by Matthew Thompson
Madden used to be an annual Day 1 purchase for me. Due to a number of factors, I started getting the game less often until it became a rental the past couple of years. Part of it was me branching out into a lot of different genres and preferring my sports time be spent watching the real thing. The other issue is one often levied at sports games: a lack of substantial upgrades for each new entry. The fact that I was buying a glorified roster update started to grate on me. That is one reason I was excited to see EA announce the new Longshot mode for Madden 18 at E3 this year. After playing through it last week, it is safe to say that this new story mode is different from anything that has been a part of Madden in the past and a welcome addition to the long-running series.
Longshot puts you in the shoes of Devon Wade. Once upon a time, Wade was a five-star high school quarterback prospect, but he quit football partway through his freshman season at the University of Texas after his father passed away. The story here picks up a few years on with his attempt to make another go at the sport by attending a regional combine hoping to catch the eye of scouts before the upcoming NFL Draft. This isn’t create-a-player or franchise mode, but rather an already crafted story that you get to be a part of and influence to some extent through your on-field play and off-field decisions. It touches on things outside the lines like friendship, loss and redemption and features cameos from NFL legends like Dan Marino and Bill Cowher. The developers clearly aren’t the medium’s greatest storytellers. The dialogue can leave quite a bit to be desired. Some of the scenarios come off rather corny. But I still like what they’ve done with Longshot and look forward to seeing how they might build on their narrative attempt here in future iterations.
So what does it play like? Well it is a bit like a cross between Madden and a Telltale game. The latter comes in the form of dialogue decisions and quick time events similar to those seen in TTG’s recent choice-based adventure titles. The on-field action comes in various forms. Flashbacks to Wade’s high school career and 7-on-7 games play similar to typical Madden gameplay. You’ll participate in other drills and activities to test your passing and decision-making skills. These have their own control scheme. It usually took me an attempt to figure out what I was doing, but I felt they were enjoyable for the most part and a nice way to break up the usual Madden style of play. The final piece of the puzzle is how they test your football IQ. This includes having to repeat back long playcalling sequences and answering what amounts to quiz questions. Some are simple (like asking you to identify the safety on defense) while others might be a bit trickier for the casual Madden player (though perhaps I’m underestimating the number of people who can identify 22 personel). Regardless of the difficulty of these sections, I appreciated them incorporating the mental side of the game in this fashion.
I came away from my initial play session with Longshot unimpressed. It begins a bit too cutscene heavy, but once they found a better balance between story scenes and gameplay, it really grew on me. This mode alone isn’t a reason to buy Madden 18. But if the idea intrigues you, it would make for a great rental. And for those getting Madden already, it is obviously worth a go. Most of all, it is wonderful to see the series try something different like this in such a substantial way. I hope this sort of story mode becomes a staple for Madden going forward.