Review: Madden 19

As with most other EA Sports games, the Madden series has been evolving slowly over the past few years, with each version adding new features, improved presentation and whatever else came to mind while the developers were doing their developing thing. But as with most evolutions there comes a time when things just click, make sense and start to show exactly what the past years have been building up to.

That’s where Madden 19 is. Every bit as brutal, challenging and gorgeous as previous titles but with some tweaks, extras and changes which make it more accessible in just the right places, EA’s latest American Football title has reached the stage when it would be very easy to sit back, release no more and think “yeah… this is it”. We all know of course that this time next year Madden 20 will most likely rewrite the rulebook again, but right now this is everything you’ll want. So what’s new? Well, let’s take a look.

The action on-field is as sharp as it ever has been, but with all new animations making each player look far more like its real life counterpart, and some new moves and possibilities during a play it’s more likely you can do some pretty badass stuff while heading towards that vital touchdown. Worth trying out is the “hesi” move; short for “hesitate” this allows you to stop suddenly as you’re running, causing any defenders trying to head you off to potentially fly straight past you instead of ploughing you into the floor. Also new is the “one-cut” direction change, giving you a sudden change of direction in the hope of shaking off any defenders trying to chase you down. Both are really useful additions that look great when executes properly – the tuft of grass that flies up when you get the one-cut move right is a really neat touch too.

The games themselves have all of the TV presentation polish that you’d expect by now from an EA Sports game, although while the on-screen visuals and graphics look great the commentary is starting to sound a bit familiar. Much like FIFA, there are lines here that have been used in the last couple of Madden games, and while I accept there are only so many things that a commentator could say it’d be nice to have a whole new set of recorded lines for each new release.

Elsewhere the firm favourites are back as you’d expect, Franchise mode is still as deep and long serving as ever, and still lets you pick and choose how to play, be that the full 60-odd minute game experience or just deciding which key plays you want to control. There’s also some great additions here that give you more control over how your team is built, with offensive and defensive schemes letting you talor your team to how you prefer to play the game. Pretty cool. The draft option has also been renovated, now allowing you to use custom draft lists that you or the wider Madden community have produced. Want a draft full of Simpsons characters, NHL players or famous TV chefs? It’s all yours for the taking, and as the game gets older there’ll just be more and more to pick from.

If you’re after depth and challenge though, look no further than the Madden Ultimate Team. In addition to everything you’ve come to know and like about the MUT (after all, who doesn’t like setting up a new time, that great feeling of which player you’re about to win and then hammering your mates on the field?) it’s now much easier to get to know and learn. New challenges help you earn without having to do anything overly complex, and the Solo Battles option offers up regular chances to pit your skills against developers’ teams, NFL players and other famous bods. They’ve somehow managed to squish even more into the MUT mode, without it feeling overwhelming or confusing. That’s pretty impressive.

And then there’s Longshot: Homecoming, a sequel(ish) to the previous Longshot mode, this follows the story of two friends – quarterback Devin Wade and receiver Colt Cruise – trying to get their careers sorted. I won’t say too much about it, the storyline itself is captivating enough to warrant not having it ruined before you’ve even started, but it’s a fantastic mode that seems to get hidden behind the MUT and Franchise bravado that’s pushed at you from the moment the game first loads up. Missing out would be a huge shame though, and it really sets the bar for sporting story telling that the likes of FIFA will need to emulate closely if they don’t want to be left behind.

There’s plenty more stuff here, but going on and on about features will get a bit dry, so I’ll just point out that having played a lot of Madden games in the past, both distant and recent, I’ve found this to be easily the best Madden game I’ve played. It’s not the best by far, nor is it an essential update if you’re still getting your money’s worth out of last year’s offering, but this is clearly the pinnacle of the series so far, and one to be very closely looked at for anyone with a passing interesting in the NFL.

I still miss being run over by an ambulance though.

Reviewed on PS4

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