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Madden 19 - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • New specialist depth chart positions and committee backfields
  • Real Player Motion works well in isolation
  • Defensive pass coverage is tighter
  • Underneath defenders play the ball more consistently
  • Archetype specialization
  • Franchise loading screens highlight game previews and matchups
  • Custom draft classes
  • Strong commentary team continues to improve

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Pervasive bugs and glitches
  • Real Player Motion does not seem to be universally applied
  • Defenders occasionally run themselves out of plays
  • Tackle Battle is still in the game
  • Archetypes limit user choice
  • Superficial Franchise upgrades
  • Longshot is even more linear
  • MUT is still grindy
  • MUT is still a pay-to-win mode
  • MUT Solo Battles don't replicate user's playstyle or tendencies
  • Use of in-game models instead of photos for player intros
  • Soundtrack

Overall Impression : F+
Pervasive bugs made game nearly unplayable at launch

Madden 19 - cover

Developer:
EA Sports Tiburon

Publisher:
EA Sports / Electronic Arts

Platforms:
PC (via EA Origin),
PlayStation 4< (via retail disc or PSN digital download),
XBox One (via retail disc or XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $60 USD or $80 USD for Hall of Fame edition

Original release date:
10 August, 2018

Genre:
sports, gridiron football

ESRB Rating: E (for Everyone) for:
mild language

Player(s):
up to 2 players local,
up to 6 players online,
up to 32-player online leagues

Official site:
www.easports.com/madden-nfl

I have a bit of a confession to make: despite my years of playing Madden, and my frequent blog rants about the quality of the game and my desired feature sets, I'm actually not particularly good at the game. I never really have been. I don't really have the "stick skills". I've been playing the game exclusively on All-Pro difficulty setting since the PS2 days, and never really graduated to being an All-Madden level player. All-Pro has always been a bit on the easy side, but I just never have a good time on All-Madden due to the A.I.'s excessive cheating.

Pro and All-Pro difficulties actually providing a challenge?

I'm having a really hard time with Madden 19, and I'm wondering if I'm the only one. The game feels like it's a lot harder to move the ball, and I'm still not quite sure if that's a result of the game cheating more, or if the A.I. has legitimately improved considerably, or if there's something wrong with me (are my 33-year-old reflexes simply not fast enough to play this game anymore?).

My early games were low-scoring defensive struggles in which I and the CPU struggled moving the ball.

I'm not the only one who's struggling; the CPU is only faring a little bit better. My first few exhibition games (on All-Pro difficulty, 9-minute quarters with 19-second accel clock) were field goal battles with final scores in the 16-6 or 20-10 range. I struggled to put up 150 or 200 yards passing or to surpass 30 or 40 yards rushing. The CPU didn't fare much better, usually getting around 150 yards passing, but beating me with 80 or 90 yards rushing.

In general, defensive reactions times and coverages (for both my team and the CPU team) seemed much tighter (without even having to tweak the game's A.I. sliders). Passing the ball downfield seems considerably harder and riskier, as receivers for both teams were often blanketed by man coverage, and the underneath defenders are uncannily good at reacting to the ball and swatting passes. They might even be a bit too good at swatting passes now, as even touch passes over the middle were routinely swatted down. Tiburon might need to tune down linebacker jumping abilities a smudge and add some animations of the ball being tipped instead of outright swatted.

Underneath defenders are swatting a lot of passes.

Passing concepts that had been reliable "money plays" for me over the past few years were completely shut down. Corners did a better job of staying with the receivers for Dagger, Corner, and comeback routes, and the defenders in the flats did a much better job of providing underneath support with those crazy leaping swats. Even when there were gaps in zones, I had trouble getting the ball off before defensive pressure got to me. Blocking is still a very binary "pass or fail" affair, so sensing pressure and getting the ball off on time is still largely a crap shoot. Drag routes seem to still be completely indefensible, but defenses are much quicker at converging and limiting the yards after catch.

