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Lifewire / Eric Watson
Real Player Motion makes running the ball exciting and engaging
Extensive tutorials and training modes effectively teach basic skills and advanced techniques
One of the best franchise modes in sports games
Solo challenges provide lots of key moment plays for Madden Ultimate Team
Longshot: Homecoming is more movie than game mode
Lacks mini-games and smaller, more casual game modes
Lacks a custom career mode
The Longshot story sequel is mostly forgettable, but Madden 19 continues to deliver fantastic fantasy and franchise game modes.
As the number one sport in the United States, Madden 19 has a lot to live up to. American Football is a complex sport of physical prowess, tactical awareness, and on-the-fly adjustments, making it one of the most difficult sports to simulate. EA Sports has proven more than up to the task. The new Real Player Motion technology makes running the ball much more dynamic and satisfying, creating the feeling of a high-caliber athlete making split-second decisions. Madden 19 can be a challenging game to play but also immensely satisfying, and the broadcast package and visuals remain one of the best in sports games.
As with most games these days, setup is merely a matter of putting in the disc and waiting for updates to download or doing a digital download. Either way, it’s quick and easy.
Football is a complex sport, and Madden 19 gleefully dives into that complexity by allowing full control over play calling, audibling new routes and shifting defenses, and making tense choices on receivers. Thankfully, the game has helpful play suggestions and automated adjustments should you choose to focus on the more dynamic elements of the game. We loved seeing the quick breakdown of stats for our play options, including the percentage for success, average yards gained, and how well it works against our opponents’ typical defensive spread.
The game has helpful play suggestions and automated adjustments should you choose to focus on the more dynamic elements of the game.
Once under center, you can zoom back to get an overhead shot of our receivers and their routes. Each receiver has his own dedicated button, and you can throw the ball using bullet, medium, lob, high, or low passes. At the other end, the receiver can grab the ball and immediately turn up the field, or make a dramatic leap to make sure they come down with it when surrounded.
Running the ball now feels much more satisfying thanks to the new Real Player Motion technology. The ball carrier can make minor adjustments using the left stick, or full-on jukes with the right stick. Holding R2 provides a burst of speed, and if defenders get in close you can stiff arm, hurdle, or spin to get out of the way. All those moves can be chained together, making a talented running back as intimidating as they are in the NFL. It’s a very fun system that usually looks awesome in the field and in replays, with the occasional awkward stutter.
Aside from the standard exhibition matches, Madden 19 doubles down on its two main modes: Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). Madden Ultimate Team is your go-to for booster pack-fueled fantasy teams of past and present players. You can take your burgeoning team online, play CPU-controlled player-made teams, or enjoy a series of solo challenges.
These challenges are much more than an afterthought. They provide a huge suite of tasks that had us quickly jumping into the action, whether it was nailing a 30-yard field goal, stopping our opponent from gaining a single yard on a critical 3rd down, or coming away with a TD in the red zone. Solo challenges are a great way to play bite-size football and focus on the fun dramatic bits while earning gold for new card packs.
Co-op players can now enjoy MUT Squads against the CPU, with their own set of challenges and rewards. It’s a welcome addition, though we were annoyed that it and other modes like Draft are locked behind a certain MUT level, forcing every MUT player to play through the beginner pre-season challenges to fully unlock basic game modes.
Running the ball now feels much more satisfying thanks to the new Real Player Motion technology.
Madden 19’s franchise mode may have the best overall presentation and accessibility in any sports game. Every menu and option is designed to have you making decisions as quickly and easily as possible, from choosing which players to focus on in training to easily seeing where your biggest needs are when looking for potential acquisitions.
By choosing to play Moments only, you can sim through most of a game, getting pop up messages to pop in during critical 3rd down conversions or late game drives, a great way to play only the highlights while still making a difference. Gaining skill points and choosing upgrade paths for players is quick and enjoyable, all but ensuring your armchair quarterbacking can build a better team than any NFL head coach.
