During last years review of Madden NFL 17, I mentioned that after years of being the top dog of football games, the Madden series began to get complacent. With the release of Madden NFL 17, it felt like the studio was doing more than just simply changing the roster or slapping a fresh coat of paint onto the game. Thankfully, it looks like the folks at EA Tiburon has kept that streak going, as Madden NFL 18 is another installment that is anything but the same old thing.
While last years Madden was a step in the right direction, this year can be seen as a complete overhaul, even down to the foundation of the game. Madden NFL 18 now utilizes the Frostbite engine, and it leads to some truly impressive looks. Players look and react better than they ever have, and the use of the engine also results in great looking stadiums and fields. The game has managed to keep enhancing some of the minor aspects while adding to the whole package, and that’s evident in the brand new story mode known as Longshot.
Showcased as one of the premiere changes in Madden NFL 18, Longshot puts you into the shoes of Devin Wade, a former college quarterback who is trying to make it into the NFL with his friend Colt Cruise. The game mode plays out in a Telltale type of way, with you having to make decisions as Devin while navigating the world of the NFL. The one major downside of this mode is that you never fully get to play an actual down of NFL, but that doesn’t take away from how enjoyable and surprisingly emotional the overall experience is.
While the basic format of Madden will remain unchanged, EA Tiburon has spent some time reworking how the game plays under the hood. Gameplay, in general, feels a bit slower, and the running game has once again been tweaked to fine-tune what was introduced last year. Tackling plays a larger role in the game now, and missing on a hit stick or going after an interception can leave you susceptible to being punished badly.
Elsewhere in the game, the mainstays of Madden have returned. Players can still jump into a connected franchise and take over as the owner, player, or coach and lead your team to the Super Bowl. The Play Now feature has also been tweaked a bit to include the current matchups of the week along with updating player rankings and commentary as the season goes on. Using the feature during week 8 of the season, for example, would let you play the matchups for that week, and the commentary in the game would be in line with what has happened during the season. This feature extends out into the Franchise modes, so you’ll be able to jump into a season at any point if you please.
Of course, the biggest mode in Madden, Ultimate Team, makes a strong return to the game. The general gist of this game mode is the same: players complete challenges, earn and collect cards, and can build their own team featuring their favorite players. For fans of collecting and deck-building, this mode will continue to be as fun as it always has, as the team behind MUT continue to update things throughout the season. The game also brings back a fan-favorite feature in the form of MUT Squads, which allows friends to get together in 3-vs-3 matches against other people. The mode is tied into MUT and rewards players with cards for the game, which adds a nice incentive for players to keep matching up with friends.
All in all, Madden NFL 18 took the improvements they made last year and built heavily on them. They’ve not only tweaked the game to make it more user-friendly, they also brought it into the modern age with the addition of the Frostbite engine. The inclusion of a story mode inside Madden is something that was overdue for some time, and Longshot did not disappoint, presenting a heartfelt and solid attempt at a campaign that can only get better in the future. The Madden series has quietly re-established itself as one of the premier sports games on the market, and the future continues to look bright.
This review is based on a review copy of Madden NFL 18 for the PlayStation 4 provided by EA.