At the EA Play event held in Hollywood prior to E3, I was able to go hands-on with Madden 18 Longshot – more specifically with the newly announced campaign mode. As the first time a story-driven campaign has been in Madden, I was intrigued by the possibility that this could bring gamers back into the huddle, per se. Following in the footsteps of FIFA’s Alex Hunter campaign, Madden 18 Longshot wanted to separate itself from “the usual, you see some dialogue, then you play a game, and that’s it.” They do this in a variety of different ways. There are branching dialogue paths, quick time events, short game simulations, and full-on games at all levels, from childhood to high school to college to the pros. This is all made possible through the use of Madden’s move to the Frostbite engine.
Let’s start by saying that to me, this iteration of Madden is already looking amazing and Longshot is definitely banking on that visual fidelity, but more importantly it was stressed that reason EA Tiburon waited to do a narrative mode such as Longshot is because they could not accomplish what they envisioned until they had the Frostbite engine. What impressed me the most was that they wrote the story, then built the feature around that story. You play the story of Devin Wade and follow him on his journey from the backyards of Texas to the Pros. The story is backed by some great talent including Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Luke Cage), who plays Devin’s dad, and a cameo by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
I was able to play a couple different scenarios including a very early scene where you are playing in the backyard as kids and you, the player, move the ball to your best friend so he can catch the ball. It’s a small thing, but it helps contextualize the scene. After that, I was put in a scenario when Devin is in high school and he’s put into the game as a freshman down 21-0 in the third quarter. The game called the plays and I played as Devin and threw the ball. I thought it really captured the situation very well and it was fun to air it out in a small stadium full of fans while listening to a couple of announcers who epitomized the type of guys you’d expect calling a high school football game. Lastly, I got just a few seconds with some branching dialogue paths and see the reactions of the characters in those situations.
Overall, I was very impressed with the work that is going into this Longshot mode. It is clearly not an add-on or an afterthought. This is a crafted narrative by professionals looking to bring a solid single-player campaign to the Madden franchise. From what I saw, the writing and acting seemed strong and the Frostbite engine is bringing smooth, seamless transitions along with solid graphics. This is the first time in a decade that I am looking forward to the August release of Madden.