The latest chapter in the popular football franchise enhances its gameplay while breaking ground with a new story mode. This year, Madden NFL 18 lets players tailor their controls to fit their level of experience. That means whether you're a newcomer, a veteran, or an e-sport player looking to improve your skills, there's something for you to enjoy. Another key feature is the inclusion of MUT squads, letting you and two other friends take on three other players with a merged fantasy mega team of your best players. This three-on-three game of football is loads of fun and expands the excitement of playing with other people online, but the main issue here lands on the Head Coach position, which only calls time-outs and handles penalties; otherwise, the decisions are nonexistent. That's fine for players who don't have a lot of experience, but when you contrast it with players specifically making offensive or defensive play calls, it's the shallowest part of this mode.
By far, the largest addition is the Longshot story mode, where players try to take Devin Wade, former high school star and University of Texas washout, from obscurity to the regional combine and hopefully an NFL team. The story lasts about four hours, does a good job of capturing the Friday Night Lights/Varsity Blues-like atmosphere, and presents a very likable cast of characters chasing the dream of playing in the league. Both Devin and his childhood friend, Colt (who's also his favorite wide receiver), are a good duo, highlighting the reality of deferred dreams possibly given one last chance to thrive. Without spoiling some story twists, there were only two parts of the plot that didn't work well. The story doesn't do enough with some characters. Some players are clearly meant to be rivals, but they pop up and vanish quickly without impact on the story. Similarly, a legendary athlete and a popular former player show up, but they are used sparingly, weakening their impact for Devin. The largest issue relates to Devin's football knowledge. It's understandable that he might be rusty after walking away from his college program, but the lack of concepts Devin demonstrates is unrealistic. The UT coaches wouldn't put him on the football field, much less let him start, if he couldn't grasp these details. It knocks the believability, but doesn't ruin the story, which lays groundwork for a follow-up next year. Overall, while there are a few stumbles, Madden NFL 18 comes together in one impressive package for this year's football season.