Hope springs eternal as another year of Madden brings about the same usual excitement and unrealistic expectations that this year will finally be the one that EA gets absolutely everything right and makes a perfect football video game. Of course, there are sure to be the typical gripes and complaints about it once the fans get their grubby paws on the game on August 25th (or August 22nd for those who pre-order the G.O.A.T edition) and begin to pick every little thing apart, but at least for now we can all be filled with a sense of cautious optimism. Based on all of the details that have trickled out about Madden 18, here are the top 4 best and worst things that we’ve heard about the game up to this point.
The transition of Madden to the Frostbite engine may have set the community abuzz upon its announcement but many casual players were probably left wondering, “Wait, what’s this thing now?” Without getting too technical about the ins and outs of the engine (because frankly, I can’t), what this means is that we can expect Madden 18 to have the same kind of crisp and dynamic visuals that the state-of-the-art engine has previously brought to other EA titles like Battlefield 1 and FIFA 17. Yes, it may not be all that finely tuned just yet given that this is its first year being employed but we should still certainly expect to see a better presentation to Madden this year.
Madden players have been looking for the opportunity to team up with friends on the gridiron to engage in some co-op football for a while now and Madden 18 will finally grant them that wish. Conceived as a 3-vs-3 experience, the MUT Squads mode will see players taking on the roles of offensive captain, defensive captain and head coach. The offensive captain brings in the roster on offense and calls the plays on that side of the ball, the defensive captain does the same on the other side of the ball and the head coach chooses the stadium and uniforms while determining the results of penalties. Sure, the head coach seems like he may not have as many responsibilities, but everyone is free to control whoever they want once the play gets going. While the mode is sure to see people online sniping at teammates and eventually quitting prematurely, it sure sounds like it will add yet another welcome dimension to online play.
Every year, one of the biggest issues people have with Madden is that AI defenders can be easily exploited if you know their limitations. Madden 18 attempts to remedy this problem yet again by upgrading the abilities of those defenders to have them show more awareness in zone coverage and stick closer to receivers in man coverage, hopefully even on those dreaded corner routes where they’ve been especially vulnerable in the past. In addition, it’s now possible to put your defensive backs in better spots by matching them up against receivers based on a few different factors, like overall rating and even height. This year also allows defensive players to play press coverage on tight ends, which will be absolutely vital when trying to defend bigger and more athletic players at the position like Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce.
3 Distinct Play Styles
For years, it’s always seemed that Madden has been forced to straddle the line between different styles of game-play in an effort to appease different fan-bases, leaving pretty much everyone relatively unsatisfied in the process. But that all changes this year, as Madden 18 allows players to choose which style of game-play suits them best. Hardcore sim players can choose to have the game be a close representation of what they see in the NFL by using simulation mode, which will see the game determined more by players’ ratings than anything else. Online players will be more likely to favour a competitive mode that will depend more on the stick skills of the players involved while minimizing the input of the ratings of the players on the field. Finally, arcade mode should satisfy more casual fans that aren’t interested in having the game mirror anything resembling real-life football but will instead allow them to go out there and put up huge offensive numbers without having to worry too much about the finer points of the game.
Madden 18 has leaned hard so far on its new Longshot career story mode in the run-up to its release, which is probably to be expected considering it has the potential to attract new people to the game. But as someone who has played Madden pretty much every year for as long as I can remember, consider myself a little skeptical about it. EA developers have touted from the very start that this will be a sort of interactive movie, complete with big-name actors like Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali and multiple endings depending on how you choose to play things. This may be somewhat of a novel way to handle the sport game’s now requisite career mode, but the trouble is that the mode apparently ends before you actually get to the NFL. Even if you enjoy watching cut scenes more than actually playing the game, it still seems like a drawback that you can’t actually take your character all the way to the pros like in other career modes. It’s almost as if you were watching a movie that ended right before the climax. Of course, this might only be the prologue to a second part in next year’s game and could be way more enjoyable than I am initially giving it credit for, but my gut reaction is that this mode will be a disappointment for Madden veterans.
Lack of Game-play Video
Because Longshot has been the mode EA has chosen to showcase so prominently, we haven’t really been afforded the chance to get a sneak peek at much of the game-play from Madden 18. Though developers previously indicated that that we could likely expect to see some footage from the game sometime between July 15th and July 20th, those dates came and went without so much as a glimpse of what the game will look like. While we did get to see a few leaked off-camera videos to whet our appetite and the newest trailer that was just released does provide a bit of an overview of some of this year’s new features, it would be nice to just be able to watch a proper demo game that would better illustrate how this year’s game really plays on the field. Chances are that we will be getting something like that soon enough, but it’s been hard for fans to not read too much into this and suspect that maybe EA is trying to hide something about this year’s finished product.
Tom Brady as Cover Athlete
This is nothing at all against Brady, who absolutely deserved to be the cover star of Madden 18 after completing an epic comeback against the Falcons in what may likely come to be known as the greatest Super Bowl of all time. But on the other hand, how could EA do this to the GOAT? It was just last year that Gronk was gracing the cover of Madden 17 only to see his season cut short as yet another victim of the dreaded Madden curse and now EA has the gall to put the Pats’ 5-time Super Bowl-winning soon-to-be-40-year old quarterback on the cover. Maybe Brady will be one of the rare lucky ones to escape the hands of the horrific curse (if anyone can, it’d surely be him) but doing this to Brady at the end of a long and legendary career seems to only be tempting fate. If Brady goes down at any point in the season and, god forbid, it puts an end to the career of the future Hall of Famer, EA can expect to get plenty of hate mail from the Boston area and it will only lend further credence to the idea that the curse is indeed very real.
This is admittedly a tough one to judge at this time without actually being able to use this new mechanic for ourselves yet, but for now I feel the need to file this under the category of “Is This Necessary?” I know many other people are excited for the challenge of a new style of passing that allows users to throw the football to an exact spot instead of aiming it directly to a specific receiver but with the existing ability to lead receivers with passes or throw them balls high or low depending on coverage, I have to wonder if adding one more method of precision passing is just over-complicating the process to the point of tedium. I’m completely prepared to eat my words on this if it turns out that the learning curve is not as steep as expected and/or if the added challenge ends up being more rewarding than frustrating but this is hardly a feature that felt missing from last year’s game or one that seems to remedy an existing problem that needed attention.