Madden NFL 19 fumbles a few things, but once that’s ironed out, it will run the distance.
Another year, another swath of EA Sports games to grant us the supreme fantasy fulfilment of being a sports superstar. First out of the gate is Madden NFL 19, and good news! If you liked Madden NFL 18 at any level, from Rookie to All-Star, than you’re going to feel very at home in Madden 19. Because Madden 19 is very much back to the iterative game that the series has long been.
That’s not necessarily a knock on the game however. It’s still going to be football, which is what you’re going into one of these games for in the first place. Madden 18 did an awful lot right with the game, and the modular gameplay options, snappy controls and the continuation of the Longshot mode introduced last year have all found a place within the new game. Having played several games with someone far more experienced in the series than I am, even finding the gameplay more responsive in general.
"While 19 adds a handful of new mechanics to the defence and offence …, the controls feel tighter as a whole on both sides."
While 19 adds a handful of new mechanics to the defence and offence that we’ll touch on in a moment, the controls feel tighter as a whole on both sides. Jukes, Stiff Arm and Hurdle maneuvers are more consistent to pull off, and changing your controlled player seems to more intelligently select the one you would want. New maneuvers have made their way in for further strategic options, and feel just as tight to pull off.
On the defensive side, the Strafe Burst allows a player to more deftly react to the ball-carrier, asking a bit of timing on the triggers to not take skill out of the equation. Meanwhile, as the ball-carrier you can more accurately control your direction at a moment’s notice and burst through an opening with One-Cut, or fake out the defence with a momentary stutter. These additions, particularly during PvP matches give a few extra layers to mind games and helps differentiate a game that otherwise looks and feels nearly identical to the last title.
The modularity of the game that I praised to highly back in Madden 18 returns in full force as well, and is still much appreciated as someone who still barely knows what a down is, and thinks a runningback should probably be looked at by a doctor. You get to decide what your Madden looks like, from an arcade experience that removes many of the penalty calls and injuries to give a lighter experience, all the way up to a hardcore simulation where a single mistimed flick of the stick could spell disaster. Madden 19 can be many things depending on who’s playing it in the moment, and that’s nothing but a good thing.
"Devin’s and Colt’s problems rarely seem to intersect, and the game loses a bit in the loss of their dynamic."
The single-player Longshot from last year was great at telling a heartfelt story that gave players real consequences for their decisions, but much of the time didn’t include a lot of actual football. This year concludes the story of Devin and Colt, who didn’t quite hit the long shot odds of becoming NFL draftees. Now subtitled “Homecoming”, we pick up with Devin Wade struggling to make his mark as a Cowboys draftee and to stand out within the highly competitive world of the sport, while Colt is stuck back home, reminiscing about high school glory days and dealing with more personal problems.
Longshot continues to feel a lot like a Telltale game, with similar story segments, animations and performance based branches in the story to last year. The continuation mostly feels natural, though a little stilted with the changed stakes. Devin’s and Colt’s problems rarely seem to intersect, and the game loses a bit in the loss of their dynamic. That’s not to say that each of their own stories isn’t engaging and kept my attention for far longer at a time than I had thought, but the conflict of Wade’s dreams against staying loyal to his friend drove much of the drama last year.
A conscious effort was made to bring more play to the mode, which back in the original Longshot would feel nearly Metal Gear like in how long it would drag the story on before you would be back to throwing some handegg. Objectives are also given to mix it up as well, such as needing to complete a drive with a certain player in order to recreate a scene. The early parts of the mode also manage to weave in decent tutorial elements without feeling too frustrating or out of place, which is appreciated. Longshot is probably still not what you’re coming to the game for, but it remains at worst, inoffensive.
"the game still looks very visually clean with a readable UI, and about as photorealistic as current hardware is going to get. But hey, welcome to Madden."
Visually and audibly, it’s difficult to pin down any real differences over last years game either. As much as anything else, Madden 19 seems fairly happy to just build off of what came before just like in the rest of the game. It’s not a huge fault, per say, since the game still looks very visually clean with a readable UI, and about as photorealistic as current hardware is going to get. But hey, welcome to Madden.
With the Madden gameplay and formula nailed down to such a tee over however many successive entries, and how much this title appears to be built directly off the old one, the one major knock I have against the game is just how unstable it seems. Reviewing on a PS4 Pro, I would experience several crashes and errors with some alarming level of frequency. It would consistently boot me out to a crash screen trying to access the Skills Trainer for example, while it happened only occasionally while loading into exhibition matches.
"Really, the best and worst thing I can say about this game is “Yep, it is in fact a Madden.”"
In game errors prevented me from accessing anything to do with MUT at all, leaving me unable to speak to the apparent Player Upgrades and Solo Battles introduced to the mode. As of the time of publishing, EA has not commented on whether this issues will be ironed out on day 1 with a patch, but time will eventually shore it up. In the meantime, it’s hard to forgive these kinds of oversights when you are the football game in town, and not even drastically different from the previous title.
You really don’t need me to tell you if you want Madden NFL 19. You already know from playing a previous title. Really, the best and worst thing I can say about this game is “Yep, it is in fact a Madden.”. Aside from some really strange, hard to forgive crashes for such an iterative series, the team has polished up the previous year’s game even further. Longshot isn’t worth writing home about, but probably also not why you’d consider the game anyways. Meanwhile, control being finer tuned and additional options for both offence and defence refine the gridiron game just that small increment further.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
New additions to movement to attack and defence options enhance play, especially for PvP mind games. Controls on the whole feel tighter and more consistent over last year’s entry. Longshot is still engaging enough.
Longshot has certainly changed and lost something from keeping the Devin and Colt dynamic apart. Visually stagnant over last year. Crashes and errors kept me out of rather large chunks of the game, at least for now.
If you’ve played Madden in the last several years, odds are you already know if you’ll enjoy Madden NFL 19. That isn’t to say the game does nothing new or better over the previous game, but it is very much another iterative game that will make you go, “Yep, that’s a Madden.” Whether that’s a good thing or not is really up to you.