Madden NFL 19 review for PS4, Xbox One

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

The arrival of football season is always an exciting time for me and it always kicks off with the drop of the latest Madden. I?ve been the Madden reviewer for the past 3 years and I feel like the games have never been better, BUT this year gave me a Groundhog Day kinda vibe. Reliving the same day over and over might be a bit extreme, but the short of it is Madden 19 is a lot like Madden 18, for better or worse. Sidebar; I played a ton of Madden 18 and went well beyond the football season, going back following free agency and downloading custom rosters. So my extra time with Madden 18 could have increased my D?j? vu feeling with 19, but it just feels like same old EA Sports mantra; ?if it?s not broke, don?t fix it?

At this point I should include a backlog of links to my Madden and Mutant Football League (which is coming to Switch soon) reviews for reference. Many features of this release are carried over from previous years so it?s not a terrible idea to go back and at least check out last year?s review for a bit more detail on some features I won?t be touching on for a second (or third) time. I?m a diehard football fan, like I?ve said before, so your mileage may vary when it comes to how you feel about particular modes as opposed to me. I am giving you the perspective from someone who plays Madden every year for the past 20+ years and wants the best football experience. If you want a goofy, fun, off the wall experience, check out Mutant Football League.

Let?s start with the mode I was most critical of last year; Longshot. Longshot is back (subtitle; Homecoming), the mode apparently was very popular and I must have been the minority in not caring about it. So EA decided to pick up right where last year?s mode ended and follow the same protagonists, Devin and Colt. (Spoilers ahead) You pick up with Devin being signed by the Dallas Cowboys, attempting to move up the quarterback depth chart while keeping his job on the team. Meanwhile Colt is not as fortunate, as he is trying to get gigs as a singer while also clinging to the dream of being an NFL wide receiver. Like I said last year, this mode is just not for me, the dialogue is cheesy and it has way too many cinematics. There just isn?t enough football in a mode from a football game. It does seem to me like you have a bit more freedom when it comes to the football plays but the games are just too few and far between. I don?t care to learn about Colt?s step sister and him becoming a big brother, I don?t play Metal Gear hoping to get hockey minigames throughout the story, and we shouldn?t play Madden and expect some deeply acted story mode.

Now I do have some free advice for EA, I don?t criticize without coming to the table with a solution. I would enjoy the Longshot mode (now that it seems like it might be a series regular) if it followed some real players on their NFL journey. What immediately comes to mind is the Showcase mode 2K had done in the old WWE 2K games (which is returning this year after a few year hiatus). In this mode you would follow the career or feud of a WWE superstar. Playing the key matches and watching storylines unfold… this would be perfect for Madden. Why not utilize the cover athlete more and go through their key games and plays? This would have been a great year to roll it out as Terrell Owens is the cover athlete for the Hall of Fame edition (as he was enshrined in the Hall this year). You could have played scenarios throughout his career from the 49ers, Cowboys, Eagles and Bengals (let?s just forget he was on the Bills). I know getting the licensing for former players could be a hiccup when it comes to these classic showdowns, but every player on every team wouldn?t be necessary and many former players are already included in Ultimate Team mode. Now I ask you, doesn?t that sound better than worrying about Colt and his deadbeat dad?

Regular gameplay brings me more d?j? vu feelings as it is mostly the same as last year?s release, which is still fantastic. I am giving this a pass as the gameplay seems so well-rounded and perfect to me for the most part. They did add some running assists and the hit seem bigger and louder, but everything is pretty much carried over from last year, with no major changes. Referencing back to the WWE, I was surprised to see that the opening and half time announcer has been replaced with Jonathan ?The Coach? Coachman. He does a decent enough job with it as he brings a different energy to the intro and highlights, but what?s new is he will bring you scores from other games throughout the league. Say the actual NFL season is up to week 4, you can play your team?s week 4 matchup prior to the real televised game, and he will talk about game highlights from actual previous weeks and what?s upcoming in the schedule. As the season hasn?t actually started yet, the jury is still out on how good the execution of this will be.

Madden Ultimate Team is here (as is tradition) and has a minor, but cool addition. Now you have the ability to upgrade your players. While this could be done through sets in Madden 18, they went back to the drawing board and made it much easier and intuitive to do now. Say you have that Terrell Davis card you?ve been dying for, you can now level him up to be your indefinite starting running back, Mile High saluting all the way till Madden 20. Speaking of touchdown celebrations, controlling your celebrations is also a new feature. Using the right analog stick you can control which celebration a player does following a touchdown, including some player-specific ones. While it?s not a crazy inclusion to have the ability to control a meaningless touchdown dance, it is refreshing to not have to see the same dance after every touchdown.

Every year I discuss the use of TV licensing, or lack thereof, and this year is no different. EA has the rights to ESPN and the NFL Network and still makes little to no use of them, I just don?t get it. I?m not going to drive it home that much this year because I feel like I mention it every year and nothing changes. They did include some NFL network content in Longshot but it just made me want more of that style presentation in the main game, you?re trying to simulate a TV production but without using the assets you have licenses for. The commentary is good enough that this isn?t a sour point for me and the updates they bring to it weekly keep it fresh, but the ESPN or NFL graphics and sound effects would put the presentation over the top.

What?s really left to say? You play Madden expecting Madden NFL football. It?s been the only game with the NFL license for a decade now, and there aren?t any alternatives. No competition has kept them from taking any major chances or revolutionary changes. Don?t get me wrong, as I said earlier, Madden is the best it?s ever been and gameplay is exactly what football fans want. It?s just tough with annual sports releases to feel like there are enough changes to justify a purchase. Diehard fans I?m sure have already picked up this year?s release, so this review obviously isn?t for you. If you already own Madden 18 and you?re a casual football fan, you?d be hard pressed to find anything in here really worth the $60 price tag, especially when you can download the current roster via the community downloads. But if you?re looking for your way back to Madden or have not ever played the series, this is a great jump on point as the visuals are amazing and it?s a near perfect football simulation.

EA provided us with a Madden 19 code for review purposes.

Grade: B-