EA takes the football franchise to another level with the 2018 edition of the game, but falls short of making it A+ worthy.
I’ve been playing Madden for more than 15 years now. I remember getting the game for Playstation 2 and thinking, “Sure, football. Why not? I enjoy watching it sometimes on TV. Why not play the games?” Madden made me into a football fan. I didn’t watch the game every Sunday, rooting for the Detroit Lions helplessly, until I played Madden. Now, with this edition of the game with the GOAT on the cover (sorry Bills fans, but Brady is a Michigan man too), the franchise took another major step forward. It’s not 5-time Superbowl champion good, but it’s a solid installment.
LONGSHOT – STORY MODE
This is the game mode that separates 18 from 17, hands down. The idea is to go from small town hero to long-shot NFL draft pick. I will say this: the story mode in Madden 18 may be better than the story mode in NBA 2K17. I want to remind you, I said the “Orange Juice” story brought an unparalleled dynamic to a sports game. Madden matched it, and I will argue mostly improved upon it. We’ll get to my one major flaw in a second.
The idea here is you’re the blue chip quarterback, the 5-tool player, the guy expected to lead the charge in the NCAA. It doesn’t quite happen like that after your father passes away. After several tough games in the college ranks, you quit. You’re done. You’re out of football entirely. However, with some ushering from some old teammates, including your best friend, you decide to jump back into the game and see what you’re made of.
The cut scenes are longer than I expected, but you truly do get lost in the story crafted by the producers of this game. Between that, and the quick-selection system (think Wolf Among Us style) and you’ve got a lot happening in a story mode. Your choices directly impact your draft outlook. As you get through the backstory, you begin the TV aspect of the story. You’re on a game show essentially, and you have to prove you’re the best candidate to be that show’s NFL draft representative. You do this through mini-games where you’re throwing routes, calling back plays, and answering football questions about formations. So imagine you’re playing NCAA Football (or what used to be the NCAA Football games) with an actual back story, and then taking that character to Madden.
Here comes my one issue with this game mode: there is no “after you’re drafted” moment. Frankly, I didn’t perform well enough to be drafted in the game. However I was able to sign a contract as an un-drafted free agent. Regardless of your outcome, you don’t go beyond this. You can’t take the guy into Franchise mode. Devin Wade and Colt Cruise go into MUT as average players at best. Maybe they come out as better players should you actually get drafted high, but I would have liked the ability to continue the story as a single-player controlled game-mode similar to, I don’t know, every other sports game in the past decade.
I’ll be honest here: I never played Franchise Mode last year. I strictly played online head-to-head and some MUT to pass the time until WWE 2K17 came out. Well, when your internet goes out, and you have nothing else to do with a brand new game, you explore! So I jumped in to Franchise mode and started exploring ways I could actually win with the Lions.
This is a deep game mode with lots of little intricacies that other sports games could use. Training is not simply selecting focal points, pressing A, and watching attributes go up. You pick things to improve upon based on the opponent’s strength, and then you go out and practice it. How you do in practice determines how much your players improve. I love the practice portion, because I’m actually learning football things that I use in online games. Watching a single match-up and being able to read it for the best throw, or seeing the gap that I’m supposed to take as a running back.
You also control the team as the GM, the coach, and then you of course get to play. I’m a big fan of simply playing the moments. You play the key downs of the game, and it’s a quick 10 to 15 minute game instead of half an hour. You play most defensive 3rd downs, and the big offensive drives. The downside is you don’t control the outcome 100% of the time as you would if you were to play all 4 quarters. Catch 22, but it’s nice to have both options.
MADDEN ULTIMATE TEAM
I won’t spend too much on this part here, because frankly I’m not sure there is much to discuss. That’s not a bad thing by any means. I’ve enjoyed Ultimate Team since it came out. Collect cards like you did when you were a kid, build your team based off that, and pursue a better team. One new thing is the fact that you level up throughout the mode, and with that comes bonuses. Also, having players from the same team creates better chemistry. Small little tweaks to a game mode that I already enjoyed whole-heartedly. This mode has always been one of the deepest modes in the game, and that doesn’t change. For me, potentially too deep. The amount of time you have to spend to create a team that could actually compete online is astronomical. Or you can spend real money, and purchase some of the upper-echelon packs, and build fast. It’s all in what you want to do.
Longshot takes this game to another level. I was really apprehensive at first about buying the game at all. How many times can I play the same football game? Is there enough of a change to warrant spending money on this game? I must say it’s a resounding yes. The gameplay is solid once again. Franchise mode feels fresh to me (albeit I don’t have last year to compare it to because I simply didn’t play much). MUT is still a deep, challenging game mode. And then there’s online head-to-head, which is the bread and butter to any sports game: talking trash when you win a game by 1 point because the opponent was up 5 with 10 seconds left and decided not to kneel, and threw a pick 6 for me to get the win (this happened, I’ll upload it to the Geekiverse Youtube channel).
+ Longshot is a game-changer for the franchise
+ Franchise mode is deep, entertaining, and intricate
+ MUT is a staple that keeps anyone thrilled for hours on end
– Longshot doesn’t translate to other game modes
– Some quirky problems with EA servers at times
EA Sports Madden NFL 18 was reviewed on an Xbox One. It is also available for PC and Playstation 4. All pictures are from the Xbox One’s screenshot functionality.
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