Review – Madden NFL 19
Madden NFL 18 was a sizable jump for the franchise with a move to an all-new engine and introduction of a story mode that was far better than most – including myself – would have expected. Those changes set the stage for fans to have high expectations of Madden NFL 19, and those expectations are met – but perhaps not in the way we might have expected.
Instead of continuing to revamp the series and add new features, the Madden team spent the last year polishing up some of the rough edges. The animations are noticeably improved, for example, which improves the gameplay remarkably. It’s not just the running game, which becomes both more fun and more realistic with the new animation, but it’s the small things like firing a pass to a receiver on an out route near the sidelines and not having it result in a catch and unavoidable carry out of bounds. The new motion system is responsive and allows players to be both agile and powerful, with branching jukes and less reliance on the speed burst button.
This isn’t just a change on the offensive side of the ball, however, as defensive backs also see benefits from the updated gameplay. Quarterbacks will have less time in the pocket and will need to make use of their escape options and secondary targets a lot more often than in past years. There’s still the issue of defensive players benefiting from a speed boost they shouldn’t have, running down receivers who should be free and clear all the way to the end zone, but all in all it’s much improved over last year.
Connected Franchise sees some updates, which is nice to see even though the mode is still clearly considered secondary to Madden Ultimate Team. EA has the data to see where the interest and therefore the money is and that’s why Ultimate Team seems to occupy the bulk of the development time, but it would be nice to see more done on this part of the game. It’s limped along for years as a watered-down version of the franchise modes we see in games like NBA 2K or even EA’s own NHL line, and Madden fans deserve better. The biggest change to franchise this time out is removing fully customizable players in favour of a class-based progression system, which seems aimed solely at eliminating min/maxers who created super-players capable of dominating thanks to careful stat allocation.
Longshot, Madden’s attempt at a story mode, sees a second chapter here but it might well put an end to the experiment. While a portion of the story revolves around QB Devin Wade and his struggles with cracking the Cowboys roster, the bulk of it centers on Colt Cruise and family drama. Devin, and indeed football itself, take a back seat for far too long in the story mode, with long unskippable cutscenes droning on and on about Colt’s struggles in music and his personal life. We wanted Friday Night Lights, we got All My Children with the occasional football interlude.