Title: Madden NFL 18
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Release date: Out now
tl;dr:: Same thing, different year
Price: $60 / £60 
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Madden NFL 18 is the 29th instalment of the long running Madden NFL series, and is the first to skip last-gen (PS3/Xbox 360) and has been developed using the famed Frostbite 3. It’s the first entry to include a story-focused campaign that showcases one players road from a dream to the big leagues (more on that later). Before I delve in further, please note that I’m not an avid football fan, nor have I ever watched a game. So this review is coming from the perspective of a new player to the series.

Much like EA Sports’ NHL 18 entry, Madden NFL 18 can adapt to a player’s skill level. When first launching the game, you can opt between Arcade (over the top mode filled with crazy plays, high scores and limited penalties), Simulation (authentic football experience), or Competitive (games are played via the sticks and with ranked head to head settings). This is a nice touch considering it adapts to every type of player. If you’re a football aficionado but have yet to play a Madden title, you can ease yourself in with Arcade mode. While if you’re a seasoned veteran, direct jump into Competitive mode for a tough as nails experience.

An interesting new feature introduced in this year’s iteration is Longshot. Longshot is a story-focused mode where players experience Devon Wade’s journey from playing football with his best friend and dad right up to the big times: the National Football League. It lets players experience tryouts at a college level, playing a few games. The mode is a mixed of standard gameplay, QTEs (quick time events), and decision making. It gives you infinite chances to accomplish the current objective. Case in point: during a college game, your coach takes a chance on you and your best friend. Your team is down 0-21 and you have to overcome the deficit and win the game. Problem is, even with an unlimited amount tries, if you don’t pay attention, you’ll just get frustrated and give up. While this a fun “how-to,” to the game, it would’ve been more enjoyable to be offered to skip it after a few fails so players can see the story through.

To ease things, for both yearly players and newcomers, after spiking the ball, each player has a controller button mapped out to facilitate throwing a pass. A few seconds before throwing the ball, the game maps out the possible outcomes with arrows depending which player you to decide to throw the ball to. The problem is, if you’re not a football fan, you can easily overlook these hints and randomly throw the ball before the quarterback gets sacked. While I understand it requires speed and reflexes, newbies to the sport will feel overwhelmed, even at lower difficulties. Thankfully, on the lower difficulties, you can let the A.I. determine the upcoming play, both defense and offense, to avoid the headache of trying to understand what’s going on (if you just want to play for the hell of it).

EA Sports kinda dropped the ball presentation-wise. Visually speaking the game looks okay, but you’d expect a better visual engine four years into this generation; there’s definitely the lack of a wow factor. The game’s not ugly by any means, but the character models and movement sometime look plain and random. Sound wise, the game is a touchdown. The soundtrack contains a handful of tracks from various genres such as rap, rock and pop making sure that navigating through the interface feels a bit more upbeat. During a game, expect an enjoyable and near realistic atmosphere considering my lack of knowledge. It actually made me want to actually attend a football game, eventually. The crowd and announcers do a decent job, and the commentary doesn’t repeat itself as often as you might expect.

Unfortunately, if you don’t like or know much about football, it’s kind of difficult to recommend Madden NFL 18. As much I wanted to push myself to enjoy it, I just didn’t have that much fun considering my lack of knowledge. Unlike NHL 18, where it’s a simple enough sport that translates well into a pick up and play gaming experience, you need to know a bit about the rules of the game. Yes, if you’re a newcomer and have the patience/time to dedicate and learn, you’ll find an enjoyable and deep football experience. However, if you’re looking for a more arcadey experience, you should be looking into Tecmo Bowl Throwback. Madden NFL 18 is not an easy franchise to dive into and will be more appealing to yearly buyers than newcomers.

The Good

  • Interesting Longshot story mode
  • Three styles of play
  • Will satisfy returning players

The Bad

  • Visually meh
  • If you don’t understand football, you’re kind screwed
  • Lacking option to skip in Longshot mode

Family Focus

Madden NFL 18 is rated E for Everyone and PEGI 7+ despite the presence of comic mischief, mild language and mild violence. It’s football, what did you expect?

This review is based on a code provided by Xbox UK for the purposes of this review.