For EA Tiburon, it is no small task to try and create innovation where there is constant iteration. Just when you think the studio can’t come up with something new, they deliver an outstanding breath of fresh air in the form of Longshot. While Longshot delivers big on its promise, Madden 18‘s gameplay is beginning to come across as stale with classic clunkiness and awkward animations.

A breakthrough mode for Madden 18 this year is absolutely Longshot. Now this isn’t a surprise that the mode is in the game. Last year’s The Journey from FIFA introduced a similar mode, so you knew it would come to Madden this year. Regardless, it’s a heartfelt, surprisingly original story of two friends growing up in a small town and their journey to try and reach the NFL.

Performances are surprisingly strong from just about every cast member. Colt Cruise and Devin Wade are the stars of Longshot, an experience that will run you close to five hours long. Voice actors who bring them to life provide excellent performances, despite some obnoxiously unoriginal dialogue that comes across here and there.

Hollywood star Mahershala Ali serves as Devin Wade’s father in Longshot. He adds a real genuine element to the story, and Ali’s periodic appearances always land perfectly. Jack Ford, who is brought to life by the incredible Rus Blackwell. He delivers the quintessential performance for a coaching burnout who sees one last chance to do what he loves.

Longshot even has an antagonist you’ll love to hate in the form of Ross Fountain. Ricky Wayne brings him to life in fabulous fashion. He incites gamers with the ultimate “you’re going to want to punch him in the face” personalities ever. Ricky does a masterful job of adding nuance and all kinds of antagonizing behavior to Ross.

Devin gets some important advice from his father (Courtesy of EA Sports).

Most of Longshot is indeed cinematically based. There are conversation choices here and there that impact you’re overall scouting report. Don’t worry though because there are instances here and there where gameplay comes into the fold. Most of the time, it involves completing a task like completing a pass, reading a defense, calling a play and more. A lot of the on field gameplay comes in the form of a scrimmage, and a lone game setting.

The story actually goes through a pleasantly wonderful progression. Colt and Devin start out at a regional combine to try out for the NFL and ultimately, Devin gets convinced to appear on the TV show know as Longshot. After a series of events, things take a turn on many sides. From there, it’s full bore in Devin and Colt’s quest to sign with an NFL team.

Longshot’s conclusion feels satisfying and not too perfect. EA certainly could have fumbled the ending by making both of them first-round draft picks. Instead, their fates are far more believable outcomes that will make you want to jump right into MUT. After playing the story, you can continue playing as Colt and Devin in Madden Ultimate Team (MUT).

They start out with low attributes, but you can work to improve them. It’s a nice touch by EA to add this rather than just leave the story where it ends. I do wish there would have been the option to carry them over into Franchise Mode, as that is where most of my time is spent in Madden.

A few sides notes are Dan Marino and even Chad Johnson make appearances toward the end of the story. NFL players, current and former, help make Longshot special and not just some mode they had to cooperate with.

Dart and dash your way to this year’s Super Bowl (Courtesy of EA Sports).

Taking a look at the musical side of things, EA adds some of the hottest, new tracks. The game includes music from all kinds of artists like Dillon Francis, Imagine Dragons, Big Boi and more. There are some excellent options for gamers with all kinds of musical backgrounds.

Finally, a personal favorite mode of mine is absolutely Franchise Mode. Last year’s iteration delivered one of the most complete experiences yet. I’m happy to say that Madden 18 embellishes upon it in a nice way. The new draft board makes a sometimes tedious task all the more simple. This helps create an environment where you don’t mind taking a bit longer to complete the drafting process.

Additionally, Franchise Mode lets players follow or play along as the real-life season proceeds. This is a neat feature, but one most Franchise enthusiasts will likely blow by. Play Now Live is a fun exhibition feature that allows you to play current week matchups. It is nice way to boost excitement for the week ahead.

When it comes to things I feel like Madden 18 could do better, visuals are the first thing that come to mind. While Longshot certainly provides the best looks in Madden 18, gameplay visuals feel lagging. Character models still look cartoony at times, creating a subtle black hole for immersion.

On field looks such as grass seem stagnant. Additionally, when the camera circles while you call a play, snow looks awfully grainy as it sits on the ground. During a play, that look doesn’t show through as much, but it is glaring in the instance I previously mentioned.

What matchup do you want to see first in Madden 18 (Courtesy of EA Sports)?

I will say the resolution of the game is very good, dare I say the best I have seen when looking at it with the naked eye. There are small details that Madden 18 doesn’t have, which would create a greater sense of immersion. Too much feels ironed over when it comes to visuals.

Getting away from the looks, Madden 18‘s gameplay is starting to feel a bit stale. With part of that being its presentation and more of it being the actual gameplay, things feel all too familiar. Last year’s iteration took major strides for the series, however, it doesn’t feel like the gameplay was given as much love.

All of this is to say that it still possesses a solid base and comes across pretty smooth. However, there are still clunky instances with tackling or awkward moments when a player clumsily tackles another. The latter makes those moments feel less earned or real, which is not good since Madden is a simulation.

Moving back to Longshot Mode for a bit, the overall presentation shows a heck of a lot of potential. However, there are areas where the writing really felt mailed in. One example is Colt and Wade’s “trademark” handshake or saying, “Shake and Bake.” This is one of the least original sayings EA could have come up with.

Frank Gore tries to stutter step his way into the end zone (Courtesy of EA Sports).

Ricky Bobby would be infuriated to see the context in which the saying was now being used (I kid slightly). Oh and what makes “Shake and Bake” work in Talladega Knights is the fact that it really doesn’t make sense, and the two men saying it are idiots. Of all the catchphrases EA could have ripped off, why use this one? They were better off going with “Rock and Roll,” or something less obvious.

There are other instances in which the dialogue doesn’t fit with what happens or an action occurs where it doesn’t feel warranted. Overall though, Longshot made a stellar, stellar debut. Madden 18 delivers a comparable package to what we saw last year. While gameplay is feeling a bit stale, Longshot is a wonderful breath of fresh air fans will enjoy.

For gamers who play the heck out of Franchise Mode, it is still a huge reason to come to Madden once again this year. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on video games. EA provided We Write Things with a PS4 review code of Madden 18 for the purposes of this review. 

About Steve Ruygrok

Gaming, Spirits, and Craft Beer enthusiast. If you say you don't like beer, then you just haven't had the right type yet. Great spirits keep away the bad ones. Video games are kind of amazing, just do it...or something like that.