Madden NFL 18 review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Tiburon
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

The release of Madden each year not only signifies the arrival of the NFL season but it also starts the snowball effect of game releases leading into the holidays. Madden can be a tough game to review because to most casual fans; they just see incremental changes each year, and while that is true to an extent, there are still many changes and additions under the hood. Many of the features that are relatively new to the franchise I cover in depth in last year?s review (HERE), so I will be touching on what?s new, changed, and improved on. The stuff they improved on will probably be easier to understand if you read last year?s review, but I will try my best to describe it clearly, without completely rehashing.

Let?s get the cover athlete out of the way first. For the second straight season a Patriot player graces the cover of Madden (last year was Gronkowski). This year features Tom Brady for the first time ever, which is kind of crazy considering he just turned 40 and is considered by many as the greatest quarterback in NFL history (tough to debate but I don?t think he is). EA even made a point to make a special edition of this year?s Madden and name it the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) edition since Brady was gracing the cover. I could be classified as a Patriot hater (Broncos fan) so it?s a little annoying to me that Patriot players get to be featured on the cover back-to-back years, rather than featuring another team, but it is what it is (Von Miller for Madden 19).

So now on to the actual game, one of the biggest additions to this year?s Madden is a brand new story mode called Longshot. In Longshot you play as Devin Wade who is an NFL hopeful on a journey to get into the league. Since this is a story mode I won?t spoil anything but I will say nothing about this mode hooked me, unfortunately. The story is played out with essentially quick time events, answering questions (similarly to a Telltale game) and a handful of football moments that play nothing like you would expect a mode in Madden to play. I get trying something new, and the use of the Frostbite engine (more on that later) makes this mode visually stunning, but I don?t see this as a draw to any die hard Madden fan. The acting and writing is cheesy, in my opinion, and nothing in the gameplay made me want to play more, it was actually quite the opposite. I expected the mode to be more along the lines of playing games and/or moments in Wade?s road to the NFL, like NCAA games, or maybe even pick up games in the street and progress towards that NFL goal with some narrative along the way. Keep the quick time event gameplay out of my football games, please.

The best part of the Longshot mode is that you unlock MUT (Madden Ultimate Team) cards as you progress through the story. Nothing major is unlocked with the exception of Dan Marino, but it?s a decent incentive to play through the mode if you?re really into MUT. For better or worse that?s all that you will get out of that mode, and what I mean by that is that you really don?t need to play Longshot if you?re like me and it doesn?t hook you in. Besides the handful of MUT unlockables, Longshot is almost like playing a completely separate game and even has it?s own menu home page. I can?t fault EA for trying something new this year, and while it?s a swing and a miss for me, it doesn?t take away from what the rest of the game provides.

Let?s turn on the power of positivity now and talk about the use of the Frostbite engine for this year. I can say definitively that this is the best Madden has ever looked. The change over to Frostbite was a great move; the game looks and plays better than ever, which means great things for future iterations I?m sure. The players, grass/turf, and the stadiums just look so damn crisp. I found myself stopping at some points while I was playing to admire how fantastic everything looked.

Outside of all those new additions there isn?t a whole lot more that is new. They did add MUT Squads, which is a new online co-op mode added to MUT, but that isn?t anything major. I do like the tweaks to MUT, which include new card pack styles, the ability to level up cards and improve players, and more objective based leveling system. These card packs allow you to select a particular player, playbook, or uniform from a grouping as opposed to just being stuck with a predetermined pack. The Franchise mode is left primarily untouched from last year, but that?s not a bad thing, the mode is still great.

One other tweak or addition is to the Play Now feature. This is where you would, in previous years, just play an exhibition match up with whomever against whomever. The mode has now evolved into Play Now Live, which still has the same old exhibition capability but now also features the current week?s actual game match ups, with updated stats, player rankings and commentary. This builds on some of the features added to last year?s game and really implements them in a cool way. So, for example say you turn on Madden 18 and it?s week 5 in the NFL, you?ll go into Play Now Live and see all that week?s match ups. Once you select a game, you will play it out with the current rosters for that week, along with the actual player stats until that point of the season and SHOULD hear commentary that?s recorded specifically for that match up and what big stories and stats players have achieved from either team involved. You can also start up Franchise mode following a particular week in the season and use the rosters and stats from that point of the season.

Gameplay-wise we see minor tweaks and improvements, again going with the EA model of: ?if it ain?t broke, don?t fix it.? I will add that the passing game is a bit harder than it was last year, and while it can be adjusted within game sliders and patch updates, it did take some getting used to. If you struggle with passing or any other aspects of the game, you can now change the style of gameplay with three different options to choose from. You can now select: Arcade, Simulation or Competitive, for whatever preference best suits you. Arcade will give you more passing and scoring while being a bit looser with penalties, Simulation will provide the authentic NFL style feel (which is how I prefer to play) and Competitive is for those that play in competitive leagues (who would have thought).

Madden 18 provides all the things I want in this year?s game; updated rosters, a brand new engine, and gameplay tweaking makes me a happy fan. The Longshot mode is a turnover on downs, but again it doesn?t take anything away from the main game, so I can?t fault them too much for trying something fresh and original. True, Madden fans will enjoy this year?s game and I doubt anything I wrote in this review will effect whether or not they buy Madden 18. If you?ve taken some time off from the franchise, this is a great jump-on point, Longshot might be something that interests you and the game looks and plays better than it ever has.

Grade: B+