Review: Madden NFL 18 (PS4)

Review: Madden NFL 18 (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro, PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Madden NFL 18
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (38.66 GB)
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Original MSRP: $59.99 / $79.99 G.O.A.T. Edition
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 541 of the podcast at 55:35.

Gameplay:
With the success of “The Journey” from the past two iterations of the FIFA franchise, it seemed inevitable that it would work its way into EA’s other sports franchises. This year, Madden takes a stab at a single player story mode with “Longshot”.

When you strip it down it’s really a quarterback tutorial wrapped in a five or so hour movie, which is similar to what FIFA did. The performances range from nuanced to over the top and the characters from believable to badly clich├ęd.

You play as Devin Wade, a promising young quarterback who dropped out of college just two games into his career due to family issues.

Given a second chance he winds up on a reality show with the requisite grizzled veteran who doesn’t fully believe in him and the sleazeball producer who doesn’t care what happens to Devin as long as it results in good ratings.

The story mode is filled with Telltale Games-like choices that will affect how others see you. Then you’re suddenly dropped into situations where you need to react and hit the right buttons in gameplay-like situations or quizzes which can be a bit harrowing.

It can also frustrating like when you’re shown formations on screen a few seconds at a time and you need to identify them no matter what your football background is.

I suppose the idea is to make you feel like Devin, a superstar in High School who lacks the deep football knowledge and confidence required to get him to the next level.

At four to five hours, it feels like there should have been more time for fleshing out some of the characters but unfortunately only two or three get any kind of depth. It feels like a missed opportunity in a lot of ways. Hints of trouble, but never any scandal

Obviously the NFL isn’t going to let them court any kind of controversy – don’t even think about concussions being brought up. Even so, I felt we were going to get a serious look at a kid working hard to make it to the NFL and instead we detoured into wacky a reality that inexplicably ends up in the Middle East at one point. I do hope that they take a long hard look back at this and see what actually worked to try to make improvements for another go at it next year.

Elsewhere in the game, you can now choose between three Play Styles when starting out – Arcade, Simulation, or Competitive. It’s a nice addition which should allow many players to jump right in without tweaking all the rules and sliders to get that feel that they’re looking for.

As for the rest, it feels largely the same. There have been some minor changes on the defensive side but they largely went unnoticed in my games. Many of the set animations are identical, including the first glimpse of the quarterback who then takes a few steps towards the field then leans back in to hear something the coach has to say – every single time.

I’m not knocking the gameplay itself, it’s still a really great football game. Sure there have been tweaks to the tackling and playbooks, but the changes are easy to miss unless you play Madden 17 and 18 within minutes of each other.

Visuals:
Do things look better with the Frostbite engine? At a cursory glance I’d say it’s a toss up, especially when a lot of the incidental animations are identical to years past. It’s still a great looking game but the wonky after the play collision detection is still present though much improved from previous years.

I only really noticed the differences when playing last year’s edition and this one back to back. Playing both on the Pro it’s quite clear that this version has a much better framerate and things just look a bit cleaner and sharper so there definitely is a difference.

Maybe I’m missing the little details or maybe I’m looking at the wrong things but to me, the stadiums look pretty much the same as Madden 17. And I continue to be stuck on the little things like cameramen frozen in place and the Spectrum still in the background in Philly years after it was torn down.

Audio:
The music hasn’t been for me in Madden in quite some time. I skim through the setlist and then immediately turn off all incidental music. Clearly it appeals to plenty of people out there but I just don’t fit the demographic.

The rest of the audio, including the play-by-play is some of the best in the business. In the initial game, the Super Bowl of course, I was pounding the button to get back to the action between quarters and the announcers commented with incredulity that I didn’t want to see halftime at the Super Bowl and “Who does that?” It actually got a chuckle out of me.

Online/Multiplayer:
The online is largely the same with the exception of one major addition, MUT Squads. This is a three on three matchup where each player takes control of a different part of the team.

One person runs the Offense, deciding the lineup, playbook, and calling plays and audibles. The next runs the Defense doing the same thing on the defensive side of course. The third is the Head Coach, calling timeouts, deciding whether to decline or accept penalties, as well as picking the head coach, stadium, and uniform.

The Offensive Captain always starts the play at Quarterback but the others are free to choose any player. With three human controlled players on each side, communication is vital to success. It should go without saying but this is a mode best played with a few close friends.

Conclusion:
It’s tough to score these types of games year in and year out. The addition of the Longshot story mode, the switch to Frostbite, and MUT Squads are the “big new ideas” this year but are they enough?

Longshot is definitely interesting but it has some issues. The advances of Frostbite have been lost on me and MUT Squads almost require a group of dedicated friends. It’s still a really good football game overall and the best we’re going to get for now but with every passing year I wonder more and more how much better it could be if EA didn’t have a monopoly on the NFL rights.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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