With every installment of Electronic Art’s Madden franchise, the publishing giant tries to explain why “this year is different.” They trot out a litany of changes and tweaks made to the simulation on stage at E3 each year in an effort to sell their newest installment in the Madden series. However, if Madden 19 is any indication, that checklist of changes might be getting more sparse. And that might be a good thing overall. However, problems still linger overhead the NFL game that make Madden feel like it’s simply “more of the same,” begging the question of whether it’s worth upgrading this year.
Controlling The Action
Madden 19’s main change this year is the “real player motion,” which EA claims makes the game look more natural and like the product millions of fans consume on TV every fall. And while the players move with more fluidity than in years past, I can’t help but feel it’s a little underwhelming. The momentum of a massive half-back run up the middle doesn’t have the same kind of impact as you’d expect to feel when tacklers drape over your back in an attempt to bring you to the ground. Passing feels less precise at first, though once you get the hang of it the passing game can feel better than it has in years. Cutting during a run can also feel more impactful than in years past, but it’s defense where I’ve felt the most improvement thanks to the new movement system.
Controlling a defense back feels more natural than even compared to Madden 18 last year, and barreling past the offensive line to sack a quarterback feels less clunky as it’s easier to take the correct angle at a moment’s notice. The improved animation makes the players on screen to look more natural in all of their movements – a marked improvement over some of the more jittery moments when bodies clash from previous installments.
But that improved movement for some reason makes Madden 19 feel less improved upon versus previous years. There’s no major overhauls any specific aspects of the game aside from a few passing mechanic button changes I found hard getting used to at first. It’s still easy for anyone to really pick up and play using the suggested plays the game provides – though All-Madden difficulty really forces you to know the difference between a Cover 2 and Tampa 2 defense at a glance.
Longshot Mode Makes A Return
The crowing jewel of Madden 19 is, however, the newest installment in its Longshot mode, Madden’s campaign of sorts. Picking up after the events of last year’s Longshot, you’ll take the role of Devin Wade and his buddy Colt Cruise as they navigate their NFL dreams. My issues with Longshot mode last year were well documented – I wasn’t a fan overall with Madden’s attempt at telling a story – and not much has changed my mind this time around. Frostbite looks better utilized and the overall visuals feel more polished over last years iteration. However, while there are more instances where you are taking part in the action (gone are the infuriating QTEs from last year’s mode), nothing feels as though it matters. If you fail at a certain point there’s no consequence. You simply pick up and start over. Also, the focus on Texas high school football versus putting you mostly in the NFL is puzzling. I get why narratively you spend most of your time controlling a high school football team, but I’m playing Madden to play with NFL players. Put me more firmly in that world. Overall though, if you liked Longshot mode last year, this is an improvement over Madden 18 – but not one I plan on playing again anytime soon.
Madden 19 also allows you to play its Ultimate Team mode again if you choose to. This mode is a mainstay in the Madden series and for good reason in EA’s mind – it rakes in a ton of microtransactions. Ultimate Team essentially turns fantasy football into a collectible card game, letting players spend currency on packs to unlock players they can use on their online or offline Madden Ultimate Team rosters. This stinks of the potential Pay to Win abuse seen with similar features in other games out there, but EA doesn’t show signs of slowing this down any time soon.
For me personally, I find the best way I can experience Madden is through franchise mode. Taking my team (The Arizona Cardinals) through a historic season run culminating in a Super Bowl never gets old. Playing through the current 2018-2019 season also provides some interesting comparisons with the product on the real field too (My Cardinals scored a lot more than 6 points against Washington last week). It’s always fun to develop players, play with the draft and salary cap and more – and the ability to join online franchise leagues makes these transactions and games so much more meaningful overall.