This generally excellent coverage was counterpointed by occasional complete breakdowns. I had several instances in which my defender in a deep zone coverage (and it was always my defender!) would suddenly undercut the route while the ball is in the air -- as if to go for an aggressive interception or swat -- only to run himself out of the play and leave the receiver wide open with no help over the top. Almost every touchdown that I saw in those first few games was a direct result of one of these coverage breakdowns.

Deep zone defenders occasionally ran themselves out of plays by undercutting routes.

While I struggled with these early exhibition games, I did appreciate that Madden 19 was actually providing me with a substantial challenge unlike any that I had seen in the entire history of the franchise. And best of all, the game seemed to be relatively fair about imposing that challenge. As hard as it was for me to move the ball, it seemed almost equally hard for the CPU as well!

Could it be? After all these years, has EA finally produced a Madden game this is challenging, fair, and -- dare I say -- good?

Why we can't have nice things

Well, not quite, no. Those early games were not an indication of a fair and challenging football simulation. They were indicative of a broken game. Madden 19 is unbelievably buggy. Possibly even the buggiest Madden launch that I've ever played! There's a number of minor bugs, such as players wandering around the backfield before lining up for a play. But the crippling bugs are the ones that lock players in place, make them think the play is over when it isn't, get them stuck in repeating animations, perform wholly inappropriate animations, literally teleport halfway across the field, or make the ball fly across the field after a fumble. Madden 19 is loaded with these sorts of animation glitches.

Centers get stuck in the snapping animation instead of blocking.

Centers repeatedly attempt to throw the ball between their legs instead of blocking. Or sometimes, the center keeps the ball in his hand and goes full-on Little Giants. Running backs, receivers, and kick returners hesitate for half a second after receiving a handoff, pass, or fielding a kick (respectively), allowing the defenders to smother them. Defenders sometimes go into idle animations after tackle animations begin, as if the play is already over, even if the runner then proceeds to break our of the tackle. All players frequently stop and go into idle animations if they are ever hit by the ball (like an errant pass bouncing off a receiver's hands).

Players regularly act as if a play is over,
even though it clearly isn't.

This is all in addition to the usual glitches that we've come to expect from Madden year-in and year-out. Like defenders reaching their arms through the bodies of receivers to make interceptions. Players still get motion-shifted for tackles and blocking animations. The ball can phase through defenders instead of being knocked out for a fumble. The ability to challenge a play is disabled for plays that should be challenge-able. And so on.

Even if it were good at launch, I'm not sure that I can trust EA and Tiburon to let it stay good. After all, Tiburon has a terrible track record with introducing new features into Madden without adjusting the mechanics that surround (and interact with) that feature. Then they tune those features down because they are too impactful on games.

Remember a couple years ago when they added a bunch more strip-sack and throw-out-of-sack animations, and the community complained that there were too many strip sacks? So EA basically had to turn that feature off with a series of mid-year patches. Well, that strip sack feature was actually very realistic, and I thought worked very well. For one thing, the problem was that users (and the CPU) were holding onto the ball too long instead of checking down. But the bigger problem was that the rest of the game wasn't working properly around that strip sack mechanic. Blocking engagement was (and still is) too binary, leading to defenders (especially interior rushers) releasing too easily and getting clean shots at the QB without the QB having a chance to "feel" the pocket collapsing and appropriately reacting to the pressure. Then the following year, EA added the reach tackles, which helped with that problem, but EA didn't bother to re-tune the strip sack or throw-out-of-sack to accommodate that. So now we have virtually no strip sack or lame duck passes, even in situations where we should see them. QBs just tuck the ball and take the sack, or the ball goes straight into the ground for an incompletion.

Madden 17 [LEFT] had an excess of throw-out-of-sack animations,
which Tiburon tuned down to the point that the mechanic is hardly relevant anymore.

This same sort of problem is noticeable with regard to the updated coverage logic. The tighter coverage means that other legacy problems associated with defensive play are much more exposed. Defenders still get sudden speed bursts or get locked into animations that allow them to shift into position to make the play or literally reach their arms through the body of the receiver in order to make a swat or interception, even if the receiver is in superior position.

