like a regression rather than the great places I expected EA Sports to take it, I will score this one a field goal and not a touchdown. As was the case last year playing through the Longshot mode in Madden NFL 19 will grant you rewards in the shape of players that you can use in the Madden Ultimate Team game mode, so even if you aren't a fan of the Longshot mode you are probably going to want to play through the story to gain access to these.

When I reviewed last years version I was quick to give praise to the graphical improvements provided by the move over to the Frostbite engine, however, I was also quick to point out some of the problems such as graphical glitches and significant frame rate slow down that plagued the game on release. Fortunately this year most of these problems seem to have been addressed, the graphical detail has been improved and is smoother than ever, I did not notice any frame rate issues while playing at all. Franchise mode is where I spend most of my time when playing and disappointingly once again this mode hasn't really seen any new features except for the addition of "draft classes", this will allow editing of players in the upcoming NFL draft so you can make them more true to the actual college players that will actually feature on the big day, this is a big step up in realism and it will be interesting to follow the careers of real-life college graduates as they progress through franchise mode rather than drafting generic and randomly named players, you can also name some of the players after your friends and family as well to add the personal touch and see how they progress through the draft and the NFL season.

The presentation has taken a big step forward this year, the menus are absolutely fantastic and pop out of the screen, they are honestly some of the best menus I have ever seen in a sports game. In game presentation has also taken a great leap forward, the commentary is once again provided by Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis and this year they sound much more fluid than in previous versions and their commentary is a lot more relevant to the action that is happening on the field. The pre-game presentation has also been stepped up with exterior shots of the various NFL stadiums and eye-popping 3D representations of team logos and helmets, the halftime show has also been improved and now takes us around the stadiums checking out the scores of various games in progress around the league. Most of the animations look spectacular this year and you will see players straining to try and catch the football or burst through the line of scrimmage to break a big run and the replay system is also vastly improved and focusses right in on the action this year, defensive plays are also highlighted now which is a welcome addition as is the ability to select a celebration when one of your players scores a touchdown.

Madden Ultimate Team returns once again this year, bigger and better than ever. I must say though that this mode seems to be quite polarising amongst the Madden fanbase as a lot of franchise players tend to blame this mode for the lack of updates to franchise mode over the past few years, I for one tend to agree with this but it is hard to deny that MUT is gaining in popularity each year, so the attention placed on this mode is kind of warranted. For those new to Madden this mode revolves around beating challenges and other players online to obtain rewards which come in the forms of packs of cards which contain players to help you build up your team to be stronger. New additions to the mode this year are a simplified and more user-friendly way to power up your existing players, solo battles which are challenges played against the CPU for "battle points", also added this year is the ability to assign players to specialist positions making it easier to have the players you want on the field at the right time. MUT is deeper than ever this year and is well worth giving a shot whether you prefer to battle it out against the CPU or challenge other players online there is something here for everyone.

With the staggering amount of updates included this year Madden NFL 19 is a must buy if you are in any way interested in the NFL, the graphical and presentation improvements alone this year are enough to warrant a return visit to the franchise, the game seems to play much more like a real NFL game this year and punishes you for trying to constantly select cheesy plays. It's just a pity they didn't include the option to kneel during the national anthem. Well done EA sports I am very impressed with this years edition!

Review copy supplied by Electronic Arts

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