In years past, the launch of Madden was the sign that the big video game season was starting. Although Publishers have seen success with launches throughout the rest of year making “Madden Day” a little less significant but still eventful. And for some people, Madden is one of the only titles they’ll pick up for a whole year as it continues to have a huge following. But a game based on a sport that doesn’t change too much year to year, how can the annual title continue to stay fresh and feel new?

This year’s Madden introduced a single player campaign called, “Longshot.” Longshot follows Quarterback Devon Wade as he makes his way back into football following a circumstantial absence. Longshot plays just like a TellTale game, giving you the ability to make decisions to shape the outcome of the story. However, while it’s similar to a TellTale game, it’s much, much worse in every aspect.

This review will talk mostly about Madden 18’s Longshot mode as the other gameplay, to me, hasn’t changed enough to leave an impact on me. But that will come later on in the review.

While more and more changes are added each year to make Madden Ultimate Team the “focused” mode, it’s largely still the money making-card game EA has latched on to with its sports titles. Franchise mode has taken a back seat to both Madden Ultimate Team and Longshot this year, leaving it to be an after thought in all the play style options.

Mixed in with all the new additions to Madden 18 are an unreasonable amount of bugs and total lack of polish. I have never played a Madden game with this many issues at launch. The replay system went from acceptable from past years to totally inexcusable this year. One example from my time with the game included a sideline pass completion that took place on the opposing team’s bench. The wide receiver ran out of bounds, caught the ball and fell to the ground, again, all of this happening outside of the legal play area and the pass was ruled a completion.

Like any normal coach or fan of the game, I called for a Challenge to reverse the call. Once the virtual referee had a second look he determined that it was a clean catch and the call was confirmed. One time wouldn’t be so bad but this kind of issue happened multiple times, across multiple game modes, in totally different situations. It would be a surprise when I could play a full game without having some snafu like the mentioned example happening.

Another common issue I ran into was the automatic substitutions of players, both on my team and the opposing team. The most jarring example I can provide includes the game substituting my entire defense, on fourth down, with my starting offensive players. My Quarterback was lined up at Linebacker while all of my skill position players made up the Defensive Line. It would have been much worse if the game hadn’t messed up worse than that and substituted the opposing team’s offense with their starting defense. Long story short, their Defensive End didn’t make for a good Quarterback.

I wish I had more positive things to say, or really anything positive to say but the good parts of the game have been the same good parts each year. The gameplay is still fun, it’s still an incredible football simulator and it’s one of my favourite games to play with a friend. I can sit down and play Madden for hours at a time without getting bored because I love football. I love managing a team in Franchise Mode, I love making a new player and running him through a career and I love supporting my real life team by kicking ass online with the Baltimore Ravens. But it’s hard to love this year’s Madden with all the technical issues I’ve experienced.

I haven’t even talked about how much I didn’t like Madden’s new mode, Longshot, yet. Let’s start with the positives first.

Like I mentioned before, Madden 18 added a new single player, story mode which they call, Longshot. Which is referencing your chances of making the NFL as a Quarterback who has been removed from the game for a few years. The story mode provides some variety to Madden and a new way play, combining some elements of Madden with the playstyle and decision making of a TellTale game.

I like the dynamic of mixing football situations with off the field decisions like a real NFL prospect would face and it can really shape a character. I’m glad there is a new game-type added the Madden to mix up the standard, repeated football games. Although the game mode is fairly short and can be completed in one sitting, shuffling you right out to the regular gameplay again.

Unfortunately, the only positive I have to talk about is a short one and that is that it’s different. I don’t have a lot of good things to add to that but I do want to see more, I want to see where they take this story and improve on the negatives I’m about to explain. I’ll try and keep it spoiler free but I’ll need to mention some specific areas to explain the issues with the story mode.

The most jarring issue I had with Longshot was the writing of the story. It’s pretty much every single sports-drama, feel good movie ever. Player is trying to do something big with the help of his best friend, player has been through so many hardships in his life to work back from, montages of learning and getting closer to the goal, fights between friends quickly made up for the good of it all, and expected conclusion of getting what you wanted.

Since the game mode features the ability to make choices and decisions, you can change this outcome a little bit. Which brings up my second point, the decision-making process isn’t consequential enough to hold any weight in the story. Talking with other people who have finished the Longshot mode, we’ve determined that there’s only really one decision in the game that matters and based on your decision you get one of the two endings.

The writing and the lack of impactful decisions make the story pretty weak overall and hard to care about anything other than your own continued success. It’s hard to care about anything else as you’re thrown into a mix of stereotypical characters such as a “me first” TV executive with an assistant who is too nice for her own good, an old school football coach who is a hardass and your best friend who is sticking it out your side through everything. The characters aren’t dynamic at all and since the decision making isn’t all that important, you can almost tell all of them off with no repercussions.

Another main issue I had with the game mode, being a big football fan, is the progression of the main character. Devon Wade is a Five Star recruit out of High School who has led his team to at least one State Championship victory. He gets a full ride to the school of his choice, which is the University of Texas where it was mentioned that he was the top Quarterback coming out of High School. He should be incredibly versed in football, right? Well, apparently not.

One key area of Longshot is breaking down film, which is watching football plays and dissecting them to see how another team works and ways to counter them. However, this instance of film breakdown included the football coach, Jack Ford, asking Wade who on the field is the Safety. Any Quarterback at any level of their career should know exactly what a Safety is and where they line up on the field. Not Devon Wade though, Wade apparently has been so removed from football that he doesn’t know what a Safety is on defense, nor does he know how to recognize a Hot Reciever, he can’t call plays, he doesn’t know what a receiver tree is and he doesn’t even really know how an offense works as explained through another montage where his best friend has to explain to him basically everything a Quarterback is expected to know.

I get that your character has been out of football for three years, doing other stuff, but a football player with his skill level and his accolades should know exactly everything I listed. This falls back to the writing and it’s so bad that it’s laughable.

When it comes to gameplay for Longshot, it’s few and far situations of actual football. Sometimes you’re on a reality show throwing footballs at targets, sometimes you’re completing a comeback in a High School flashback. But you never actually get to play a game of football. More like situations and quick time events to tell a story. The good news is, if you fail, the game just tells you to try again. Which brings me back to the mention of nonconsequential gameplay, there’s no risk involved.

Between the handful of football scenarios, you have to play out, you’re graced with way long of cutscenes which really bores down the whole game mode. All in all, Longshot is a total let down with very few upsides. Luckily it can be completed quickly so you can jump over to another game mode that Madden 18 offers you.

Even though I’ve listed, basically, only negative aspects of the game, I didn’t hate my time with Madden 18. I still love the franchise but this installment is a big step backward for the series. Longshot was something I was overly excited for but I was let down in a major way after I finished it. I can only hope that next year’s continuation of Longshot can turn things around and make it an interesting story that doesn’t have me rolling my eyes.

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