What difference does it make whether I lead the receiver or throw a high or low pass if the relative positioning of the receiver and defender still rarely (if ever) matters? You can't really throw a receiver open with any consistency, and a receiver who has a step or two on the defender is not open because the game will break the laws of physics to make a swat or interception happen if it wants to. This is actually one of the few things that Maximum Football excels at, which was a pleasant surprise, and which only makes the problem far more apparent in Madden. Even if a receiver is open, and the defender doesn't magically make a play on the ball, it's a crap shoot whether the receiver catches it.

These problems are further exacerbated by the lack of a viable running game (due to the center glitch and generally poor blocking). Without it, we're completely dependent on forcing passes downfield every drive.

Tighter coverage further exacerbates issues with defenders shifting into position
or reaching through the receiver to deflect or pick passes.

I fully suspect that, instead of fixing defensive back animations to remove the shifting and phasing that allows them to make plays on the ball that they shouldn't be able to make, and instead of fixing pass blocking so that pressure is easier to read and the CPU makes more check-down passes, Tiburon will instead tune down the effectiveness of coverage.

Steps matter, except when they don't

Similar complaints and fears can be levied against the big, new back-of-the-box feature for this year's game: "Real Player Motion". Putting aside the fact that "Real Player Motion" is just a repackaging of Madden 25's "True Step", the feature just doesn't seem to work as intended or expected in relation to the game's other mechanics.

Runners feel much more connected to the turf when making sudden cuts and changing direction.

In a vacuum, my runner does feel more connected to the turf, and running does feel a lot better than it has in the past few years. Cutting and changing direction actually slows the runner down and loses valuable time. On punt and kick returns, it feels really good. I feel like the threshold for triggering a cut rather than a turn is a bit strict, as I often get slowed down for a cut when trying to make small adjustments to hit the hole in the line, but I might just need to get used to the new mechanic. But then you throw in the other 21 players on the field, and it all starts to fall apart. The problem is that the other A.I.-controlled players don't seem to be strictly bound by this locomotion system.

Defenders (and offensive players who don't have the ball) do not look like they run any differently than in previous years, and continue to weave and turn mid-stride (or while in mid air). This dramatically affects the balance of the running game. Any little stutter by the back now allows the defenders to close in without any hesitation or limitation. This leads to a lot more runs getting blown up by backside defenders or safeties who are able to streak right into the runner without any interruption. I never get to see the locomotion system, or the new "push the pile" mechanic because so many run plays are getting blown up in the backfield either by backside pursuit that crashes down way too fast, or because the center bugs out and doesn't block.

Lots of run plays get blown up by backside pursuit because the defender
can apparently crash down without losing any speed.

Real Player Motion also doesn't stop runners from being stopped by invisible force fields or being sucked into tackling animations. Nor does it make it so that receivers with a step or two on a defender are open (as mentioned above). Nor does it improve the terrible pursuit angles that have plagued Madden for years. Pursuit is, admittedly, improved slightly by the fact that defenders can more easily catch up to runners whenever the runner cuts. In any case, this is the age-old example of the Madden devs adding a feature to the game without rebalancing or redesigning the other areas of the game around it or fixing issues that were already pervasive.

An annual cycle of small tweaks instead of sweeping changes

Why is the Tackle Battle still in the game?!

Compounding the problems with Real Player Motion this year, the Tackle Battle is still in the game. The Tackle Battle -- one of the worst features that's ever been included in a football video game. A feature that allows the player to press a button prompt to cancel a tackle animation, and which completely undermines the very idea of claiming to have a physics-based tackling system that is supposed to use weight and leverage, and which supposedly conserves momentum. A feature that undermines this year's hot selling point by allowing the user to disregard foot planting and just push a button to break free of a tackle. That feature is still in the game?!

The targeted passing mechanic that was introduced only last year, on the other hand, is just completely gone?! That's a feature that at least had the potential to allow users to execute fundamental football play concepts that otherwise don't exactly work properly in Madden. It's something that (according to Madden 18's marketing spiel) was supposed to revolutionize football video gaming. Nope. EA abandoned that after just a single year. Didn't try to fix it or make it work better. Just gone. Even the QB vision cone from Madden '06 stuck around for three years or so.

