Madden 18 Review (PS4)
It’s that time of the year again when all other genres of game go out the window. It’s sports season! First up from the giants of this genre, EA SPORTS, is the latest NFL game, Madden 18.
The Frostbite Engine
Rewind to last years EA Sports titles and the reviews we put up. I felt Madden 17 was the best of the Sports game we looked at last year, and the main reason that I felt FIFA came up short was because of their switch to the Frostbite Engine, over the EA Sports custom-built Ignite Engine. While it made for a great story mode in the Journey, it slowed down the actual gameplay. My greatest fear was that I knew that Madden 18 would be making the switch to the Frostbite Engine, and I worried that it would be detrimental to the gameplay.
I’m happy to say that this is not the case. Madden 18, on the field, is every bit as good and every bit as fluid as last years game.
So the reason for Madden 18 to make the switch is the introduction of their story mode, Longshot. I had purposefully not looked at any information about the story mode before trying it out. And I’m glad I did, because if someone tried to describe to me the plot of Longshot, I would have totally tuned out and lost all interest in playing it. However, when I did start playing the Longshot mode I went through the whole story in one sitting.
Not that it’s a short story, just that I was that engrossed in it that I didn’t put the controller down. Not even for a bathroom break.
Longshot follows the story of Devin Wade, a rookie quarterback. I’m not going to detail the plot for the same reasons I mention above, but you don’t get any options over other positions like FIFA’s Journey mode. Also similar to the FIFA counterpart is the involvement of Wade’s best friend and trusted Wide Receiver, Colt Cruise. However, Cruise is a much better friend than that jerk Gary Walker.
The thing that surprised me the most about the Longshot mode was the lack of on field play. The majority of Longshot is spent making decisions and progressing the story, and the times that you do take to the field all equally aid in story progression. You’ll be running drills on the training ground, playing a few custom games against groups such as Wade’s old army buddies and playing a few flashback scenarios from Wade’s High School days.
Due to Wade’s history (which is alluded to throughout Longshot) you can choose to play out his character in a number of ways. As such, it is quite viable to play through Longshot a number of times and try out different responses along the road to see how it changes his character. Longshot is probably the closest “movie-like” game experience I’ve had since playing Until Dawn, it was that good.
The Core Madden 18 experience
So the addition of Longshot certainly makes the jump to the Frostbite engine worthwhile, but how do the rest of Madden’s core features fair?
Madden Ultimate Team
Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) is as always the staple of the experience. Not much has changed here with Madden 18 in terms of mechanics, but there have been plenty of small improvements. The menus for one feel a lot faster this year, leaving you more time to do the things you want to do. There’s a lot more rewards available at the moment than there was last year, including daily targets to meet. EA have also teamed up with Twitch, and if you have a Twitch Prime account (which you will have if you have an Amazon Prime account after Amazon bought out Twitch back in 2014) then you can pick up free Legendary players every week by simply linking your accounts.
EA have also released some upgradable players that have challenges associated with them. You complete the challenges, unlock upgrade items to apply to the players set and in return you get an upgraded version of said player. There’s are also team specific challenges for unlocking Team Badges and more legendary players.
Completing Longshot will also unlock for you a bunch of items in MUT. Put Wade and Cruise on your team and you can take part in a host of challenges related to the Bullfrogs, the High School team from the story mode.
New for this years MUT is the addition of MUT Squads. This mode lets you team up with up to two friends, combine your squads and take to the field cooperatively. You get the choose between three roles. Head Coach only manages the time out and penalty calls, whereas the Offensive and Defensive coordinators bring their respective MUT lines in to play in those positions, and make all their formation calls. It’s an interesting social experience that really adds to the Madden Ultimate team mode.
Franchise mode is another fan favourite and is back with the usual options. There really isn’t any change here compared to last year. You still have the options of playing offline, or online with a group of friends each controlling a different franchise/coach/player. I still believe that it would be good if they were to introduce more of the “Be a Pro” mode from FIFA and more so NHL franchises, where you would get to play a few rounds of college football before being drafted to an NFL team. However, the Longshot mode does cover that journey in this years Madden.
Play Now Live
Alongside the franchise mode if the Play Now Live. This mode lets you jump in to the real NFL season as your favourite team. Fancy playing that rivalry game that’s on this weekend? Jump right in. And once you’re done you can carry on the season in a regular Franchise mode setup.
Different ways to play
With the new engine and the new story mode, EA Sports are expecting some new fans to the Madden franchise with Madden 18. As a result, they’ve broken the rules and controls into three styles of gameplay for Madden 18.
Arcade is great for players new to Madden. It emphasises the over-the-top action of the NFL with big plays and loads of scoring opportunities. Simulation mode is exactly what it says on the tin. A more authentic experience where penalties and injuries are more frequent, and player ratings and user skill matter in equal balance. Then there is Competitive, the online default. Penalties and injuries are reduced, but a lot more emphasis is placed on user skill in this game style.
Choosing which style to play is straight forward, and each style is effective in what it aims for with the player. However, new players that play in the Arcade style will likely struggle if they try to take their game online into Competitive mode.
The Great Forgiver
The only drawback with Madden 18 comes from the AI. It all seems a bit too easy to make the great comeback. Take the example from my Franchise mode game. OK so I was trying out the Arcade Style, and only had the game on Pro difficulty, but playing as the San Francisco 49ers I was able to score 21 points in the 4th quarter to come back and win the game by 10. On the final drive all I needed to do was keep the ball and wind down the clock. Instead the opposing defence allowed me to continually run the ball, at most taking two plays to advance the chains, all the way up the field for a touchdown with 10 seconds still on the clock.
It wouldn’t matter if the game had been on the easiest setting, a defence shouldn’t crumble that easily.
At the top of it’s game
I’m glad that my reservations about the move to the Frostbite Engine haven’t come to fruition for Madden 18. The switch has had no ill effect (other than the above mentioned AI) on the game, and Madden continues to be, in my opinion, the flag bearer for EA Sports titles.
9 yards progressed out of 10