MAD­DEN NFL 19

Old man of grid­iron man­ages a fum­ble-free per­for­mance

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTEST - @Ben­jiWil­son

Five years into any con­sole cy­cle, an­nual sports games tend to drift into a 8/10 com­fort zone. De­vel­op­ers re­alise an in­jec­tion of fresh­ness is nec­es­sary to tempt fans into drop­ping 50 quid on their new game, but be­come ten­ta­tive about mak­ing whole­sale changes that alien­ate ex­ist­ing sea­son ticket hold­ers. Mad­den 19 is a pro­to­typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of this: a sports sim in sublime form, yet de­void of any­thing truly ground­break­ing. The big hook is some­thing EA calls Real Player Mo­tion. Sup­pos­edly only pos­si­ble in the Frost­bite en­gine, it sees play­ers mov­ing in a more life­like way, with sub­tle vari­a­tions in speed, and smart de­tails such as your run­ning back lean­ing on a line­man as he looks to push through gaps. It’s largely an im­prove­ment, but comes with quirks such as re­ceivers some­times fail­ing to keep their feet in bounds, and hit-stick tack­les lack­ing the oomph that made them so sat­is­fy­ing in the past.

Where this ac­tion sings most beau­ti­fully is in fran­chise mode. A Mad­den mon­ster dur­ing the noughties, it en­dured some bar­ren years fol­low­ing the switch to PS4 but is fi­nally back to its best. Much of that is be­cause – oc­ca­sional physics foibles aside – the on-pitch ac­tion is so strong, throw­ing up end-to-end shootouts, nervy de­fen­sive bat­tles, and last-gasp wins through­out a 16-game sea­son. And key re­fine­ments off the field keep you locked in for the long haul.

COACH-’EM-UP

Jonathan Coach­man’s in­ter­jec­tions lend a TV-style au­then­tic­ity to pro­ceed­ings, as does the ticker pro­vid­ing scores from around the league. More im­por­tant is what oc­curs out­side of game­day; for in­stance, the new op­tion to edit or im­port draft classes, mean­ing you can choose au­then­tic col­lege prospects for the first time since NCAA Foot­ball 2013’s demise. The draft it­self is much im­proved, with a clearer in­ter­face that broad­casts ev­ery se­lec­tion on a the­atre-like stage.

Yet fran­chise isn’t this game’s best fea­ture. That ac­co­lade goes to Long­shot: Home­com­ing, a story mode which ex­pands upon Mad­den 18’s tale of fic­tional hope­fuls Devin Wade and Colt Cruise. The re­moval of last year’s di­a­logue choices is a sur­prise, but it’s com­pen­sated for with a heart­warm­ing tale boast­ing myr­iad grown-up themes: a deaf quar­ter­back, the loss of child­hood in­no­cence, even death. There’s hu­mour in there too, and the only sucker punch is its brevity; I com­pleted it in one five-hour sit­ting, yet could hap­pily have lin­gered in Mathis, Texas for dou­ble that time.

Throw in the om­nipresent Ul­ti­mate Team and re­turn­ing op­tions of live ros­ters and weekly com­men­tary up­dates, and Mad­den 19 is a com­pelling pack­age. It’s un­likely to of­fer true in­no­va­tion for the re­main­der of this con­sole gen­er­a­tion – but that doesn’t de­tract from its sta­tus as a grid­iron Hall Of Famer.

VER­DICT

“A SUBLIME SPORTS SIM, YET DE­VOID OF ANY­THING TRULY GROUND­BREAK­ING.”

Boast­ing two ex­cep­tional modes in fran­chise and Long­shot, it mightn’t have the cult fol­low­ing of its PS2 years, but this is as good as EA’s vet­eran NFL se­ries has ever been. Ben Wil­son

Fa­cial like­nesses are im­pres­sive – though play­ers’ hel­mets mean it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to no­tice.

INFO

FOR­MAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB EA DEV EA TIBURON

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