Madden NFL 18 continues to find ways of refining even after 25 plus years in the football gridiron. With the franchise using the frostbite engine, this is the best looking version of the game to date that showcases a new narrative focused side to the series that we haven’t seen before. While they’re a few sacks along the way, EA Sports have once again made another stellar version of Madden.
Since NBA 2K11 began the MyCareer incitive, which allowed players to create a player and play him throughout his NBA career, and since then other franchises have taken notice. FIFA last year took an alternative path by offering a more cinematic take as a soccer prospect when you played as Alex Hunter, a hotshot 17-year-old fighting for a spot on a Premier League team. This year it’s Madden’s turn that offers a movie style version of a high school prospects road to the NFL gridiron called Longshot
Friday Night Meh
You play as Devin Wade, a five-star prospect in Texas turned college that washed out who now has one last chance to chase his football dream at the NFL combine. The story focuses on Devin and his best friend Colt Cruise where players can choose dialogue though QuickTime events that shape the story.
The majority of it is told through a series of flashbacks where Devin relieves his high school glory days. Devin’s draft grade is affected by how well he can read defenses showcasing his football IQ, and his performance on the field.
The ensuing story is three to four hours features former NFL players like Chad Johnson and NFL Hall of Famer, Dan Marino popping in to serve as mentors. I enjoyed my time with Longshot, and similar to FIFA hope to see it return, but I was more involved with the story. Longshot forgets along the way that it needs have a compelling reason to play. I often felt distanced by the action with QuickTime cutscenes taking 20 minutes to finish.
The biggest addition in Madden 18 is the new passing mechanic called target passing. Using the LT/L2 button, you can manually throw the ball using the left stick to your hot lead receiver. The new mechanic rewards players that learn offering new ways to combat NFL defense in real-time. One solution I’ve found is to aim passes away from the sideline, which allows skilled players to make a move and gain extra yards. It will take the time to master the mechanic, but the Madden skill trainer is a great destination to practice, but what I learned in my first couple of hours is I ended up getting sacked a lot when trying the feature.
I am worried that this new system will be short lived similarly to the QB Vision in Madden 2005. On online matches, I am not sure I would ever use the QB pro aim unless both players are using it. I found the new mechanic was helpful when aiming deep 40+ yard passes because It’s a great way to separate the wide receivers from free safeties in the backfield. However, when approaching the red zone I don’t think I would use it when throwing slants or running back screens when the timing is crucial. The normal passing mechanic is still the same, and dependable. When I’ve used target passing I often find myself focusing on only one wide receiver, and paying more attention to how the defense is settled before I hike the ball. Of course, by doing this plays directly into the defense resulting in a pick six going the other way.
Defensive tackles are one of the most upgraded players in Madden 18. QB pressure makes every throw count. This is probably the first time that I worried about defensive tackles pushing the pocket. This can result in clogging the lanes in the backfield for running backs. Animations can also play a big factor with players like JJ Watt reaching over offensive linemen to grab quarterbacks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my QB stumbled and fall to the ground. Right now, I am rushing my throws to receivers or throwing the ball away from danger more often.
More Of The Same From Franchise
Running the football is back to how it felt in Madden 16, which is a relief. Left and right tackles hold the edge better than how they did last year. The UI has also been touched up allowing you to precisely hit your running lanes instead of running into your offensive linemen.
Franchise mode has returned and it’s mostly the same experience with the biggest additions coming in Play Now, and the retooling of the NFL Draft mode. Play Now allows fans to play with your favorite team throughout the NFL season with updated rosters and commentary. While you do have the option to continue your season in Franchise mode, you can always leave it vacant until the following NFL regular season week.
This year, player progression points have been increased, rewarding players who play individual games in Franchise mode. These are minor additions but are key additions for those that want to rebuild from the ground up. As I spent more time in Franchise mode, I felt I was fighting against the mode to fully realize the fantasy of running my own NFL franchise. Things like being forced to wait seven years to relocate the Los Angeles Chargers back to San Diego due to the stadium still be top shape. Franchise mode is starting to feel old and stagnant like the inability to design your own logo, stadium, apparel, or even create your own expansion team similar to the EA’s NHL series.
Madden Ultimate Team is back again and more than other installments plays to the core audience. The newest additions to the mod are MUT Squads where players can choose between three roles to make an impact on the field: Offensive Captain, Defensive Captain, or Head Coach. I surprisingly enjoyed this mode and could see it widen Madden’s esports appeal.