Combining turn-based strategy with real-time battle mechanics where your skill has a direct impact on the result, American football is the perfect fit for the video game medium.
But while soccer has FIFA and PES, and basketball has NBA Live and NBA 2K, the great sport of American football has gone unopposed in the virtual space for far too long. Maximum Football and Mutant League don’t count.
Where the competition has brought out the best in other sporting titles, Madden hasn’t had to step up its game.
As such, Madden NFL 19 still contains the same problems that have plagued the series for nearly half a decade. Glitching animations, nonsensical AI decisions and binary usage of stats.
Even the changes to the menu system and UI aren’t great, feeling better suited to a mouse and keyboard rather than a controller.
On the plus side, updates to Franchise Mode are more expansive and in-depth than we’ve seen before, even though it feels like it’s been made for PC users.
Also, while features like Create a Stadium, Dynamic Attendance and Coach Glass have been removed in recent years, accessible additions from Madden NFL 18 – like Arcade, Competition and Simulation – are all still here.
Speaking of accessibility, Ultimate Team feels more accommodating by making the process of upgrading players slightly easier.
It still feels like an unnecessary grind during the early stages, and I wish there was a companion app for tweaking teams, and buying and selling players.
In terms of gameplay improvements, EA Sports has really focused on the running game.
Dubbed “Real Player Motion”, fans can expect a wider variety of animations for a more logical and coherent experience.
It’s also EA’s way of making sure players like Odell Beckham Jr catch like they do in real life. You can also juke more effectively the later you press the button.
Changes have also been made to tackling, running and catching, but they feel like animation updates rather than anything more substantial.
It highlights the Madden problem of it feeling like the outcome of plays are pre-determined at the point of selection and ultimately a bit scripted.
Elsewhere, the story mode “Longshot” makes its return and I was happy to see it continue the Devin Wade and Colton Cruise story.
Unfortunately, some of the lines are a bit cringe, like sitting through an embarrassingly unfunny best man speech.
All in all, if you judge Madden NFL 19 as an individual entity, it’s great. But if you judge it as part of a franchise spanning over 20 years, it’s too minor an update to recommend.