This is part of the problem with Madden's annual release cycle: they put in new features that they can plaster on the back of the box to sell units, then just abandon them. Despite all the talk of "three-year plans", they don't seem to really have any clue what they're doing with the series long-term. They don't take community feedback to make the existing features or mechanic work better. They just leave it as is and ignore it so they can come up with some new, half-baked back-of-the-box marketing feature. We end up with a bunch of janky, half-working ideas that don't really fit together. This is why Madden 17 stood out to me as a "complete product". All three phases of the game had been redesigned and rebuilt with a consistent design philosophy and vision over the course of three years. Now, they're just back to throwing in random new features.

So many half-baked halftime shows have come and gone over the last 10 to 15 years.

I mean, how many half-time shows have come and gone over the past 10 to 15 years? Remember the "Extra Point" halftime show? How many of those have been half-implemented, stagnated for two or three years, only to be completely removed or replaced? And they still haven't done jack squat with the postgame. There's a new halftime show this year too, and it's lame, and it's completely skipped over during Play Now exhibition games.

Now, Madden 19 doesn't even bother with a halftime show for exhibition games.

In addition to the NFL license, EA also has ESPN and NFL Network licenses (or at least, they used to), not to mention a shit-load of money to throw around (thanks, in part to all you people throwing money away in Ultimate Team). They can't bring in Chris Berman to do a "Fastest 3 Minutes in Sports" highlight reel? What ever happened to the ESPN and NFL Films music tracks? Or what about licensing a version of Hank Williams Jr's "Are You Ready for Some Football?" for Monday night games? Or what about doing something functional, like transitioning some of the pre-game and post-game presentation into the loading screens to save us some time? If they were neglecting presentation to improve the game's physics, A.I., and franchise mode, then I'd be happy as a clam, but they're not doing that either. EA has the money and the resources to do these things. If they wanted to invest the time and resources to make a good game, they could.

Why not invest in real-life presentations, like Chris Berman's "Fastest 3 Minutes in Sports"
or Hank Williams Jr's "Are You Ready For Some Football?"?

At least in the case of targeted passing, they had the good sense to remove a feature that was not well-received and which was basically ignored by the community, rather than letting it fester for years taking up valuable controller buttons that could be better served on other functions.

Rebuilding year

So the on-field action has a mixture of genuine improvement and disappointingly unfulfilled promises. What about the off-field action? I actually did buy a digital download of this year's game because a significant Franchise rebuild was supposed to be one of this year's core selling points. I gave EA my money this year because I wanted them to know that there is money to be made in selling Franchise mode.

It wasn't worth it.

Scheme fits (unlike weekly training) do not provide bonuses towards plays within your scheme.

Almost all of the new features of Franchise are superficial upgrades that do very little [positive] to the actual game. Animated backgrounds of players and coaches are basically just slightly-customizable screensavers that do absolutely nothing for gameplay. The new "scheme fits" mechanic is just a new U.I. element for showing the user which players supposedly fit your coach's scheme, but the actual scheme doesn't seem to affect their on-field performance. Unlike the Chemistry system in Ultimate Team, or the weekly training during Franchise (which does provide bonuses towards the plays that you specifically practiced), the players that fit into your scheme do not receive ratings boosts or play any differently, nor does having a particularly high scheme fit improve the ratings or play of your team as a whole, nor does your chosen scheme have any effect on what plays you can call or how effective they will actually be. In fact, your playbook is completely independent of your chosen scheme. You can set your scheme to be a fast-paced, vertical spread offense, but then select a ball-control-oriented playbook that focuses on power runs and west coast-style passes, and that non-sensical and contradictory set of ... for lack of a better term ... "coaching decisions" has absolutely no impact on how the game plays or how your offense will perform.

