Madden ’18‘s gameplay will seem immediately familiar, but that doesn’t mean there have not been some very nice enhancements made to the overall experience. While many folks have been eager to see a gameplay overhaul, instead we seem some subtle tightening to the Madden gaming experience. I encourage you to embrace the quality over quantity approach, as I’ve been having a blast playing Madden ’18 thus far.
Disclaimer: I played 100% of my games on All-Pro simulation
- User scrambling caught me a bit by surprise, but in a good way. Using a number of different quarterbacks ranging from guys like Russell Wilson to Matthew Stafford, I noticed that QB scrambling is easier and on a number of occasions can be used with deadly force. Perhaps the pass blocking was a bit too strong, but I was able to properly go through my progression, then take a quick peak at a lane to move into, only to realize that I had an easy 10-12 yards before sliding for a first down. I actually like the feel of this and hope we do not see any changes to the line play, but instead maybe more awareness from the defenders who eventually close in on you to limit some of those gains a bit.
- My experiences with AI awareness have been a bit mixed. I find Madden ’18 to play smarter than last year, but I have seen a good number of coverage sacks. I do not feel it’s an issue with coverage being too strong; instead we don’t see enough improvising by the AI when they are in trouble or them giving up on a play and throwing the ball out of bounds. I have seen some scrambles happening by the AI, about 1-2 a game. If we did see more improvisation and the AI conceding occasionally, it would lead to AI QBs feeling even more human-like and more variety, providing for stronger game balance and more realism with this headiness from the AI.
- Passing accuracy is deadly accurate. I have had multiple games where 0-1 incomplete passes were thrown by halftime for both teams combined. Backups will see a drop in performance, but play more true to a real-life starter, completing around 63-67%. This can be adjusted with sliders, but out of the box, I’m not sure why a “sim” setting has passing set to be so easy on the second-highest difficulty. To me, sim All-Pro passing percentages felt more like a competitive or even arcade setting.
- Target passing works as advertised, but is not something I’ll be using as it doesn’t appear to take into account a player’s ratings passing/awareness ratings.
- While this isn’t a new gameplay feature, I like the improvements made to “get skinny” allowing you to slip through the line a bit more for some more realistic looking plays; it feels good to fight for even a 3-yard gain on some of those, and it feels better implemented.
- The run game feels very fluid overall. I really like it a lot. Having said that, juke, spin, and other such animations lead to some slow-down which neither looks nor feels good. If that delay can be touched-up, the run game is going to be one of the most appreciated adjustments to gameplay this year.
- I love that RBs realistically bounce off of offensive lineman. I do not feel suction like we have had in years’ past, and it’s one of those little tweaks that makes the run game feel very realistic.
- While the running game feels much improved, Madden is still plagued by tackles for loss (TFL). You’ll definitely lead your CFM in TFL if you play each game out on defense, which has been a legacy issue in Madden for years. One quick fix the Madden team could make would be to stop counting 0-yard gains as TFL. Another adjustment may be to truly allow RBs to at least fight their way back to the line of scrimmage.
- Broken tackles remain inflated. These are not as abundant as tackles-for-losses, but they are definitely inflated. This can be rectified some by increasing your tackle slider, but then you will be adding to those TFL again.
- I wish we saw pile-ups when a fumble occurs. As it is now, the ball sort of ping-pongs around for about a second or two until someone picks it up. I’m surprised we don’t see more subtle gameplay enhancements for things like this as well as bad snaps and bad holds. We should be seeing these sort of things by now, especially with the introduction of a “sim” mode this year.
- Interceptions are far more realistic this year. Previously, it seemed INTs came from super-human performances by players, and this has been a lot better. We do see some dropped INTs that the Madden team has mentioned we’d see, but I find these to be in realistic situations where either the player was in traffic, had a low catch rating, or both. While I do think we still see a bit too many LBs making big plays, INTs overall seem like a big improvement out-of-the-box.
- I really like that we have an additional visual system that continues to provide feedback during a play. After the ball is snapped, even in a zone coverage, I can see a line appear as a player enters my zone telling me to pick him up. This can be turned off, but I like the feature a lot, and it’s similar to what we see in other sport games such as NHL and NBA 2K where we can get some visual aides on where to be on defense, if we so choose.
- I purposefully controlled a DE in a lot of games I played to really try and “break” the pass rush, but I’m happy to report that this felt very balance. I was not able to just overpower an offensive lineman, and when I did work hard for a sack, it felt earned. If I could make one request, I would bump this difficulty up a little bit, but overall it’s well-balanced.
- The one knock I still have for defensive line play is that it’s sort of a 2-button mini game. I engage, and hit one or two buttons until I can free myself. It’s not that it’s a bad experience, but I feel it could be something more by now.
- There are still too many assisted tackles happening, or perhaps not enough happening in simulated games. This isn’t a huge deal, but it just looks odd when your team has far and away the most assisted tackles in your CFM, thus inflated your overall tackles.
- Far and away, my favorite improvement to this year’s game is the introduction of off-ball injuries. This was my number one wish, and I’m thrilled that it’s now part of the game for “sim” mode.
- I briefly touched on offensive line play already, but overall you’re going to see some nice and subtle interaction taking place that helps form a more realistic pocket, and offensive line play overall is one of the more underappreciated improvements to Madden this year. The OL is very smart in blitz pick-ups, and I haven’t felt the need to even utilize the “ID the Mike” feature as often as I thought I would.
- Penalties are still non-existent. Out-of-the-box, I’d say they are being called at the lowest rate I’ve ever seen in a Madden game. I had pass interference set to 80 in my last game, and saw a WR nearly get tackled, and no flag was thrown.
- Positional rotation is nearly non-existent as well. Again, in a year where we see a “sim” mode being introduced, we should be seeing defensive lineman, running backs, and so on rotate out far more frequently than they do now, without having to tinker to do it ourselves. This can be adjusted with sub in/out adjustments, but it’s a hassle to do so for your AI opponents every game. This should already be happening in “sim” mode.
- More of a visual than gameplay issue, but the vast majority of in-between-play cut scenes are of my coach. The majority of those are of him uppercutting the air, even after a 3 yard gain by my opponent. The game does have some nice cut scenes to players who made the tackle, for instance, but there needs to be more of these and more scenes with graphical overlays.
- Another visual: cut scenes for injuries would be nice. We often times will get a visual notification of who was hurt and who is subbing in, but this does not happen every time, and it left me wondering what the heck was going on in a few instances. An injury in football is usually a big deal, and we should see something happening–heck, even bring back the ambulance that used to run people over.
- I’d like to see in-game stats actually recorded fully, such as “thrown to” and “catches allowed.” For years these stats appear in the statistics page, but have never been recorded.
- I’d also like to see an addition made to accelerated clock during the last two minutes. As it stands now, accelerated clock is not used, and it actually gives a team more time to march down the field in what should technically be one of the most stressful and difficult times in a game. I’d recommend the Madden team take a page out of the NHL series and use a time-scaling feature like we see during power plays.
Overall, I am enjoying my time with Madden ’18. I hope that in sharing some constructive criticism along with the positives I’ve seen in gameplay, this game will continue to improve. The Madden team is very involved on social media, and they are definitely a team that cares and who wants to get it right. We should continue to find ways to productively work together with them as a community. I’d wager that Madden ’18 will be the best football game any of us have ever played, but a focal point should always be on how we can make the one next year even better.