Madden 18 is using DICE's Frostbite engine for the first time, and concurrent with this move the series is debuting its story mode entitled The Longshot. Sports gamers may already have some experience with EA's take on a story mode via FIFA 17's The Journey last year, but The Longshot is a different kind of experience. So what can you expect? Here are some spoiler-free answers to some important questions regarding Madden 18's The Longshot.

What Is The Longshot? 
The story centers around Devin Wade and his attempt to return to football after being away from the game, and draws from inspirations such as Friday Night Lights. Family and friends play a large part of Wade's story, as does the milieu of small-town, football-mad Texas, where everyone knows your business and has a vested interest in what you do on and off the field.

The mode features regular Madden gameplay like you're used to, shorter tutorial-like sequences, quick-time events, a few custom minigames, and dialogue decision moments (on countdown timers of various speeds). All in all, the whole story should take you three to four hours to play.

How Much Do My Choices Matter? 
Similar to a Telltale game, what you say and do can have repercussions, but the mode's main purpose isn't to let you control and define minutely who Wade is, but to experience the overall arc of the story while still keeping you interested through your actions as Wade.

How Many Endings Are There? 
There are three endings to the mode. Lead writer Mike Young says that there is an 18 percent chance of getting what we would consider "the best" one, but I found the mode satisfying regardless. There are fixed save points in the game if you don't want to complete the story in one sitting, and you could conceivably go back to earlier saves in an attempt to rewrite history if you want to. The mode accommodates three save slots.

What Happens If I 'Fail' A Situation? 
Some situations take note of your performance and let you keep on playing regardless of how you're doing, but there are hard "game over" moments that make you retry the situation if you don't succeed. If you hit pause at any given time you'll see Wade's scouting report, which lists feedback on him including grades for his football IQ and performance, and a list of positives, negatives, character, and other traits according to your actions. Make a good throw, and a comment might pop up about your arm strength. Fail to follow a coach's instructions, and the omnipresent scouts will make note of that, too.

So I Don't Get To Play An NFL Game, Is that Right? 
Correct, you do not play in the NFL in the mode (not this year, at any rate...). It's about your journey up until the draft and who Wade is as a character and all the things that got him to this moment. That being said, the league is present in The Longshot through old players like Dan Marino and the hype surrounding Wade's possible entry into the NFL. There is also a tangential link to the NFL in that when you're done you get rewards that can be taken into Ultimate Team mode.

Is It Good? 
Yes. The Longshot isn't a sole motivator to buy Madden this year, but it's an experience worth checking out. The story and the actors' expression of it are good (including Mahershala Ali from Moonlight and Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights) and the pacing for the mode's mix of cutscenes and interactive moments – as well as the story beats – keeps things rolling. You neither grind gameplay nor feel like you're just watching a movie.

 

EXAMPLES OF GAMEPLAY IN THE LONGSHOT 

 

THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE LONGSHOT 
Warning: Spoilers Ahead.