Madden NFL 19 is a refinement in all of the right places. The developers have focused on providing a more immersive and realistic on-pitch experience, aided by a fluid gameplay experience and an improved story campaign that continues where it left off. Every year, the EA Sports marketing team come up with fancy jargon to promote new changes in their sports titles. With Madden 19, ‘Real Player Motion’ takes the centre stage. I have become immune to these buzz-phrases, however in this case, the buzz-phrase is actually quite relevant. Madden NFL 18 introduced the Frostbite engine to the series. Madden 19 refines the changes that were made as a cause of the Frostbite engine.
If you don’t play Madden frequently, you won’t notice it. However, for those who play it regularly, the subtle changes in the way the players react to most situations is very noticeable from the get go. Those who play FIFA every year will be able to relate to this. Motions such as spinning out of tackles, changing pace, turning sharply and tackling are more fluid and entirely dependent on a variety of factors that include your initial position and player’s stats. Tackles were already fierce, but they are more unforgiving now. The best way to generalize all of these changes is how the momentum in the case is just a lot more fluid. Regardless of whether you’re defending or attacking, players move with more freedom and I felt a lot more in control of what they were doing. Of course, this also exposed me as the terrible player that I am. There is no doubt that Madden NFL 19 is a more skilful game than its predecessor, and anything that increases the learning-curve and skill level of a sports game is always a bonus in my eyes, especially for eSports.
It is also quite evident that the developers have taken advantage of what the PS4 Pro can do. In order to gain the most out of Madden NFL 19, you really ought to be playing it on the PS4 Pro (or Xbox One X). Graphically, this game is stunning and the power of the Pro allows you to enjoy the sport in complete 4K glory. This is very much down to the Frostbite engine, which is widely recognized as being excellent for its graphical capabilities.
The game doesn’t just focus on refinement. One of the biggest additions to Madden NFL 19 is customization. For any community to grow, you need to have sophisticated customization options that allow gamers to change things around and if possible, even share the new creations with the online community. With Madden 19, that is possible. You can now create draft classes and share them online. Gamers outside of the US won’t appreciate this as much, however I am aware of just how important college football is to US gamers, and being able to download the latest superstars of college football is an excellent feature. To add, these downloadable classes can even be modified if you want to tweak certain attributes. What you end up with is a game that feels heavily customized to suit your own interests.
Some modes are very much the same – Draft and Free Agency aren’t that changed. However, this shouldn’t be a major issue since the Longshot is Madden’s main single-player attraction, and this is a brand new story mode. To fully enjoy it, you will have needed to play Madden 18, however it’s not a mandatory requirement. The new story mode, named Homecoming, allows you to experience the lives of Colt Cruise and Devin Wade both on and off the pitch. They both have different journeys, however EA has listened to its fans and focused more on playing rather than watching cutscenes. The story wasn’t particularly insightful into the world of NFL, and I don’t think it lasted long enough to warrant a purchase if you’re only interested in single-player action.
As is the case with most EA Sports titles, the main attraction lies within Madden Ultimate Team. Whilst it may not be as sophisticated or as feature-rich as FIFA’s offering, there are unique features in Madden’s mode that sets itself apart. For starters, you get rewarded for being loyal to your players by continuing to play them. The more you play with them, the more upgrades you can apply to those individual players, which naturally improves your overall team. The benefit is that if you ever get bored of those players, you can unlink the upgrades and re-use those resources elsewhere. If anything, it somewhat reminds me of Pro Clubs in FIFA. Imagine if the development of a virtual pro were introduced in FIFA Ultimate Team – that is how Madden works. The main issue with Madden’s Ultimate Team is that it doesn’t give you enough of an incentive to try out new players. If you can just work on upgrading your current players, there is no value in bringing in new ones. On the plus-side, it means that the playing field amongst players is level, as you don’t have to shed buckets of real cash to get a team of high rated players. This is something I would love EA to introduce to FIFA – keep one part of Ultimate Team for gamers who want to pay to win, but introduce a totally segregated part where you can manage ‘road to glory’ teams i.e. teams whose players are not bought from transfer markets or packs, but only through playing a lot and winning online tournaments.
My biggest issue with Madden is that there isn’t any ‘Pro Clubs’ mode in the game. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to form a club and play a full match of Madden online with every position occupied by a human? This for me, is one of the greatest attractions of FIFA, and something that will really take off in Madden. I can also imagine such a mode becoming quite huge in the eSports scene across America, with each state (or college) having a dedicated team to participate with.
Despite the lack of Pro Clubs, Madden NFL 19’s clear focus was to improve the gameplay, and with that in mind, the developers have managed to achieve this by maximising the potential of the Frostbite engine in conjunction with the PS4 Pro’s capabilities. If you’re looking for the most authentic NFL gaming experience to date, Madden NFL 19 has everything you could ask for.