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Madden NFL 18

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2017

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PS4 Review - 'Madden NFL 18'

by Michael Keener on Oct. 5, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Madden NFL 18, powered by Frostbite engine, will create an experience like you’ve never seen before not only to the players, but crowds, stadiums and more.

Buy Madden NFL 18

Madden NFL is one of Electronic Arts' best sports simulation series, second only to its FIFA titles. This year, both games have received a storytelling upgrade, and Madden NFL 18 features a batch of technical improvements over the previous installment. The transition to the Frostbite engine makes this the best offering yet. Whether you're new to the franchise or an experienced vet, you can tailor the play style to your preferences, so nobody is left out.

For starters,the traditional career mode is still available under the franchise mode, which allows gamers to play a franchise through the control of a coach, general manager or player. The mode seems to have essentially gone untouched since last year's Madden offering. The franchise mode appeals to players who enjoy a single-player experience with full season schedules for dozens of seasons. A coach has many of the same responsibilities but none of the financials beyond contracts. Coaches can control and play the whole team both on offense and defense. A GM decides the fate of contracts, staff roles, and the future of the team. If creating a superstar is your cup of tea, going through the franchise as a player allows you to customize everything about him, including biography, face, jersey number, skin tone, uniform accessories, and whether he was drafted in the first round, as a late draft pick or undrafted. Each draft type has advantages and disadvantages, such as physical skill and progression rate.

The inclusion of the Longshotstory mode doesn't replace the career mode, but the gameplay does feature similar concepts. In a sense, it's an interactive movie, so you're tasked with a few decisions and actions, and your choices shape the story. The decisions can be small, like singing with your friend in the car or changing the station, to major ones, like going out of your way to make a friend look good on the field, even if it makes you look bad to coaches and recruiters. While many choices feel extremely important, especially when you learn that your personality and social media presence influence your future, there are only three endings to discover.

The story begins as main character Devin Wade and his best friend Colt Cruise are playing football in the yard as children. It shows a special connection between Devin and his father before fast-forwarding a dozen years to show Wade's broken-down home after his father's passing. The story is emotionally gripping, and it doesn't need to tell you what's going on since you can feel the loss in the atmosphere. Wade and Colt set off on a road trip to Indianapolis to chase down a fleeting dream of making it into pro football by participating in a tryout.

It's incredibly story-driven and lacks more gameplay opportunities, so further details regarding how the story unfolds will ruin the experience for those who haven't played the game. Expect to help Wade fight through depression, follow his dreams to the NFL, and build a persona that exemplifies a true champion — whether that's a humble hard worker or an irresponsible joker.

You'll occasionally take control of Wade, but it won't come for a while. The key moments before full control include some quick time events (QTEs) like dropping back from the snap with the analog stick, strafing left or right, and releasing a well-timed throw to receivers. When you do control him, it lasts for short segments within non-professional games, but it'll never be during a full schedule or full games.

The Longshot mode will be hit-and-miss with people due to the lack of gameplay, but luckily, the rest of the game is pure gameplay. All the standard difficulty levels are still present, such as All-Madden, All-Pro, Pro and Rookie, but the game style can be changed between three options: Arcade, Competitive and Simulation. Arcade is for those looking for a simpler system, such as big highlights, plays with fewer limitations, and frequent scoring. The hardest one is Competitive, which utilizes user stats; this is what the H2H ranked online and tournaments are set to. Simulation is for players who want more realistic results from plays, such as shorter rushing gains, less scoring, and greater accuracy required for throwing.

One change that has been made is the lead passing feature. When you drop back from the snap, you can toggle the left button on the controller, and an icon appears downfield with the running receivers. Moving it anywhere on the field indicates where you want to manually throw the football. If there is a defender playing too far under your receiver, you can lead him further up the field instead of relying on auto-aiming. It doesn't work out as expected. The sensitivity is too touchy, and the fact that your quarterback has to stop moving makes you an easy target for the defensive line. I have yet to successfully complete a pass with it during a football game, but I'm successful during practice when the opposing team isn't around.

As for the Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) squads, the system may be off-putting to newcomers, but it can be amazingly fun once you learn it. Ultimate team has always worked like a team-building minigame where you collect cards for coaches, jerseys, players, etc. It's a popular mode for all sports games now, but this year, Madden tries to take it a step further by including a 3v3 mode. The three roles to be filled include the defensive captain, head coach and offensive captain. Each person brings in his or her personal decks and lineups to the equation to form one team. The offensive captain brings in the offensive lineup and controls the quarterback, while the other two play as anyone else on offense. If the ball is handed to or thrown to an AI player, the offensive captain takes control of them. The defensive captain does the same for defense, but doesn't have to be locked on to any one position. Whoever is head coach has an easier job, since they only bring in the coach, jerseys and stadiums. Friends aren't necessary but enrich the experience since communication is key to winning in any sport.

The biggest and best change of all is the game engine, which creates a visually stunning experience. Madden 15 saw a major change from the Infinity engine to the Ignite engine, and this year changes it to the Frostbite engine. Although Frostbite is new to the Madden series, EAhas experience with the engine in developing Battlefield 1, FIFA 17 and Star Wars Battlefront, so many technical flaws have already been ironed out, and it's showcased very well in this series debut.

The player models look more realistic than ever, with slimmer builds that are better proportioned. At first glance, the overall fluidity of on-screen actions could fool you for televised sports. The only issues I saw dealt with player animations and glitches that usually occurred after a play. Occasionally, I'd see characters sliding around or dramatically bumping into others, but I'm sure such issues will be addressed in upcoming patches.

The Madden series is iconic in the world of sports gaming. Regardless of your reason for playing, you can't go wrong with Madden NFL 18 because it's the ultimate NFL simulation experience on the market. This year's iteration brings dramatic changes in the form of an interactive movie, but there's something here for everyone, whether the interest is in MyTeam, online play, the MUT system, the competitive scene and community, or the superstar career mode.

Score: 8.5/10

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