November 7, 2019 at 4:39 PM #565
Madden NFL 19
Rating: 2.5 – Playable
It’s enough to make you rage quit… even if you aren’t playing.
Many years ago I was a huge fan of the Madden franchise. I would attend midnight releases so I could start playing as soon as I was home from work the next day. Eventually, that level of fanaticism went away, primarily because of the staleness of the gameplay and the feeling that every new edition was essentially a $60 roster update. I got some measure of enjoyment with Madden 18 last year — primarily due to a very straightforward Madden Ultimate Team program — and I hoped to at least get that same level of entertainment from this version. Instead, I got a roster update and a Longshot story update I neither enjoyed nor desired.
At its core, Madden hasn’t really changed in the past 5 years. Despite EA’s proclamations that there are tons of "new" features and gameplay enhancement, most laypeople would have a very difficult time differentiating between titles if gameplay from one was randomly shown to them. In fact, you will hear about these "new" features repeatedly… and often. As the game finishes booting up for the first time, you are stuck with an unskippable video of the "new" features, including a "new" swat mechanic that is basically the exact same swat mechanic that this series has had for over a decade. How EA can possibly hype up such a mundane and ordinary football act, especially one that has been in the game practically forever, and attempt to label it as "new" is beyond me. That is how you can tell before you ever get started that this franchise is running out ways to avoid saying, "Thanks for buying last year’s game for $60, suckers!" There is even a trophy tied to this "new" swat, so somebody wanted to make a big deal out doing what you’ve already been doing for years.
A couple different loading screens later and I finally got to the main menu. It is a mess. I’m not sure how you can screw up the main menu, but this game found a way to do it. It is a screen of jumbled boxes followed more screens of jumbled boxes. Attempting to navigate is trying to move from box to box on screen and moving from screen to screen to do even the simplest of things. Trying to find pretty much anything except Madden Ultimate Team is a chore. If you accidentally click on anything that you didn’t mean to, it means sitting through loading screens just to back out. It isn’t game breaking and you do get used to it eventually, but even later on when I wanted to adjust the rosters for a season I found myself searching through boxes trying to find what should have been a simple drop-down menu to accomplish.
I enjoyed MUT last year, so I started with that. This year’s version is brutal. In addition to being plagued by a similar main screen as the main menu (but somehow more convoluted), this mode is riddled with loading screens. Actually playing anything requires 45 second loading screens and guess what — you can’t avoid them. I wanted to take a peek at the auctions to start, except you can’t. You have to be MUT level 7 to even look at the auctions, so I endeavored to get to level 7 as quickly as possible. I started with one of the most ridiculously stupid tasks in the history of ever — gain 5 yards rushing using no more than 3 plays. That took about 3 seconds to accomplish and then — you’ll never guess — MORE loading screens. You can’t even just start the next challenge. You have to back all the way out and load it all up again to try the next task (gain 10 yards passing in 3 or less attempts). Later on, you get another challenge to gain 10 yards rushing in 3 or less plays (yeah, you can’t just do that one at the same time as the 5 yard challenge) and the game actually selected 3 passing plays in a row for me and I failed. I thought maybe I was on another passing challenge and didn’t realize it. This mode is that poorly designed.
All told, I spent almost two hours just to get to level 7 in MUT and that was with a double experience bonus. If the game would have required me to play for 4 hours normally to advance to the auction phase, I probably would have quit. It should be noted that in addition to the constant loading screens, finishing a challenge takes forever, too. You almost always get a new player or a new pack for everything you do and there is a cutscene to add to the drama of getting this player or pack. If you are like me and just want to advance, you will be pressing the X and O buttons continuously while muttering, "Get on with it already!" after everything you do. MUT has just become a colossal, time-consuming chore, as you spend way too much time watching loading screens and cutscenes to open a pack than you do actually playing the game.
Speaking of playing the game, it really isn’t very good, either. EA will continue to put in-game ads in your face about the new player motions, but players still move really weird. Players run with the ball like they are holding in a wet fart on the way to the bathroom, meaning their legs are too close together. Break away a long run on the sidelines and you will see what I mean. Every other player essentially looks the same. Some are fatter and some are skinnier, but you really can’t tell anyone apart like you can in real life. There is only so much the hardware can do, I understand, but if you tout impressive visuals than you had better damn well deliver.
Gameplay and camera is still bad. NCAA Football had the camera just right many years before and Madden has tried to change it up in the past few years, but it just isn’t any good. Pre-snap is much too close to the QB, negating a lot of your ability to see the field and the entire defense. If you call an audible, especially on defense, the camera zooms so far out that you can barely see the cursor on the player you are controlling. The camera should move higher up, not farther back, and even on a 65" television, it is a challenge to see what you are changing unless you sit 3 feet from your TV.
Passing isn’t any better, as the game quickly zooms in on the ball during passes, making it more difficult than it needs to be to select the appropriate defender. Far too often the defender, if he isn’t directly in front of the receiver, is zoomed off-screen. The camera needs to stay back a little farther so you can see the entire action. I am not sure why the designers think it is a bad thing to see more than 12% of the field when you have the ball in a player’s hands.
If football isn’t your thing — and why should it be, I mean, you only bought a football game for crying out loud — you can play the Longshot mode. This is a continuation of the terrible drama filled story from Madden 18. If you skipped Madden 18, then you won’t know who these two main characters are. They are extremely stereotypical kids who last year worked their way up from high school to the NFL… and then the story stopped. Fans (all 6 of them) apparently weren’t happy with this, so a continuation of the story was created. You’ll play the role of the cornfed southern white boy quarterback or the glory seeking black wide receiver. These two overplay their stereotypical racial roles and it is definitely noticeable. Why there isnâ€™t a create-a-player feature for this mode, I have no idea. It is a bunch of drama that has very little to do with football. Additionally, the decisions don’t carry over from the previous game, so "continuing" the story isn’t quite accurate; you’ll be starting from scratch in this story.
You are also likely to play a lot of Madden with your television muted. Navigating menus or waiting for the millionth in-game ad to expire so you can advance in whatever you are doing will mean having to listen to one rap/hip hop song after another after another. They all sound pretty much the same and very quickly they begin to grate on your nerves and eardrums. Madden used to have all sorts of different music from different artists, but now it is a bunch of generic rap/hip hop songs repeated forever and I had to go into my settings to shut off every song (which took longer than it should have thanks to the ridiculous menu screens), so I didnâ€™t throw my controller at my TV to shut it up.
Overall, Madden 19 just isn’t very good. Not much has changed from previous installments and what has changed isn’t really for the better. The game is filled with long loading screens and in-game ads for its own new/not new features. The gameplay is essentially untouched, which means it is football of sorts, but not good football. The camera is still really bad and the player visuals really aren’t a lot better. Longshot 2.0 is lousy and is comprised of two stereotypical individuals that you won’t like and will probably want to watch fail. MUT is mess that does eventually flesh itself out if you have the patience to sit around for hours to get that far, but ultimately you are stuck with the generic Madden gameplay, so that isn’t actually a win.
All things being considered, this is a roster update title that isn’t worth your hard earned money.
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