Madden NFL 17 was the first Madden I had played since 08. So you'd think I wouldn't really need a new Madden game already, right? Well there were a lot of selling points for 18. The most superficial was that they put Brady on the cover. I'm a Pats fan. It's tough for me to not buy a Madden game that has a Patriots player on the cover. But there was more than just that, like the fact that Madden 18 would be the first game in the series to actually feature a single player story mode. And then there's the fact that the game would utilize the new Frostbite engine meaning it was the first game in the series to actually be properly "next gen."
The first thing I did once Madden 18 was finished installing was to fire up this new story mode. Entitled "Long Shot," this could easily be called Football: The Telltale Series. That should just about tell you whether or not you'll care for it. Y'know it's mostly a choose-your-own-adventure game with some quick time events and mini-games thrown in for good measure. I liked it a lot actually. For the most part it felt better written than I had anticipated. Long Shot tells the story of a draft hopeful, Devon Wade. But what makes it a pleasant surprise is that it isn't just a simple rise from high school ball on up, but rather tells a twisting tale that touches upon death and fear and redemption. It goes to some odd places at times such as reality television and even a military base. But the story does have a lot of heart and I commend it for that. Unfortunately Long Shot is rather brief. I believe I finished it in just three hours.
But a story mode is just icing on the cake, right? Nobody's buying a Madden game for a story mode. So how does the base game play? Well... it's excellent. I mean even in comparing the game to last year's iteration - which should feel like just a continuation - Madden 18 is amazing. The new Frostbite engine really is incredible. And this kind of jump can always go two ways: either the devs aren't ready to make the transition and we get an undercooked game, or they are and we get something this great.
Everything here is exceptional. The visuals are top notch, whether we're talking about players' likenesses or single blades of grass on the field. Even the way the players move between plays is insane to watch. It goes a long way to selling realism when there's a scuffle between two players after a hard hit. And the commentary is just mind-blowing. I raved about this with last year's game as well, but it's impressive just how on-point a lot of what they say really is. They're not just talking about the current game, but also the previous game; the whole season leading up to it really.
After playing through Long Shot I started up my season proper. I'm a believer in letting things happen the way they happen. So sadly I was starting the season without Edelman. The AI here is commendable. Early on I had to be reminded that if you're careless, a ball will be intercepted. There's a tendency to start to feel cocky and treat the game too arcade-like. The AI is more than happy to remind you that this is a sim first and foremost. In my own season I watched carelessness turn to tragedy as more and more of my starting lineup went out for injury. Gronk and Amendola happened early on. Then eventually Brady. Hogan would follow, and so on. So let's just say that even making it into the playoffs as a wild card was impressive this year. But sadly I couldn't hang on to the win. And so now my season is officially over.
Madden 18 proudly wears the "if it's in the game, it's in the game" motto on its sleeve. I'm not talking about playbooks or cheerleaders here. I'm talking about the drama. An hour-long game can easily cycle through celebration and agony. There's a flow to these games: four-act plays with plots and tension and lessons to be learned. I've spent nearly thirty hours with the game and I'm still contemplating advancing the calendar and starting up my next season, because it kills me to walk away from the game without even seeing the Super Bowl.
This is also the first Madden game I've actually bothered playing online. I've convinced a friend of mine to pick it up and we've been playing some games against each other which has been great. But then there's this My Ultimate Team stuff which involves playing games online competitively and sort of drafting a unique team to do so. It's interesting and really just more playtime I can eek out of this game. All in all, it feels like money well spent.