NFL action is back
Summer may be winding down, but the hustle on the field is just starting to pick up. The NFL preseason is in full swing, but you don’t have to wait for the Super Bowl to crown your own winner. Madden NFL 19 is available right now.
Return of the longshot
“Longshot” mode is back with Madden NFL 19, and you can pick up the story of Colt Cruise and Devin Wade right where you left off. This sports/adventure game hybrid mode continues the saga of two NFL prospects on their journey to success and fame. No spoilers—but Longshot appears content to offer some final resolution for its characters this year. You’ll have to play for yourself to determine if the ending meets your expectations.
Regardless of which team drafted Devin in your own playthrough last year, he begins this season with the Cowboys. Colt on the other hand is struggling both with his music career and his lack of NFL prospects. Each takes his own path through lengthy cinematics sprinkled with player-controlled game challenges.
I enjoyed the story itself, but the player-controlled aspects of Longshot are surprisingly dull this year. The stakes in most situations are high, but the challenges themselves show little thought. For the most part, you’ll simply find yourself marching the ball down the field in repetition.
One neat feature is that Longshot does unlock a few rewards in Madden Ultimate Team mode this year. Some challenges within this mode even revolve around the characters and circumstances of Longshot. You also have the option to carry Colt or Devin’s story on into Franchise mode.
Grinding the gridiron in Ultimate Team
Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) mode joins the lineup of usual suspects returning in Madden NFL 19. Once again you will build a custom team to take through solo challenges and online match-ups. Rewards earned through your MUT career can be used to improve your roster and build the ultimate fantasy team.
Madden NFL 19 has once again increased the focus on solo play in MUT. There are more solo challenges than ever before, including solo challenge tournaments with leaderboard rewards. I’ve always been a solo Madden gamer, so I definitely appreciate the Madden NFL 19 continues to offer more ways to succeed in MUT outside of head-to-head online play.
If playing with friends is more your style, MUT also offers “squad” challenges. Here you can group up with up to two more players to take on AI opponents in increasingly difficult matchups. Of course the rewards become greater the further you progress.
Improving your chemistry and creating legends
Another vast improvement to MUT this year is the team chemistry and player upgrades systems.
In Madden NFL 19, your team once again receives stat bonuses based on certain chemistries. Having multiple players from the same team for example is a great way to boost your chemistry bonuses.
However, this year you have the option to train players of your own choosing. This means that you can not only specifically improve your favourite player, but you can also alter their chemistry to fit with that of your current team’s strengths. This means you no longer have to choose between a player you like and one more suited to your overall chemistry.
I really like this feature because it improves on the idea of MUT as creating your own personal “fantasy” team. With the ability to upgrade players this way, you no longer need to sacrifice overall strength in favour of recruiting that player you really like, but who isn’t quite superstar status. Now you can tailor available players to your team, rather than tailoring your team to the players available.
Real Player Motion
As always, the team at EA Sports has made some adjustments to the game engine in order to improve gameplay. This year’s upgrade for Madden NFL 19 is “Real Player Motion”. This entails improved precision in running the field and avoiding tackles in an attempt to make bigger plays.
With Real Player Motion players gain the opportunity to make a precise cut, making it easier to shift direction and accelerate into the open field. Triggering the ball carrier to stop outright at just the precise moment can cause tacklers to run past and miss altogether.
Conversely, the cost of Real Player Motion comes with reduced mobility when travelling at faster speeds. Players will find that when they are engaging in a burst of acceleration the ability to maneuver the ball barrier will decrease significantly. True mastery of Real Player Motion comes from knowing when to go full-speed and when to lay off in favour of precision cuts.
One area of Madden 19 I do find disappointing is the achievement/trophy list. For some gamers in-game achievements are an afterthought at best, but for others such as myself, they are an attractive way to get more enjoyment out of a new game. Particularly with a franchise that releases every single year, I would expect a little variety here in order to keep players engaged.
Instead, Madden 19 recycles virtually the same list as last year, save for a few minimal changes. Of course the Longshot achievements are updated, but only because so to is the story itself. Everything else a near-perfect copy of last year’s list.
Some achievement/trophy hunters may see this as a bonus however—the list is easy and you can add a shiny new platinum trophy or 1000 gamerscore in under 5-10 hours. Still, I feel like EA Sports really misses the mark when they churn out similar achievement lists for their games year after year. Here is an opportunity to introduce something fresh and new compared to last year’s offering, but instead EA elects to “air reruns”.
The start or football season is always one of the highlights for me this time of year. That also inevitably means picking up the new Madden title and seeing what changes have been introduced this time around. Madden NFL 19 has some excellent additions in the form of Real Player Motion, new features in Madden Ultimate Team, and a conclusion to the Longshot story.
Not everything in Madden NFL 19 received a shiny new coat of paint though. Instead of improving on the playable aspects of Longshot, EA took a step backwards, making them bland and repetitive. Finally, recycling the same in-game achievements is a missed chance to offer a bit more variety in a game that is often criticized by some for not changing enough year to year.
+ Precise cuts and acceleration bursts with Real Player Motion
+ Solo and squad challenges in Madden Ultimate Team
+ Advanced chemistry and player upgrades in Madden Ultimate Team
+ Part 2 of the Longshot saga
– Uninteresting gameplay in Longshot
– Another recycled trophy/achievement list
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.75/5
Overall Rating: 4/5 (80%)