Madden NFL 19 Review (PS4)
Before starting this review, we’d like to take a moment to say that our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the recent tragedy in Jacksonville.
It’s September, which means one thing for the gaming industry – Sports Season!
Madden takes it’s usual spot as the first one released. And Madden NFL 19 has a wealth of changes and upgrades over last years entry into the franchise.
We’ll start with the main staple for many players, Ultimate Team. For those not familiar, Ultimate Team lets you build your own fantasy team to take on a host of solo challenges, as well as other players online.
New to this year is the addition of the Solo Battles. Each week, EA make a selection of teams available for you to compete against in a one-off match. The teams are selected from the community, and you are awarded points based on the difficulty settings you choose, and the result you achieve. There are various reward tiers at the end of each week.
The other big change for Ultimate Team this year is the removal of player contracts. In previous years, all players would have contracts lasting so many games. Once they ran out, you would need to replenish them using contract packs. It was a massive pain in the ass.
In its place EA have added a Training point system. Instead of being able to quick sell players for coins, you can now sell them for training points. You can then use these points to upgrade the players you use in your team. The core set of players can only be upgraded with a chemistry style, which is still useful. But there are a bunch of player types that can be upgraded way beyond their initial value.
The changes to Ultimate Team are all great. The only draw back comes from the same old complaints many players have had for years. EA Servers. This particularly affects the Solo Battles, as you only get one shot at these games. A DNF counts as a loss, and you need to move on to the next team. It’s frustrating when it happens due to server issues.
Franchise mode has shaken a few things up too. Mostly cosmetic changes, but nice touches none the less. The hub now has a 3D background. Whether you are playing as a GM, sitting in your office, or as a player messing around in the changing rooms, the background in franchise is always alive with something. The loading screens between games, training, etc. are now all populated with highlight images captured from your past matches.
I still feel that more could be done with franchise mode. Especially for the trading system. You get visual feedback on how interested a team is in the players or picks you are offering, but it’s still not clear whether a deal will be accepted, or even if you are being robbed on something you propose.
On the Field
On the field play hasn’t changed too dramatically this year. The biggest upgrades have been to player motion, particularly with the run. Making turns and cuts with a player have animations that are a lot more dependant on the player’s speed. It’s much easier to make sharp cuts while at slow speed, but once you’ve made that move you can step on the gas to pull away from defenders.
The Longshot mode returns again in Madden NFL 19 and we see how the stories of Devin Wade and Colt Cruise have progressed. The story actually jumps forward by a couple of years since Madden 18, with neither player having been able to make the break into the NFL proper.
The story focuses a lot more on Colt this time. He’s trying to make his break into either the music industry, coming off the back of some fame for the Longshot song in Madden 18, or into the NFL. Circumstances have him moving back home to help out with coaching the school team. Two things about the story really bothered me this year. Minor spoilers lay ahead.
Firstly is the introduction of Colts father and his half-sister. This part is almost a carbon copy of the storyline EA used in FIFAs story mode, the Journey. Secondly is the role of Coach. Anyone who recognises Coach Hank (Barry Corbin) from One Tree Hill, well you’ll know what to expect from the story of Longshot in Madden NFL 19.
Overall, Longshot this year was quite disappointing compared to the debut last year. There definitely wasn’t enough interactivity with the story, with the whole thing feeling very on rails. In fact, there is even a grading system this year. It’s measuring how well you did compared to the expected story outcomes. There’s no scope for choosing one of many paths to go on. Yet despite it being on rails, the story is also all over the place. One minute Colt is pursuing music. The next he’s home helping coach and look after his sister. The next he’s off with in the NFL before finally being home again. EA might have been trying to get across a feeling of turmoil or a rollercoaster lifestyle, but it hasn’t been executed well.
Some final remarks on how Madden NFL 19 is presented this year. Visually there’s not much of a step up from Madden 18, but that’s already a good, high standard. The tweaks in Franchise mode are nice, but not without their quirks. On more than one occasion the “highlight shots” camera seemed to be trying to capture an image from behind the stadium seating, and all you get was the inside of the stadium mesh.
The soundtrack in Madden NFL 19 is also very one-dimensional. The past few years have had a good mix of styles in there, but there is absolutely no country or rock music this year. I’ve actually turned off the majority of the EA tracks.
The final addition to Madden NFL 19 is that of celebrations. Players used to automatically celebrate after touchdowns, but now the user can choose which celebration type to trigger. It’s certainly nowhere near as in-depth as the celebration library from FIFA, but it’s a nice additional touch.
Overall Madden NFL 19 is a bit of bitter-sweet. Some nice upgrades to Ultimate Team and Franchise are marred by a disappointing soundtrack and underwhelming extension of the Longshot story. Still, if like most you will be playing Madden NFL 19 for one of the main staples of Ultimate Team or Franchise mode, then it’s definitely work picking up this years game.
7.5 yards gained out of 10