Now, we could argue about whether or not the scheme fit should provide ratings boosts or other on-field bonuses, and -- you know what? -- that's actually a perfectly viable discussion to have, but I'll save that for another time. Instead, what the scheme fit does do in Madden 19 is it provides an experience boost to players who fit your scheme. So it doesn't affect their immediate performance right now, but scheme fits potentially improves their performance in the future by allowing you to improve their ratings and traits more quickly.

Scheme fit does not seem to affect on-field performance. It only provides XP modifiers.

Specialized roles at the cost of player choice

And when you gain enough experience to level up a player, you'll see pretty much the one and only part of Franchise that is actually functionally different: the player archetypes. You can't invest experience into any player attribute anymore. Instead, players essentially gain "levels" that grant a skill point that you can use to upgrade pre-determined sets of attributes. Each player will have several archetypes, each of which is tied to a specific offensive or defensive scheme, and each of which has a set of "core attributes". When you improve a player's archetype, you simultaneously upgrade all the core attributes within that archetype, which increases the player's fit for the relevant scheme by 1 point.

You can only upgrade one of several archetypes...

On the one hand, this is much more restrictive than the upgrade system of previous years. In fact, you can't even buy new traits for players anymore. On the other hand, however, it means that players feel more specialized for a specific role within the scheme.

The restrictiveness is a real problem, however, because it means that the user really doesn't have much in the way of realistic options. Since upgrading the archetype upgrades all attributes for the given archetype, you're not even chosing which specific attributes within the archetype you want to focus on. Have a power running back? You simply upgrade his power archetype, which automatically upgrades his carrying, trucking, and stiff arm ratings. You don't even chose whether you want to focus on his ball carrying, trucking, or stiff arm ability individually.

... which only boosts a set of pre-determined attributes.

At this point, the players might as well just automatically upgrade the archetype associated with the current scheme because that's probably the only practical option that the user is going to have. Sure, you have two other choices, but they feel like false choices. This is especially true if you're trying to rebuild a bad team that has a poor scheme fit. I guess there's room to discuss whether or not players should fit into archetypes, and whether or not the game should more specifically model players who defy any recognizable archetype.

I guess the fact that scheme fits don't really have any effect on on-field performance means that you are still free to upgrade your players with whichever archetype you wish, as long as that player already meets the minimum threshold of fitting within the scheme. There's no real advantage for continuing to improve that player's scheme archetype.

Having to upgrade 3 or 4 attributes simultaneously now means that gaining skill points takes considerably longer. After completing a full preseason, none of my rookies had yet gained enough experience to gain a skill point -- not even the rookies who had played well during the preseason, and had completed multiple drive and game goals. This completely defeats the purpose of the preseason, which up till now had been about the only thing that Madden's Franchise mode had been doing well.

The idea seems to have been to reduce the amount of micro-management that the user has to do. It seems to be the same design philosophy that lead to NCAA Football 14 stripping out a lot of the recruitment options and replacing them with simple numbers to min-max. It sucked all the soul and humanity out of the in-season recruiting feature that used to be the gem of the entire series. The same thing is happening here with Madden, except that Madden's Franchise mode is so shallow, that once you take out the little micro-management decisions, there aren't really any decisions left to make.

The deeper depth chart is still pretty shallow

The depth chart doesn't specify the archetype of the players.

It certainly doesn't help that the depth chart doesn't bother to tell you what archetype each player belongs to. Did your slot receiver go down with an injury in the second quarter? Need to substitute your next best slot receiver into the depth chart? Well, hope you remember who that receiver is, because the in-game depth chart doesn't list player type. The injury screen does though, so you'll know that the injured guy is your slot receiver. Again, yet another example of EA putting in a half-baked feature and not adjusting other mechanics and systems around it.

Speaking of depth charts, Tiburon also added a bunch of new specialist positions, which is something that I've asked for. It's good to have, even though I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't include some of the positions that I had hoped for. I also would prefer if they actually implemented a separate depth chart position for the X receiver, Y receiver, and slot (or Z) receiver, since the X and Y often fill different roles. One is usually more of a possession option who runs short and intermediate routes, while the other is often a speedier deep threat who runs routes up the field. The game splits up left and right offensive tackles. They don't just assume that the left tackle should be your number 1 tackle and the right tackle should be your number 2. Why do they do they make that assumption for receivers?

