After Tom Brady’s dismal performance in the NFL season opener last Thursday it’s clear that the Madden curse is alive and well. All kidding aside, Tom Brady, the ageless wonder, graces the cover of Madden NFL 18 as the franchise introduces its new story mode – Longshot.
Powered by the Frostbite engine, Longshot puts you in the shoes of Devin Wade, a quarterback trying to achieve his dream of reaching the NFL. After a great high school career, Wade failed to impress in college and tries to make up for a disappointing college career at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. At the combine Wade is offered an opportunity to take part in a reality TV show called Longshot. As Wade attempts to become the “Longshot” you will guide him along the way by choosing his path at designated points in the story. You will also play as Wade during the course of the story mode. Longshot is a nice addition to the Madden franchise. All sports games are starting to go with the cinematic single-player story modes, so it only makes sense for Madden to throw their hat into the ring.
Madden Ultimate Team continues to be one of the franchise’s most popular game modes. MUT allows you to build a dream team by completing challenges, beating other MUT players online, and by buying cards (with Madden’s in-game currency) through the auction house. Completing various challenges earns you coins and you can use these coins to buy packs of cards and build your team. MUT has been around for several years, but the game mode has grown exponentially in terms of the amount of challenges you can do. Even if you do not want to play online vs. other MUT competitors, there’s enough offline challenges to make the mode worthwhile. The other nice thing about MUT, as opposed to sports games that have similar game modes, is that can earn great players fairly quickly. When it comes to a certain baseball game on the market, it seems like you have to play the game for 100 hours to earn a great player. But in MUT my team started off with Jerry Rice and Rob Gronkowski. Having players of that caliber at least makes my team competitive.
When it comes to the Madden franchise, game modes like Longshot and MUT are nice distractions. But for me it has always been about Franchise Mode, and that is where the game continues to frustrate me. My biggest issue with Madden 18, and Madden games the last few years, is the difference in AI gameplay between All-Pro level and All-Madden level. When I play my franchise mode on All-Pro, the game is too easy. When I bump it up to All-Madden it becomes an unrealistic, frustrating experience. There's no in between in terms of difficulty. Now I know what some of you are saying – “just adjust the sliders.” But I feel the game should play well out of the box. It’s not my job to adjust sliders and spend hours of my own time perfecting gameplay.
When you play on All-Madden the running game is an absolute joke. You’re lucky if you make it back to the line of scrimmage. And it doesn’t matter if you’re using Eddie Lacy or Le’Veon Bell. The amount of dropped passes becomes frustrating and the flawless zone coverage by the AI defense is something that would bring a smile to Bill Belichick’s face. And how do you try and combat an unrealistic AI? I like to use audibles, hot routes and individual defense assignments. But Madden has made that more difficult with the ridiculous amount of cut scenes. This has been a problem the last few years and, apparently, there isn’t a way to turn this off. As soon as I pick my play I want the camera to cut to my team walking to the line of scrimmage. At this point I start to cycle through my players to make the necessary adjustments. But in Madden 18, I pick my play and it cuts to my coach looking at his clipboard or a shot of my linebackers face. This takes precious time away from me to make audibles and hot routes.
While Madden 18 has these frustrations, overall the game is solid. EA does a great job with the game presentation and the players and stadiums look amazing. Madden 18 does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of an NFL venue.
Score: 8 out of 10