What better way to celebrate your team’s triumphs and anguishes of the latest NFL season than by jumping right into EA’s latest instalment of the Madden series? Whether it is screaming for non-existent pass interference calls, celebrating as your star wide receiver makes a crucial play down the field, or hiding your face as the opposition quarterbacks begin to haunt your team’s defence, one thing is for certain, Madden is back, and it is as impressive as ever.
When the yearly decision is announced as to who is lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to have their face on the Madden front cover they almost always certainly deserve it. This year that decision must have been easy; say what you want about Tom Brady, but his firm position as the frontman of this year’s Madden instalment has been a long time in the making. The five-time Super Bowl champ and two-time Super Bowl MVP had another benchmark year in the 2016 season, Brady’s impressive year at the helm of the Patriots offence was finished off unbelievably with that legendary comeback during Super Bowl 51. That being said, with the future hall of fame quarterback at the helm of this year’s instalment does Madden 18 uphold the legendary stature of the player that graces its front cover? Or does it fail in the respect of falling way short of the expectations of the Madden faithful that return year after year?
The standout new feature to the series this year is the introduction of Madden’s first ever single player story mode. Titled ‘The Longshot’ this intriguing take on football life follows the trials and tribulations of small town hero Devin Wade as he aspires to achieve his dream of becoming a professional football player. Once one of High Schools most promising prospects, Wade gets handpicked to participate in a TV show that promises to help him grow as a person and raise the standard of his quarterback ability. Something that the producers hope will be enough for Wade to make an NFL roster.
Competing in a number of challenges and mini games, Wade looks to increase his overall quarterback rating as he starts to eye the looming event of Draft Day. Everything down to your football IQ and on field performances is scrutinised throughout your journey, with your personal decision making throughout the cutscenes also playing a part as they too begin to dictate the course of the story. Being a longshot is an integral part of NFL life; you have to be the very best to make the cut and wrong moves see players fail on a yearly basis. The clear sense of Devin’s personal mission to succeed as ‘The Longshot’ is what gives Madden’s story mode its power. There is a definite attachment between Wade and you as the player, and the use of a deep, meaningful back story to Devin’s life means that a personal desire begins to fuel your decision making and overall gameplay.
There is no doubt that Madden’s story mode has great potential, the future possibilities going forward are exciting and there is a great feeling of intrigue and expectation over any future instalments. However, if EA wants to use this feature as a stepping stone in making Madden appeal to gamers who are more inclined to avoid buying the game, then more has to be done. For instance, the story as a whole is particularly short which produces an experience that can be completed within an evening. A game being short is not always a bad thing, but in this case it could continue to give little incentive to gamers who remain on the fence if a casual evening playthrough results in them being left with the features that tend to keep them away every year. In that regard, there is still some work to be done to make Madden’s story mode appeal to a wider group of gamers. But for those who enjoy the series anyway then the introduction of ‘The Longshot’ is simply an exciting addition to an already well-established group of game modes.
On a visual standpoint the game looks great, Madden this year took the jump to use the highly impressive Frostbite engine, meaning gameplay and graphics have benefited from its capabilities. Players and stadiums also take on whole new dimensions as EA really begins to capture the essence of gameday atmospheres. There is also something really impressive about seeing your NFL superstars within this year’s game engine and being able to distinguish the recognisable features of the players gives your overall experience a great sense of realism. The standard of realism within EA’s sports games is something that you continue to marvel at – year after year the standard is improved and Madden 18 continues to highlight this expertly. Madden 18, through its visuals, has not only succeeded in improving your all-round experience but has also brought an improved sense of intensity that so many times really captures the essence of the NFL.
Like so many games before it, Madden 18 sees the return of the much-loved Franchise mode, as once again players get the opportunity to try and take their team to the Super Bowl and really cement their name as a franchise hero. Here players get to tailor their roster to their own needs, with the utilisation of both free agency and the trade block, players can also continue to help improve their position on the field by bringing in particular players the roster is in need of. You will also get the chance to make crucial plans for the next few seasons by being able to scout the best college prospects that, in your eyes, will be the future of the NFL. Franchise mode once again looks to give its players control of their team’s destiny; tailoring a team’s progress gives it a personal touch and allows you to really make a team your own and lead them to huge glory.
Ultimate team is arguably the most enjoyable feature introduced to some of EA’s sports titles over the past few years. The concept of Ultimate Team begins with players starting by opening a series of packs of cards that in turn create your very own personal roster. The randomisation of the cards grants the player a team that consists of players from every position and every team. Within this game mode, you can create a team that has the potential to see Aaron Rodgers throwing his famous Hail Mary to a waiting Odell Beckham Jr, all while players such as Von Miller command your resilient defence. Madden Ultimate team is where players can bring their wildest fantasy team to life, and whether you set up your team in solo challenges or go head to head versus other players, there is a wonderful depth to the game mode that can see you become overpowered and enthralled by the whole concept. The entire experience pushes players into new levels of gaming ability – this is your team, your decisions, and your play calls, and it brings the perfect platform to go and dominate the competition.
Ultimately, Madden 18 is a respectable addition to the overall series. The impressive nature of its graphics and the continued enjoyment throughout its game modes gives it enough prowess to sustain its image and produce a pleasing experience throughout your time with it. It’s the addition of ‘The Longshot’ story mode that really defines this year’s instalment though. Here is a feature that, for the first time in years, has given the Madden faithful something new and exciting to look forward to. Its drawbacks and short nature, although disappointing, fail to take away the feeling of huge optimism of a well-established story mode within future Madden titles.
Madden 18 is a rewarding and highly enjoyable game that offers its players a chance of glory and a free reign over how they want to become a franchise legend.