Madden, being the sole NFL-licensed game on consoles for over a decade, has continued to evolve the experience, while still maintaining accessibility for all types of gamers. This year, EA Tiburon added one more element to the Madden experiment: the story-based element. Known as Madden NFL 18: Longshot, Madden NFL 18 puts you into the story of an NFL hopeful, striving to make his way to the league after tragedy struck in his freshman year of college. Does this new addition hit the mark, or is it a longshot with no real hopes of making it big?

Game Name: Madden NFL 18
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed;) PlayStation 4
Publisher(s): EA Sports
Developer(s): EA Tiburon
Release Date: August 22, 2017 (GOAT Edition)/August 25, 2017 (Standard Edition)
Price: $79.99 (GOAT)/$59.99 (Standard)  | Amazon

Madden NFL 18‘s Longshot is perhaps one of the best story modes in a sports game, ever. While I’m saying this right out of the gate, it’s not an unfounded statement. While there is a nagging flaw, it pales in comparison to how this story holds up in terms of evoking emotion and putting you into the perspective of NFL hopeful Devin Wade. Not to give any “back-of-the-box” quotes, but it’s a heart-wrenching story seeing Devin grow as a man throughout this story.

If you’re familiar with Bioware’s Mass Effect series, you’ll be just fine with Longshot. A lot of what you’ll be doing is making decisions that will affect your overall grade as an NFL scout, whether on or off the field. Your football knowledge definitely needs to be on point, because one decision could either send your player’s scouting report grade up or down. But before I get into all of that, let’s talk Madden NFL 18 Longshot‘s story.

Madden NFL

Devin Wade has to fight his demons on his way to the NFL in Madden NFL 18: Longshot. Don’t worry, Dan Marino isn’t one of them

Longshot is the story of Devin Wade, a star high school football player from Mathis, Texas, who walked away from the game during his freshman season at the University of Texas when his father died one fateful night in a car accident. Through the help of friends, a tough coach, and legends of the game, Devin must decide whether or not his dreams of being a quarterback in the NFL can be achieved.

The idea of not playing a single down in the NFL in this story mode had me all types of messed up, especially since FIFA‘s ‘The Journey’ had you take on the role of Alex Hunter in his first year in the Premier League! You actually made it to and played in the big leagues, despite being transferred a game or two later. Nonetheless, booting up the game, and getting through all three acts of Longshot certainly changed my mind. Most of the gameplay in Longshot consists of high school flashback games, different mini-drills, and challenges that you affect your scouting report. Nothing in Longshot is exceedingly difficult, not even the quick time events that are nicely peppered throughout the story. They don’t feel completely intrusive, and if you mess up, you have select opportunities to try again.

The acting in Longshot blew me away in many different ways. Mahershala Ali, who is most recently known for his role as Cottonmouth in Luke Cage, plays Cutter Wade, the father to JR Lemon’s Devin. He does a bang up job in the few times he shows up, and it is certainly memorable. This isn’t intended to take away from Lemon and the rest of the cast, however. Lemon’s portrayal of Devin Wade definitely feels inspired, and it takes you for this ride that you typically wouldn’t expect in a sports title. Also, having Dan Marino involved in the story was fantastic.

Longshot does have an end point, you can continue the story in Madden Ultimate Team by completing a series of Solo Challenges catered to Devin’s story. This takes the sting out of the fact that you don’t play a single down in the NFL, but I am hoping that if Wade’s story continues next year, we get to see some kind of NFL play.

Speaking of Madden Ultimate Team, there have been some awesome improvements to the mode that make MUT worth the time you spend. Longshot continues in MUT, but that’s not the only thing that the solo challenges have to offer. Outside of the Kickoff challenges which are in the game every year, NFL Journey takes you through the NFL’s past and present to complete challenges, The Gauntlet thrusts you into progressively difficult challenges to earn different rewards, Gauntlet Unleashed is a weekly 7-game qualifying event, unlocking a championship event on Fridays, and Level Challenges unlock as your MUT Level increases after reaching Level 7.

MUT Draft and MUT Champions return from last year and are largely unchanged, but MUT Squads is a new mode all in itself. In MUT Squads, you and two other players take one of three roles, offensive captain, defensive captain and head coach, for online matchmaking. Based on the role you helm, you’ll contribute a different part of your roster, so it’s typically good to have some friends along that understand different parts of the game. However, in the cases when I did play MUT Squads, getting paired with randoms can be fun, as long as you’re willing to communicate.

There is more incentive to play Madden Ultimate Team this year as well, with the ability to augment and upgrade your players, even your Twitch Prime Legends. While you can traditionally gain better cards, upgrading your GOATs by using Baby GOATs, as well as earning Twitch Prime and other upgrade tokens are typically more effective in MUT. It may feel like a grind fest, however, but keep in mind, it’s all to better your Ultimate Team.

Another thing that I must praise Madden NFL 18 for is the option of playing Arcade, Simulation or Competitive style. Each gameplay style has its own traits and can be fine tuned according to the respective feedback of the community. For example, in Arcade, hit sticks and strip fumbles are more frequent and kick blocking happens more often, where as in competitive, everything comes down to user input and player ability to read the field on offense and defense. Simulation is all about playing similar to how the real life NFL operates. Personally, I spend a good amount of time playing Arcade and Simulation, but I’m still not all that comfortable in Competitive mode. I don’t see most people playing competitive Madden unless they’re aiming for the Madden World Championship, but it’s very nice to see that EA Tiburon has given options for different players to slot into according to how they feel like playing.

Review Disclosure Statement: Madden NFL 18 was provided to us by EA Sports USA and EA Australia for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Madden NFL 18 Xbox One Review

Summary

You don’t always need a huge step forward to make a big difference, and Madden NFL 18 exemplifies that. Sometimes adding something new, while also polishing the already established stuff makes for a fantastic experience. Longshot is engaging without being truly time-consuming, and this year’s Madden Ultimate Team is probably one of the most fully featured Ultimate Team-like concepts implemented by either 2K or EA. The fact that you can play three different ways definitely opens up Madden to more players is beautiful in both theory and practice. Madden NFL 18 is near perfection, and I couldn’t be happier to continue playing this game.

Overall
5

About The Author

Clinton Bowman-Christie
Managing Editor, Games & Technology

Teacher's Assistant by day, passionate gamer and wrestling fan by night. This describes Clinton to a T. A Brooklyn, New York resident for all of his life, gaming, Power Rangers, football, basketball and wrestling pretty much comprise a lot of his free time.

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