Longsnappers and other specialists have
been neglected for too long!

I can understand that defensive backs should probably be matched up based on the opposing receivers' ratings, rather than by their position on the depth chart. But even the ability to matchup man defenders against specific receivers based on their overall rating, speed, catching, or other metrics is [once again] absent from the game. This is a feature that comes and goes every few years, and it's not present in Madden 19.

Tiburon also didn't make certain existing positions relevant, such as longsnapper. I'd also like to see Gunner show up as a depth chart position, and I get ridiculed when I propose these ideas. But forget about adding a Gunner position, because longsnapper is already a dedicated position on the Madden's depth chart! It has been for years, but it doesn't matter who you put in that position, so the existence of the position on the depth chart is completely irrelevant. If Madden is going to include longsnappers as a depth chart position, then they need to make that position meaningful by including some ratings or traits that determines how good a player is at longsnapping, and there needs to be a significant chance that a poor longsnapper will muff a snap (especially in inclement weather or in high-pressure, clutch situations). These sort of novel specialist positions have been neglected in football video gaming for too long, and even though Madden 19 went to the trouble of adding new specialist positions, they still didn't bother with actual special teams specialist positions! I'm not the only one who feels this way. The Houston Texans official Twitter account feels this way too.

But then they go in the complete opposite direction with the new Custom Draft Class feature that allows the league GM to customize every element of all the upcoming draftees coming out of college. This is a long-requested feature (since NCAA Football was discontinued by EA) that allows Franchise players to more easily import real-life college players. It's a good thing to have, but it doesn't single-handedly sell Franchise mode.

Custom Draft Classes allow us to import real-life college players into our Franchise.

I'd also like to see more power for the GM to edit injury status, especially since the default game settings result in a lot more injuries this year. Most of them occur away from the ball, and EA was too lazy to even include animations for them. You'll see the "Injury Timeout" banner appear under the scoreboard seemingly at random, with no accompanying animation, cutscene, or commentary showing or telling us who was injured and how. Even if you go back to the instant replay, there's absolutely no indication of who got hurt. It's nice to have off-ball injuries, but it's yet another feature that is completely half-assed and barely functional.

Even Longshot manages to somehow be worse

The lackluster Franchise is all the more frustrating considering how poorly this year's Longshot Homecoming story mode turned out. I was perhaps a bit too generous with Longshot last year. I thought the mode showed a lot of potential, even though the actual implementation was underwhelming. This year's Longshot somehow manages to be even more limited and linear than last year's. EA completely failed to fulfill the potential that the mode promised, and the whole thing is just a disappointing waste of time this time around.

Longshot Homecoming gives the player even less influence over the story than last year.

You can't fail. At all. The game just makes you repeat everything until you get it right. Or just skip the playable sequence altogether! There aren't even any dialogue options anymore. It's even less of a game than last year's version.

You watch five or ten minutes (or more) of completely non-interactive movie. Might as well just put the controller down and make a sandwich. Then you get to play a minute or two of football, and keep retrying until you do it right and score. All you can do is pick out the open receiver and throw to him. The game also doesn't give you any help at all. Just like in a regular Madden game, the receivers will drop passes, or they'll make absolutely no effort to drag their feet to stay in bounds, and you can't even take control of them to do it manually! This leads to lots of cheap failures and retries. Receiver foot-dragging, by the way, is another feature that has repeatedly been implemented in Madden, disappears after a couple years, and then gets sold to us again, as if EA thinks we don't remember.

You have no control over the receivers,
who make no effort to help you look good.

At least in last year's Longshot, the writers contrived narrative reasons why Devin can't fail for at least some of the playable sequences. Tiburon didn't even bother with that this year. You have no impact on the story as it unfolds. You can't fail as Devin, you can't develop a chemistry with one receiver or another to influence who makes the team. You don't get to chose between executing the running play that the coach calls, or checking into a pass play to give a receiver one last opportunity to impress the coaches. There's no tests of football knowledge. There's no dialogue choices in which you can influence the relationship between Wade and his QB coach, or between Colt and his half-sister.