As in FIFA’s The Journey, EA has opted to directly continue the Longshot story first introduced in Madden 18. Hopeful QB Devin Wade (JR Lemmon) and wide receiver Colt Cruise (Scott Porter) are in much different places in Madden 19. Wade has reached his dream of making the Dallas Cowboys, though must now prove himself in training camp for the right to get on the practice squad while weathering a big trade before finally making his NFL debut.
Cruise’s story is completely different and much more intriguing. He didn’t achieve his NFL dreams, but a twist of fate has him return home to help coach his old high school football team in Matthis, Texas, while helping raise a teenage half-sister. It attempts to channel some of the best bits of Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues with a decent level of success.
Madden 19’s franchise mode may have the best overall presentation and accessibility in any sports game.
New additions Joey King (The Conjuring) and Ron Cephas Jones (Luke Cage) bring a great deal of pathos, and the writing is at least as solid as any TV drama. But unlike other sports career modes, Longshot: Homecoming doesn’t even attempt to include any RPG elements. There are no skill trees, experience points, or even any real dialogue choices. It’s a movie punctuated by the occasional football game or practice session. There’s also little room for error; if Wade can’t march down the field and score a TD on his umpteenth preseason start, the action fades to black and we’re forced to simply try again, making the actual football elements more a chore than anything.
The one saving grace is that Homecoming is relatively short, and after completing the story we can continue the careers of Wade (as QB of the Houston Texas) and Cruise (as head coach of the Matthis Bullfrogs) in Franchise mode and Ultimate Team respectively, serving as a fun springboard into both modes.
There’s no question that Madden 19 is a good-looking game, though it’s difficult to make a real judgment call on player models that are so heavily obscured in padding and helmets. We’re guessing the result wouldn’t be as pretty without the gear, as most of the head coaches (which the replay camera unfortunately loves to focus on) look pretty bad.
The on the field action looks fluid and realistic, with Real Player Motion showing off the intricate moves offensive ball carriers can pull off in rapid succession. Madden also features one of the better instant replays in sports games, with a dynamic camera that provides several different camera angles (including a TD pylon cam), on-screen indicators, and stellar commentary. We also enjoyed the video-filled menu design, which nicely balanced a clean interface with real game footage directly on the menu buttons.
Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis are two of the best commentators among sports games. Considering how excellent most modern football game broadcasts have become, Gaudin and Davis to a fantastic job providing insightful remarks, bemoaning bad play-calling, and drizzling in the occasional player backstory or anecdote.
The soundtrack didn’t quite win us over, however, featuring the likes of Post Malone, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Migos, who provided a song exclusively for Madden 19’s Longshot: Homecoming career mode. Homecoming also includes a lengthy original score composed by John Debney (The Jungle Book).
Madden launched at a full $60 price tag, but nearly a year later has dropped to around $40 or less. With no customizable career mode and a short, mostly cinematic story campaign, Madden rests on its laurels of Ultimate Team and Franchise game modes. Both modes are excellent and worth playing, with plenty of weeks of challenges to churn through. But the end result is Madden 19 feeling a bit emptier and more sparse compared to some other sports games.
EA Sports has no real competition when it comes to big budget, NFL-licensed sports video games. When compared to other sports games (including EA Sports’ own FIFA and NHL series) it holds up very well, checking off most of the boxes we’d expect while providing a visually gorgeous experience with plenty of gameplay. The one area Madden 19 fumbles the ball is with player and team customization. Lacking a career mode where you can create your own NFL player is becoming a standard, and the Longshot story is a poor replacement.
Stil solid, but leaning on its legacy.
As the biggest sport in the US, Madden should be the best sports game, and the improvements with ball-carrying skills and new additions like solo challenges do help make it a success. But it’s two steps forward, and one sack for a loss as the Longshot sequel fails to deliver any meaningful gameplay or RPG elements, and we’re left without a proper custom career mode. If you’re primarily interested in Madden for the Ultimate Team and Franchise modes, you’ll find a lot to love, but we hold out hope for some additional game modes in future installments.