Fans are sometimes confused by the players NFL teams draft. Players are taken at positions where the team is already strong, while weaknesses are seemingly ignored. Fans deem some players a reach and don’t understand why their favorites weren’t drafted. A coherent philosophy is not always apparent from the outside looking in.

Madden NFL 18 produces a similar reaction. It plays to its competitive and hard-core side seemingly at the expense of its career-focused Connected Franchise mode, and its Longshot story mode is an entirely different kind of experience.

This four-hour mode follows college dropout Devin Wade’s attempt to get into the NFL. The story is more about provoking feelings about Devin, the Texas football environment he grew up in, and the friends who helped him along the way than it is about player freedom, skill-based gameplay, and making sure all your choices are precisely reflected in a particular ending.

Gameplay consists of quick-time events (including dialogue options), Devin playing QB in the normal Madden style, and some minigames. However, the excitement comes not from the gameplay, but from understanding Devin’s mindset and making decisions that feel true in tense situations. By that measure, it’s a success.

While Longshot is an experience everyone can relate to, the game’s overall bent toward competitive players and Ultimate Team mode lurches the game in an entirely different direction. The grind for cards that is Ultimate Team gets even more onion-layered through a leveling system, player upgrades and team tokens.

Target passing for quarterbacks is easy to perform but hard to master in the heat of the moment. However, it’s a useful tool that pays dividends. The controls feel good overall.

The benefits of Madden NFL 18 may not immediately jump out at you, but they are worth exploring even after all these years.

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