For years, fans of EA Sports’ “Madden NFL” series have been clamoring for significant updates to the game’s Franchise Mode. The mode, in which users take control of their favorite NFL team and guide the franchise through multiple seasons, has long been a favorite of hardcore fans, but has seen little love from developers who seemingly focused their efforts on building up Madden Ultimate Team, the collectible card mode that has continued to grow in popularity in recent years.
In “Madden NFL 19,” the wait is finally over for franchise fans.
“Madden 19” features the most robust overhaul to Franchise Mode since the series made the leap to current-gen consoles. From the return of fully editable draft classes — something that has been sorely missed in the post-“NCAA Football” era — to the addition of offensive and defensive schemes and a more streamlined approach to player progression, “Madden 19” offers the most customizable experience to date.
The inclusion of custom draft classes is a huge addition for fans looking to get the most realistic results from Franchise Mode. Several online communities are already hard at work filling out the 450-player draft pool with current NCAA players, and it’s impossible to overstate how much more immersive Franchise Mode becomes when you can continue beyond the first year with recognizable rookies instead of fictional characters.
Training these players to become future NFL stars is made simpler thanks to new schemes and player archetypes. Rather than spending time agonizing over how to distribute experience points earned through training and playing games, users can upgrade players by investing points into one of their predetermined archetypes (i.e. wide receivers archetypes include deep threat, possession, red zone threat and slot receiver). Players overall ratings change depending on their archetypes, and pouring points into a particular archetype can help make a player a better fit for your team’s scheme. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty intuitive and greatly speeds up the process of upgrading players, which allows you to spend more time on the field — which is where “Madden 19” really shines.
In the second year of development using the Frostbite engine, “Madden 19” introduces Real Player Motion and the results are stunning. Players on the field move with more fluidity and variety than ever before, both in the open field and in the trenches at the line of scrimmage. Whether you’re making one-cut moves and subtle jukes with a speedy tailback or using the Truck Stick to bowl over defensive backs with a power back, “Madden 19” puts a previously unseen level of control in the hands of users. At no point did I feel like I wasn’t in complete command of my player — getting stuck in a lengthy animation is a thing of the past. When combined with a noticeable bump in graphical performance — especially with regard to player models and lighting — “Madden 19” is one of the best-looking sports games I’ve ever played.
The aforementioned Madden Ultimate Team received significant updates, too. There are now a host of options available for solo players — a very welcome addition — and more ways to play together with friends in MUT Squad Challenges, which pits you and two friends against the AI. I’ve never been a huge Madden Ultimate Team fan, but I found the solo challenges to be a nice distraction from my Franchise. Likewise, the return the Longshot story mode provided a break from the typical “Madden” experience, but it lacked the heart found in last year’s debut installment.
“Madden 19” represents a big step forward for the venerable series. The updates to Franchise Mode were a long time coming and the improved performance on the field is unmistakable. The future has never been brighter for the “Madden” franchise.
“Madden NFL 19”
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC ($59.99)
Rating: E for everyone