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Madden NFL 19 review: Longshot sequel is underwhelming

Everyone knows the drill. With every EA Sports game we see a handful of improvements in a couple of areas, along with the latest squad updates.

But in recent years, fans have had something a little more interesting to expect. With the introduction of the Journey in FIFA and Longshot in Madden, there are now full-fledged story modes to add some depth to the whole sport.

I was a huge fan of last year’s Longshot mode in Madden NFL 18. In Madden NFL 19, the story got a lot better, but unfortunately I came out of it feeling like I wasted my time.

Madden NFL 19 is almost here and this year we are offered a new system: Real Player Motion

The story of Devin Wade and Colt Cruise continues with Longshot: Homecoming. Succeeding in the NFL is tough and EA doesn’t sweeten it at all in its story mode.

Neither player is having a particularly good time. Wade is struggling to keep up with rival Cowboys quarterbacks and Cruise hasn’t even signed up for a team, waiting every day on the phone hoping for a try.

This year’s story goes beyond football. It’s about relationships and personal lives, particularly when it comes to Cruise’s path, so it’s a shame that, while it should be clearly written as a naive but lovable rogue, he does things that make him rather obnoxious.

Wade, on the other hand, is faced with a more standard sports dilemma, and we see him tackling problems and difficulties in the same way we have seen before in many sports novels.

They are accompanied by a cast of secondary characters ranging from pretty good teen drama to over-the-top Grand Theft Auto-style characters. We can also see some cameos from the likes of Antonio Brown, the game’s cover athlete, and an unusually humble Tom Brady in defeat. Tonally, the mode is all over the place.

Still, the story is arguably better than last year’s weird reality show arc. The thing is, you’ll spend the few hours it takes to complete the story mode mostly just by looking at the screen.

The parts you actually play are few and far between and you can never make decisions that affect the story. In last year’s mode, it looked like your performance in training and in matches was actually affecting your draft grade.

This year, if you fail to put a few passages together, the narrative continues with a head shake from your manager, or worse yet, you are forced to keep trying until you score a touchdown because that’s what the story says.

Longshot mode is back, and while it has a deeper story, it's disappointing to actually play it

Longshot mode is back, and while it has a deeper story, it’s disappointing to actually play it

At one point, when the game decided it was time for me to score a touchdown, my players suddenly became supermen. Wade threw a foolproof sack as if it was phasing out of existence and launched a 100mph strike at Cruise in the final zone that caught him in traffic as if his gloves were caked with glue.

It would have been nice to have some dialogue options like in FIFA’s Journey mode, or at least some consequence for doing good, or bad, on the football field.

Just like last year, the best part of Longshot is when you step back in time to the duo’s college football days and you can hear local commentators go wild for the kids in their hometown. When it comes to the actual game, the commentary is relatively underwhelming, reusing many lines from previous years.

Thankfully, in terms of gameplay, Madden NFL 19 is as good as it has ever been.

The big change this year comes in the running game. If you’ve played in previous games in the series, it quickly becomes apparent how much extra control you have over the players who have the ball in their hands.

Pressing the R2 button along with a change of direction results in a quick acceleration that can be used to push defenders away. Or, a combination of using the L2 button and timely use of R2 allows you to slow down and then quickly skip people.

Many players just go for the huge passes, but as someone who likes to try to use my blockers and glide through lines and in the open, I quite appreciate the level of precision added to the movement.

Running with the ball in hand is much better and they even added the cheers

Running with the ball in hand is much better and they even added the cheers

Some are related to the so-called Real Player Motion system. Movement feels smoother, although there are still some of the old Madden bugs. Players keep clashing awkwardly as they try to return to their positions, and if you hold a direction on the stick lightly before the game begins, your defender as he slips across the turf rather than walking.

However, it’s an improvement and even goes as far as adding some moves that are characteristic of some of the best players in the NFL. Plus, you can finally do some miscellaneous celebrations in the endzone now that the league is a little more accommodating.

Other welcome additions include custom draft classes, which have been requested by the Madden community for years.

You also have Madden Ultimate Team Solo Challenges this year. You can play against teams made by famous people, which are useful for getting some rewards, but not many people join Ultimate Team to play against the computer.

Some aspects of MUT are locked until you complete some challenges as well. Putting a level requirement on Draft Mode and a few other aspects of the game will be a brief annoyance for those looking to get in quickly when the game is released.

MUT has introduced a new upgrade system: collect enough training points and you can increase your players’ stats and unlock certain chemistry styles. It’s a nice addition which means you can keep updating your players even if you don’t want to spend a lot of coins to find the best players at auction or in packs.

Overall, Madden NFL 19 makes some small but noticeable changes. Running with the ball is much better than in previous years, and if you don’t mind not having a lot of inputs, Longshot story mode adds another layer to the process. It’s not an essential game, but it’s worth your time.

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