Madden NFL 18 Review
Madden NFL 18 Cover Art
System: PS4, Xbox One
Dev: EA Tiburon
Pub: EA
Release: August 25, 2017
Players: 1-6 Player
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Content is generally suitable for all ages
A Madden for Everyone
by Lucas White

One of the weirdest things about Madden games is the menu option you get whenever you power the game on, which plays a little video about what’s new that year. I haven’t seen anything like it in another non-sports simulator game, and it really messes with the gamer regions of my brain. It’s like I’m looking at a product on a show floor somewhere, which is an alien feeling. When one of the most common complaints about Madden is, “it’s the same game every year with roster changes,” the game feels presented in a way that doesn’t challenge that. But, as the video insists, Madden NFL 18 is a “Madden for everyone.” It’s Madden attempting to feel like a Real Video Game in 2017 and not software running off an assembly line. With new playstyle options, a bizarre Hollywood-reaching story mode, and a new online mode made for co-op play, Madden NFL 18 wants to appeal to more than just the football nerds, It wants their friends, too.

The most important factor in this goal, in being a Madden for everyone, is the game’s teaching tools. How does someone who doesn’t know how the hell to play, or better yet, how does someone who isn’t in the football trenches, going to interact with Madden NFL 18? First things first: playstyles. Madden NFL 18 offers you a choice, right at the start, with opportunities to change it later of course. There are Arcade, Simulation, and Competitive offerings. Arcade is your option in this context; the game structure opens up a bit, things get sloppier and penalties are called less, ultimately leading to more scoring. Combine this with lower difficulty choices, and you get the closest you can get today to a football game on the outer rim of simulation.

You might then venture to the practice drills, where Madden NFL 18 gives you a million different sections for introducing the controls, the basics, and more and more complicated, in-depth explorations of high-level football concepts and complex maneuvers. This is fine, if you’re planning to dedicate time to really learning how to play Madden. This is where you can, much like a fighting game, put the time in and gain an actual mastery of the Essence of the Football Simulator. But that’s not what Madden NFL 18 wants Everyone to do. This is where Longshot comes in.

Longshot is the first-time-ever story mode, the marquee new addition in Madden NFL 18. Using the Frostbite engine, EA Tiburon has built an entire world outside of Madden’s football fields. In terms of game development, this is a significant technical feat. Longshot is a venture to take the Madden NFL 18 platform, make it accessible, collaborate with people in the industry and outside of it, smash it into what’s exciting to video game players right now, and add America’s cultural love for football on top to make something part familiar, part new. It’s a little bit Telltale, a little bit Friday Night Lights, and a little bit Madden.

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Despite being roughly three hours long, Longshot feels like an entirely different video game. It only resembles Madden in brief moments, and even then eschews the rules, the look, and the structure, all in service of the narrative experience. It’s presented like a football movie, with real actors, (virtual) cinematography, and NFL cameos. It’s presented like a modern, story-driven video game, with dialogue choices, quick-time events, multiple endings, and big challenges. It’s a huge, ambitious experiment.

Madden NFL 18 Screenshot

Longshot is not a sports game career mode. You don’t make a custom character, run through hours of challenges, upgrade your stats and equipment, run through menus, and so on and so forth. It’s almost entirely isolated and seeks to tell a story with clearly defined characters. It isn’t even about what it’s like to be an NFL player, probably the boldest choice in Longshot. It’s a brief story about trying to be an NFL player, and you aren’t guaranteed to make it at the end. It’s a tried and true story about two friends chasing their dreams and running headfirst into brick walls along the way.

Madden NFL 18 Screenshot

I have issues with Longshot, but it’s also hard to forget. With the attention to detail, the dogged emulation of what a real, filmed movie looks like, and the peak Football Movie Melodrama, Longshot leaks passion from every opening. The people who made this cared deeply about it, and you can tell from the moment it starts. It’s full of clichés and tries to cram far too much into far too little time, resulting in a lot of unearned Big Character Moments asking us to care about stars Devin Wade and Colton Cruise before we can ever really get to know them. But despite the awkwardness, the frustrating minigames, and bizarre moments of, “Oh, you’re not a football expert going into our accessible story mode gimmick? Ten points from Griffindor!” I found myself wrought with concern over what my ending would be like by the end.

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