Madden NFL 18
Last year FIFA used DICE's Frostbite engine to deliver a story mode called The Journey. Now Madden NFL 18 is telling its own tale – The Longshot. Despite these two modes from the same company sharing the same technology, Madden developer EA Tiburon clearly wants to tell its own story its own way.
As the name implies, The Longshot chronicles older NFL prospect, Devin Wade, as he tries to get drafted into the NFL as a QB. It's hard enough to make the NFL period, but even more impossible considering Wade's been away from the game for years. We don't know why Wade wasn't immediately drafted into the NFL from college and why he's making a comeback now, but we're sure there's drama involved.
As The Longshot follows Wade's Journey – complete with familial trials and tribulations. The cast is anchored by former Stanford football player J.R. Lemon as Wade, and respected actors Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) as the father and Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) as the friend. Lemon's football experience was an asset for the role, and Porter also played the game in high school, which helped him with his character.
I asked EA Tiburon creative director Mike Young if there was anything in the story like controversial off-the-field incidents that the NFL would object to, and he said no. It will, however, deal with Wade's life on and off the field. He added that the studio was free to craft the story it wanted to – one it's been working on for years, and which he thinks gamers are going to find very engaging.
The Longshot features a variety of activities with different styles of gameplay. High school games, flashbacks to Wade's time at the University of Texas (there are a couple other licensed schools as well), and 7v7 football (with some of its special rules) play out like normal Madden, but gamers also experience different parts of the draft process, such as chalkboard sessions similar to Jon Gruden's pre-draft QB camp and team evaluations. Wade's throwing mechanics will not only be broken down by prospective teams, but serve as an opportunity to introduce gameplay mechanics unique to The Longshot. There is also a conversation system that influences the outcome of Wade's journey.
Young and the team are also attempting to craft a distinct experience through the mode's presentation. For instance, he says that The Longshot won't feature a hub menu that gamers have to constantly check back to. Instead, you go from a cutscene, for instance, right into gameplay. You also don't apply upgrades to Wade. Furthermore, Young says that the studio doesn't want there to be any one, specific gameplay experience that gamers keep repeating like a strict schedule of games, for example, in order to give players variety.
Perhaps the mode's biggest risk is that gamers do not get to play Wade in an NFL game. That being said, the league is still present. Gamers get to interface with NFL owners and coaches, and even meet NFL legends like Dan Marino and Chad Ochocinco. Young says that one of his favorite moments of the mode is when Marino tells Wade a gripping story from his playing days. All this leads up to Wade getting drafted by an NFL team.
After the mode is complete, players recieve content and rewards in Madden's Ultimate Team mode, including solo challenges related to The Longshot, players, uniforms, and coaches.
More and more sports games are trying their hand at adding stories along with their gameplay, but Madden's The Longshot hopes to be more than just another prospect.