The NFL season is upon us and that means it’s Madden season. Madden NFL 19 is here with a slew of improvements in its second year of using the Frostbite Engine. Real Player Motion is the driving force behind the gameplay and animations this year as it looks to change how the game is played. The game also features some welcome changes to Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team along with the sequel to the narrative-based Longshot. Judging from videos and previews, many on the fence may think this is a roster update, but the game truly does feel different on the field as has a less serious tone to it thanks to the Real Player Motion.
EA Tiburon has focused on properly replicating the NFL experience in its game. Thanks to the Real Player Motion, players can look forward to every starting quarterback in the game featuring their pre-snap mannerisms. The biggest change from this technology is the ability to accelerate off of cuts. The player control is much tighter and open field matchups can be satisfying when pulling off a spin or juke. The runner will accelerate slightly off of the cut and it properly affects the momentum. Running the ball is improved with this aspect, but it’s not a game changer. While your running back can run into the back of a lineman with the Push-the-Pile animation, it still isn’t fluid coming off the blocker. Defensive players are still prone to easily coming off blocks easily to tackle you. Finding the hole and following blockers on inside runs, however, can still be gratifying if you can hit that second level and make that move on the defender. This is a good improvement to the series that has been hurting for a while.
The game features advanced moves on the field that will pop up during tutorials that weren’t necessarily made apparent. In recent years, players were able to aim passes high, middle and low. Now this is done with L1/L2 and wasn’t necessarily made apparent. Players can now throw touch passes by tapping the specified button twice. Receivers can also go up in the air and catch the ball, which plays a big roll in mismatches. Receivers can be hit in the air in hopes of them dropping the ball. This also marks a big improvement to red zone strategy. Receiver positioning plays an important role this year. Knowing where your receiver will make his cut allows for a reception most of the time. The RPM also allows for some amazing looking catch animations. Choosing between possession, RAC or aggressive each has specific animations. Possession basically secures the ball and makes your guy fall to the ground while RAC is taken in stride but your guy is prone to hits. Aggressive can show off some beautiful catches depending on the player.
Madden NFL 19 seems to taken a step away from the seriousness of the NFL and implemented a more lighthearted feeling. partly in thanks to the RPM engine. Even during player introductions, each player does something that will make you giggle. When scoring touchdowns, a sack or an interception, you will officially be able to celebrate and there are a wide range of celebrations. This is done with the right stick and players can choose player-specific celebrations, team celebrations or a spike. This helps change the feel of the game and it’s a great addition.
On the defensive side of the ball, defenders will need to strafe to help better cover the one cut. The pass rush seems toned down this year as it is harder to come off the edge to get to the Quarterback. The ball seems to also have a tendency to tip and bounce around more than normal. The biggest issue I still have when playing the A.I. is at times they can do nothing wrong. There have literally been no turnovers for my defense in the games that I have played and fumbles have been toned down too due to the way the Hit Stick is implemented. Any low Hit Stick will no longer cause a fumble and interceptions have dropped out of defender’s hands. The A.I., however, will easily make interceptions. It seems that super defenders are back as a way to counter the offense this year. Linebackers leaping in the air or defensive backs diving a few yards to pick off a pass becomes frustrating. I do want to note that this is on the All-Pro setting, but the defensive A.I. will not only take advantage of mistakes, but get thrown a bone every so often.
Franchise Mode gets some needed changes as the game focuses on team and coach-specific schemes. This adds some strategy and direction to your Franchise instead of blindly upgrading players or drafting players in hope of developing a certain play style. This all now means something. When starting your Franchise, you can decide what playbooks and schemes you want to use. A graph indicates how well your roster matches up with each specific scheme. Upgrading players is now done via Archetypes as the focus is to find players that fit the scheme. The game, as a whole, does a good job of focusing on these specific attributes as they are included on the presentation during the games. The smaller ratings are grouped into specific Archetypes and they all get upgraded at once if enough XP is achieved during play. This makes the process simpler and is a much needed change of pace for Franchise.
Starting in week three of your Franchise, players can edit or download Custom Draft Classes. EA Tiburon has stated this was the number one requested feature from players. You can literally customize up to 450 players or download rosters via Madden Share. All of this is fairly simple and can be done changed multiple times during the scouting process. When scouting, the game will show which players fit your scheme for another added level of strategy. Franchise Mode also features what is most likely Madden’s greatest Halftime Show. Jonathan Coachman has been brought in to do the pre-game and Halftime Show, and he adds life to the game. Coachman will typically show three scores and stats from that game, but no highlights. It’s another major step in the right direction and gives a general consensus of what’s going on in the league. This is something that is overall sorely lacking still in Franchise. News is buried to some Tweets on a screen or scrolling at the bottom. The highlights could at least make mention of season totals.
Besides Coachman, Brandon Gauden and Charles Davis return as commentators and this is the part of the game that will make you think things haven’t really changed. The duo work well together and there is new commentary, but it doesn’t help the overall feel of playing. The presentation feels roughly the same as even the score graphics weren’t updated. The post game also lacks highlights and is instead replaced with screenshots that will be imported into your Franchise Hub.
Longshot was the questionable narrative that was introduced last year. The mode was not tacked on and ended up being a pleasant surprise. The story of Devin and Colt are back with Longshot: Homecoming and ultimately tells two different stories. The story is simply enjoyable this year as it mainly builds on Colt’s character and telling his story after football. It also includes Devin’s opportunity to make his mark in the NFL, but ultimately you will find yourself genuinely engrossed in Colt’s story. The narrative includes all the emotion and while there’s some plot holes, it was genuinely good. In all honesty, Longshot is a tutorial as it introduces you to the controls of the game and is accomplished in an entertaining way.
Madden Ultimate Team is also getting a hefty overhaul this year. No longer is the focus just grinding for gold coins to auction off cards (however you can still auction cards). Captains and higher level gold cards are now able to be upgraded. This is done by using training tickets that can be obtained from selling unused cards. New this year is also the solo campaigns. These are shorter games that features challenges to get more coins and XP. Players can participate in a season’s worth or go after Legends cards. More campaigns open up as you level up in MUT. 3-on-3 was introduced in MUT last year and this expands to playing the computer with Madden NFL 19. Players will again choose a role and work together to get more XP and gold for their own teams. MUT Draft returns, as well, as this is still a fun mode to play. MUT 19 features the widest variety of play the series has seen and will keep you hooked on the quicker segments and progression of your team.
Another noticeable difference when you play Madden NFL 19 will be the visuals. The lighting has been improved as there are plenty of colors that pop. The overall visual consistency is the best the series has seen. If you happen to have a great PC setup, the visuals on PC are brutally beautiful. Replays are consistently detailed and smooth as they come off as realistic. The player models look fantastic, even though the head-to-body scale can look weird on a few players with no helmet on. There are different body types to help differentiate positions. The game runs extremely smooth and the new animations are noticeable. The sound effects in the game also get a good boost as you will recognize your quarterback’s voice. Hits are loud and satisfying especially when using the Hit Stick. All of these aspects truly bring life to the field.
Madden NFL 19 is ultimately the complete Madden of the current generation. Necessary changes to gameplay and Franchise Mode make it feel fresh and the improved visuals help complete the updated experience. There are still some issues with gameplay on the defensive side of the ball, but having the Real Player Motion helps in adding new ways not only to move the ball down the field, but celebrate. Longshot: Homecoming is an entertaining sequel while Madden Ultimate Team introduces new ways to play. Hardcore Madden fans will appreciate the changes this year and skeptics need to give it a try before judging this as just another “roster update.”