Madden NFL 18 Review — At the Top of Their Game

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For a new entry in a series many consider to be stagnant from year-to-year, Madden NFL 18 actually brings a ton of changes to the long running football game franchise. The Madden series has transitioned from running on the Ignite engine to EA’s more traditionally used Frostbite engine, added a well-crafted Telltale-esque story mode, included new varied playstyles, and even brought a new mode to Ultimate Team in MUT Squads, all on top of the year-to-year basic gameplay tweaks.

Even though the game’s transition to Frostbite wasn’t flawless, resulting in some technical problems, I enjoyed the new modes and playstyles that Madden NFL 18 brought to the table. It is one of the most feature full entries the series has ever seen, so I recommend picking up Madden NFL 18, especially if you’ve been ignoring the series for the past couple of years.

As this is a transitional year for the engine, a couple technical problems arose for me during my playtime. Loading times were longer than usual, and I ran into some frame rate drops during more intensive gameplay moments. Madden NFL 18 also doesn’t push the engine to its limits, it’s looks much more like previous Madden entries than other Frostbite games such as Battlefield 1; that being said, there is a bit more detail in character models and stadiums that make them look more authentic, it’s just nothing mind blowing.

Most of these issues can most likely be ironed out in future patches or entries in the series, but just be aware that while this transition will likely be good for the series in the long run, outside of Longshot, which takes full advantage of and probably wouldn’t be possible without Frostbite, the rest of the game didn’t fare as smoothly with the transition.

Basic gameplay has actually been tweaked more than usual this year with the addition of new playstyles and target passing. When players first boot up Madden NFL 18, they can choose between three playstyles: Simulation, Arcade, and Competitive. Simulation plays like what one would associate with a typical Madden game, with more realistic play results, injuries, and penalties. If you want a more traditional Madden experience, it is best to stick to this mode.

Arcade, on the other hand, is more crazy in what it allows. Arcade matches typically include more fumbles, interceptions, and risky play calls. It’s still a far cry from true arcade football games like NFL Blitz, but I still found this playstyle fun, than the other ones.

Finally, Competitive channels how people play in Madden’s competitive scene, so in addition to rewarding players for taking advantage of some of the game’s more advanced mechanics, there are limited penalties and no injuries. This style felt a bit too similar to Simulation for me, but I’m sure those swept up by competitive Madden will appropriate being able to practice with similar gameplay in Franchise mode.

The other big tweak to basic gameplay this year is target passing. By pressing L2 during a play, you can now more directly aim where you throw the football, instead of just relying on each player’s predetermined path and RNG. It’s a bit confusing and overwhelming at firs, but once I got the hang of target passing, I felt like I had more control over how each play turned out than I ever did before. Franchise mode functions almost exactly same as in Madden NFL 18, but that didn’t make beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl as the Bears any less fun, and this entry has more than enough new modes and features to make up for it.

Madden NFL 18 Review -- At the Top of Their Game

Of all the new things Madden NFL 18 brings to the table, Longshot would probably be my favorite. It’s a full fledged cinematic story mode for the game, and follows the story of Devon Wade, who gets a second chance to enter the NFL after abandoning his dreams through a TV show fittingly named Longshot. Surprisingly, this mode splices more traditional Madden gameplay with Telltale style interactions in between.

Longshot constantly changes up what players are doing. One moment you might be throwing footballs at targets in order to win a challenge, and the next you can be playing a football game against Dan Marino on a military base. Some quick time events are also included, but they are never extremely difficult or unfair.

I found the story to be movie-quality, and all the actors, such as JR Lemon and Mahershala Ali, do a great job of making the characters relatable and believable. This mode also takes full advantage of the Frostbite engine to create great looking environments and character models, it’s just a shame the rest of the game couldn’t look this good.

As I mentioned before, there are many Telltale style decisions to make along the way, which affect Devon’s player rating can result in multiple endings, so Longshot isn’t just a one-and-done experience. If you are playing Madden NFL 18 solely for the gameplay, you may not find as much enjoyment in Longshot, as traditional games only pop up every so often, but if you are a fan of classic sports movies like Rudy and Remember the Titans, you will love Longshot. 

Madden NFL 18 Review -- At the Top of Their Game

Ultimate Team and Draft Champions also return, and function just as well as they did in past entries. Even though I am not the biggest fan of card games or loot packs in games, I was still able to enjoy taking on different challenges with the team I collected, and bring them into MUT Squads, the new cooperative multiplayer addition to Ultimate Team.

In MUT Squads, three players can partner with each other and combine their Ultimate Team decks and craft their own football team. Depending on whether the player is Offensive Captain, Defensive Captain, or Head Coach, different cards are brought to the team. In MUT Squads matches, all three players can take full control of an athlete, and run plays chosen by the Offensive or Defensive Captain, which makes the mode a ton of fun if you have good team synergy.

MUT Squads also seems like a great way to introduce newcomers to Ultimate Team, as the Head Coach position doesn’t require the best deck and the action stays fast paced and engaging, making it a ton of fun when playing with people you know. If you love Ultimate Team, Madden NFL 18 does it justice, and if you don’t, maybe MUT Squads will turn you onto it.

Madden NFL 18 Review -- At the Top of Their Game

The game’s soundtrack left a bit to be desired and can be quite forgettable, but it’s serviceable and did its job of hyping me up between games. I also found the game’s commentary to be lacking. Many pieces of commentary seemed to be reused verbatim from Madden NFL 17, and Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis would sometimes start discussing something completely different than what was happening on screen. These are only small blemishes though, as the core gameplay is the strongest its ever been.

Madden NFL 18, with its variety of new modes and features, has quickly become may favorite entry in the Madden series to date. MUT Squads and Longshot are both very engaging, and the new playstyles and target passing mechanics spice up regular games and Franchise mode. Though the transition to Frostbite wasn’t flawless, as the game suffers from long loading times and occasional slowdown, gameplay and content wise, Madden NFL 18 is the strongest in the series, so I would recommend it to both avid football fans and those who have not picked up Madden over the past few years.

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