I played for two hours before giving up because the game hadn't let me do anything meaningful. It wasn't even willing to pretend that I was having any meaningful impact on the story.

I honestly wonder why they even bother with paying CG artists to animate these characters, since so much of the mode is just cutscenes with no interaction at all. Everything in this mode could be live-action footage except for the parts in which you actually play football. Heck, they even have live-action video of clips of Good Morning Football (a real show on NFL Network). If they could get Good Morning Football to record this clip for Longshot, then (returning to a point from earlier) why can't they get ESPN or NFL Network half-time and post-game shows for regular games or a weekly recap show for Franchise?

If you're going to mix in live-action footage, why not just do the whole thing in live action?

Longshot Homecoming is a complete, unmitigated, abysmal failure. If only EA had spent all the money and resources from the Longshot sequel and put it into Franchise mode.

The grind-fest that makes all the money

Once again, I also tried Ultimate Team very briefly, and once again, it's complete garbage of a game mode. I did get my Brian Urlacher Hall of Fame card, but he's only a 77 overall. I had linebackers from early booster packs that were better than the Brian Urlacher Hall of Fame card! I'd much rather have been able to carry-over the 87-overall Brian Urlacher that I had a couple years ago, but nope, EA makes us have to throw out our entire MUT collection every year so we can pay them for the privilege of starting over from scratch. Don't worry though, I didn't spend a single penny on Ultimate Team mode this year, or in any years prior. Seriously, would it really kill their bottom line to include some kind of fantasy football-inspired keeper ability, where you can import at least some of your favorite cards from the year before?

Brian Urlacher's HoF MUT card is a 77 overall?!

Again, Ultimate Team is a grindy, pay-to-win scam of a game mode that really shouldn't be worth anybody's time. Not only can you not import cards from previous years, but you still also can't customize your uniforms or actually create a custom team (like in NCAA Football's old Teambuilder mode), so there's very little sense of personalization or ownership of your team.

You still have to grind through obnoxious, time-wasting "campaigns" just to stockpile enough cards to field a competitive team. Often, these challenges require you to play a handful of plays to meet a goal, then go back out to the menu because Tiburon can't be bothered to put a "Next Challenge" option on "Challenge Completed" menu. In one instance, I had to sit through a load screen in order to kick a single 25 yard field goal (on Rookie difficulty setting!), then sit through another load screen so that I could select the next challenge, then sit through another load screen to go to that challenge, which took place in the same stadium, with the same players, so there's absolutely no technical reason why Tiburon couldn't have kept everything in memory and just let me start the next challenge without needing any loading screen at all.

Why isn't there a "Next Challenge" button?

Or, you can just hand over your credit card to EA because all the really good packs are locked behind "points", which can only be obtained by paying real money to EA. You can't earn points by winning head-to-head games with other players, or by completely the campaigns or challenges, or by doing anything else that requires actual skill or knowledge of the game.

The one new feature of Ultimate Team that has any merit at all is the concept of playing a "Solo Battle" against another user's roster being controlled by the CPU. Of course, even this is half-assed, because as far as I can tell, MUT doesn't bother to try to replicate that user's play style or tendencies, so it still does not feel like playing against an actual user. If Tiburon were to implement a system where the game tracked each user's habits, tendencies, and play styles with their MUT team, and then saved them in an NFL 2k5 VIP-style profile that is used to model the CPU behavior, then Tiburon would really be onto something. Of course, I'd rather that something like that be playable outside of MUT, since I don't want to play MUT, but whatever. Outside of MUT, you'd have to probably track each user's tendencies with each team (or at least with each playbook or playbook style), so the amount of information that would need to be tracked would be considerably more complicated.

You can play against CPU-controlled avatars of other MUT users' teams.

