Madden NFL 18 ‘Longshot’ is a Perfectly Serviceable Story, but a Horrendous Game Mode

Madden NFL 18 has several new aspects and features, and, while we work through our full review, it’s worth it to discuss its most unique feature separately, and that is Longshot. Longshot has been dubbed Madden NFL 18‘s story mode. It will take you through the journey of fictional NFL hopeful Devin Wade as he tries to become an NFL quarterback alongside his best friend and favorite go-to wide receiver Colton Cruise.

During his question, Wade gets offered a chance to star in a reality TV series called “Longshot” that chronicles his quest to the NFL, which he at least begrudgingly accepts. Longshot really is substantial enough to warrant its own segment, but it certainly will be considered for the full review of Madden NFL 18, which should be out later this week. In the mean time, we’re here to outline what you can expect from the series first true story mode, with unique characters, voice actors and motion capture beyond anything like a typical “career mode.” So let’s get into it.

Getting this out of the way, Longshot has one obvious flaw that is shared by Madden 18 and will come up again in our review, and that’s the graphics. It seems that, like a Jedi mind-trick, companies just have to tell you that the graphics are amazing, and everyone will repeat it. The truth is, though, (and I’ll happily provide numerous examples of this), graphics in Madden games look decidedly last-generation, and this is especially prominent in Longshot, where you’re given a full, unabridged view of how its character models interact with objects in the environment. There is at times a total lack of ambient occlusion that makes characters appear as though they are floating above the ground, or that objects they are holding are actually just levitating between their hands, and that’s just the best-case scenario. Alternatively, you’ll get things like this:

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“The most gorgeous visuals in franchise history,” EA boasts.

That said, Longshot also does something exceptional that I didn’t expect it to do. It accurately conveys the experience of an NFL Draft hopeful. Everything you do is judged and collated. Make one false move, or expose even the most minuscule character flaw, and that could mean the difference between drafted and undrafted. Longshot goes even further than that, showing how fellow players rely on one another yet also compete against each other for scouting purposes. If you’re a quarterback, and your wide receiver drops a pass, that still reflects poorly on you, creating tension between you and others, perhaps even friends.

Likewise, one player’s misfortune could be another player’s fortune. Throw and interception, and that could spell disaster for you in the scouts eyes. The player who intercepted your pass, though? They’re going to get a huge boost. For the most part, though, Longshot squanders this opportunity to give multiple perspectives. At a few points in the story, you run into an old high school nemesis of Devin’s, who plays defense, and often acts as the primary antagonist. At one point, you actually see his perspective when he describes Devin as “the guy who has it all but still complains.”

But this perspective has virtually no payoff, as Devin never has to reconcile with the fact that, despite some deeply tragic personal strife, he’s been fortunate in several ways that many people, including the purported antagonist of that part of the story, have not. He’s had every opportunity to succeed, and, in the end, he does, if not in the most expected way. Longshot certainly isn’t the most nuanced take on the sports underdog genre, but it’s probably inappropriate to expect high-cinema. In the end, this is a perfectly serviceable story, the kind you can expect from any comparable sports or football movie (Varsity Blues & Remember the Titans come to mind).

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You’ll often be given false choices that offer only marginally different results.

That said, Longshot is a horrendous game mode that will probably only impress gamers who exclusively play Madden games, and even that might be a stretch. Longshot is mostly a narrative experience, and its formula will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has played a Telltale game: throughout a series of what appear to be cutscenes, you control what Devin Wade says at certain points, choosing between a variety of dialogue options that purport to affect how the rest of the Longshot plays out. While it’s been reported that there are 3-4 different ways Longshot can ultimately end, it’s the choices you make throughout the game that don’t seem to have any value.

Many times, you’re presented with what appear to be false choices, with Longshot making you think you’re picking between two contradictory options. However, upon closer examination, there’s not much difference between the options you’re given. For example, when offered a spot on a TV show you can “resist,” “question” or “reject,” but you can’t outright accept it. Immediately after this exchange, the person offering you the position gives you her card and says “just think it over,” which perfectly explains why you couldn’t just accept the proposal. If you said yes, it wouldn’t make much sense for her to say “think it over,” now would it?

At another point during an interview, you’re given the option to “Boast” or “Trash Talk.” Like with the previous example, there are tangible differences between both options, so it’s not as if they are the same, but they do lead to essentially the same outcome, as there is usually not an option that represents a polar opposite. This a far cry from the choices you’re given in a typical Telltale game that can and often do mean the difference between life and death.

Also Read: A Full History of Madden Predictions and Why You Should Take Them Seriously

So, if you’re looking for Telltale-quality, narrative-choice gameplay, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. That said, I can’t imagine Madden fans are going to like it all that much better. Hardly any actual football is played in the game. You do play some scenarios, perhaps having to re-live one of Devin’s high-school or college memories, but these aren’t full games. You also get to play some 7-on-7 games both to 21, and the final gameplay challenge has you go through a series of five challenges (lead a two-minute drill, score without throwing to your favorite receiver, etcetera), but again, these aren’t full games, or even really anything close to it.

While the story did flash potential on several occasions and ultimately ended up better than I expected, Longshot as a whole has a long way to go before it can be taken seriously among the narrative-choice genre. Combine its many false choices and scarcity of actual gameplay with Madden‘s usual last-gen graphical feel, and you certainly won’t be telling all your friends about the good news that is Longshot. At least, I certainly won’t be.