While the primary Australian sporting codes are winding their seasons, across the various ponds some of the world’s biggest sports are commencing. With the return of the NFL season we see the triumphant return of the newest iteration in the Madden franchise: Madden NFL 18. In what is being touted as “Madden for everyone”, 18 brings with it new game modes, and similar to another EA franchise in FIFA 17, this newest Madden introduces a new story mode called Longshot featuring some big names and built on the Frostbite Engine. For die-hards, Madden NFL 18 will be a sure purchase but the real question is: should those with a passing interest invest their time and money in the game this year?
The new story mode Longshot is a great addition but it’s not without its issues. You play as Devin Wade, a high school superstar turned college football drop-out turned reality TV star “Longshot”. It’s always nice to have a story mode; something to invest your time and emotions into, and for the most part, Longshot does a good job of this. You’ll play through the highs and lows of Devin’s quest to be an NFL star as the story plays out with decision trees, QTEs and real game situations. However, you will quickly learn that no matter your choice, it won’t affect how the story plays out. This is not the only downfall of the story; Devin himself is likeable enough at first but quickly becomes bothersome and irking. The choices you are forced to make as Devin will leave you frustrated and throughout you will be desperate for branching storylines rather than the annoying arc you are forced to endure.
While the general story is set in stone no matter your input, the choices you make and your performance on the field do determine the end result of whether or not you find yourself drafted by an NFL team. Each decision will impact your football IQ and overall grade that determines the end result. In my first playthrough, I managed to get to draft day and find myself without a team because of my poor life choices. My second time around was far more successful however, I just like to think that I had matured a little, you know? There are moments of pure genius and overall it’s a positive experience as long as you go into it with clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t lose (seriously, though, you actually can lose, so do good, ya hear?).
In Madden NFL 18, there are three new play styles available to you: Arcade, Simulation and Competitive, with different levels of accessibility promising to fulfil the new title’s credo: “Madden for everyone”. Arcade is full of action-packed greatness with more touchdowns than you can wave a football at. There are limited penalties and no injuries, just good old-fashioned foosball to arouse the trigger fingers.
The final challenge!
Various play styles
Need to git gud
Even in war, the show must go on
Simulation is the authentic experience, with normal penalties and injuries; this mode is Madden as you remember it. The final Competitive mode is for PvP, competition-style play, with limited penalties and injuries but relying heavily on the skill of the player. Each mode is harder than the last so be sure to tackle the mode for the level you’re at. Other new features include Play Now Live, allowing you to jump straight into NFL action as it happens. Choose to play as your favourite team or line up in a primetime match as it happens or simply create a custom game. Madden Ultimate Team is back and aside from allowing you to continue the Longshot experience, players can now play with friends in MUT Squads, a 3v3 online experience. Each player will take on the role of the Offensive Captain, Defensive Captain or Head Coach and the three teams are combined to create a hybrid. It’s a great new mode if you have a bunch of friends you generally play with.
Gameplay mechanics are slick and the introduction of target passing is really quite fantastic. By pressing L2 and moving the left trigger, players are able to lead a receiver into the position they want them to go, finally unleashing the perfect pass. Make no mistake, this is not an easy task at first, but mastering this technique will take your game to a whole new level. On top of this there are new offensive playbooks, greater tackle options and better opportunities to realise which tactic you should adopt when defending a pass. Arguably the biggest improvement this year is the new Frostbite engine; everything is now a little more polished visually, including the welcome abolition of the half-man, half-goat character models from last year. Player’s bodies are more realistic for their position and how they interact in tackles, and the environments are more realistic in general including the way the sunlight reflects off people and objects. Stadiums are brighter, more alive and far more true to life, and player movement is greatly improved with the new engine.
The introduction of a Madden story mode is an extremely welcome move and one that is sure to attract a new type of audience to the franchise. The new play styles and improved graphics of the Frostbite Engine really amp up the overall feel of the game, even if the engine itself doesn’t improve gameplay all that much. The soundtrack is again immaculately done and MUT Squads adds a next level to that particular game mode. Madden NFL 18 is the first step in the right direction with all signs pointing up from here.
Reviewsed on PS4