Even if the CPU's play were able to reasonably accurately represent the play of the user whose team it is co-opting, EA and Tiburon only provide us with a small handfull of hand-picked opponents to play against at any given time. You can't play against your friends, or against prominent members of the community, unless EA and Tiburon happen to select those users' teams. So what's the point?

This is becoming a common thread with MUT each year: it offers tiny shreds of merit in its new ideas and concepts, but doesn't bother to follow them through to an interesting conclusion. Instead, EA is happy to continue milking the mode for easy micro-transaction gambling money without providing any real innovation.

Why is it that EA couldn't get away with this in Star Wars: Battlefront II, but we let them get away with it in sports games? How is it that EA still has the gall to charge $60 for this game while it's making hundreds of millions of dollars off of a free-to-play paradigm? Why aren't more people throwing a fit about this? Is it because Ultimate Team models itself after the idea of trading cards, which have been a part of sports collecting for generations? Is it because sports fans are predisposed to gambling, or that the culture surrounding sports has already accepted gambling as part of the status quo, and Ultimate Team is just seen as an extension of that?

I really hate these lame player introductions with the in-game models doing silly dances and poses.

Maybe I'll go back to playing Maximum Football now, while I wait for Axis Football to release. At least those games have the potential to get better...

Other Game Reviews I've Published

Alan WakeAlan WakeAlien: IsolationAlien: Isolation
Amnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: the Dark DescentAmnesia: the Dark Descent
Among the SleepAmong the SleepAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: Origins
Back to the Future Episode OneBack to the Future Episode OneBackbreaker FootballBackbreaker Football
BanishedBanishedBatman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham City
Battlefield 1Battlefield 1BloodborneBloodborne
Bloodborne: the Old HuntersBloodborne: the Old HuntersCall of Duty World War IICall of Duty World War II
CatherineCatherineCities SkylinesCities Skylines
Cities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Green Cities
Cities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: Natural Disasters
Cities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: Snowfall
Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4CitiesXL & Cities XXLCitiesXL & Cities XXL
Dark SoulsDark SoulsDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLC
Dark Souls IIDark Souls IIDark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Dark Souls IIIDark Souls IIIDark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel
Dark Souls III: the Ringed CityDark Souls III: the Ringed CityDead Space 2Dead Space 2
Death's GambitDeath's GambitDemon's SoulsDemon's Souls
DmC (Devil May Cry)DmC (Devil May Cry)DOOM (2016)DOOM (2016)
DreadOutDreadOutF.T.L. (Faster Than Light)F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)
Fallout 4Fallout 4Fallout ShelterFallout Shelter
Far Cry PrimalFar Cry PrimalFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XVFirewatchFirewatch
Five Nights at Freddy'sFive Nights at Freddy'sGame of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)
God of War (2018)God of War (2018)God of War IIIGod of War III
Gone HomeGone HomeGrand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V
Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade: Senua's SacrificeKingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: Deliverance
L.A. NoireL.A. NoireLifeless PlanetLifeless Planet
Lollipop ChainsawLollipop ChainsawMad MaxMad Max
Madden NFL 11Madden NFL 11Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 12
Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 15
Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 17
Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 19
Mars Rover LandingMars Rover LandingMarvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-Man
Master of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaster of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2018
Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMetal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMiasmataMiasmata
Middle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of War
Monster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter: WorldNCAA Football 11NCAA Football 11
NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 13NCAA Football 13
NiohNiohNo Man's SkyNo Man's Sky
Papers, PleasePapers, PleasePortal 2Portal 2
Red Dead RedemptionRed Dead RedemptionResident Evil 7: BiohazardResident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil RemasteredResident Evil RemasteredRock Band 3Rock Band 3
Room 404Room 404Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Shadow of the Colossus (2018)
Sid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the Room
Silent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered Memories
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Spider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
The Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC
The Evil WithinThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2
The Last GuardianThe Last GuardianThe Last of UsThe Last of Us
The SaboteurThe SaboteurThe SwapperThe Swapper
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil War
Uncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUntil DawnUntil Dawn
What Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch 

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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