When it comes to football, EA Sports has dabbled in numerous game modes, from NFL Superstar mode in Madden to Campus Legend mode in NCAA 08.
This edition of Madden 18 offers us a story mode that focuses equally on the backstory of the main character and the challenges he is trying to overcome to make it to the NFL.
Welcome to Longshot:
You are Devin Wade, an aspiring quarterback who has all the tools to be good at football but has gone through some unfortunate life events. The story follows you and your longtime best friend Colt Cruise as you both try to make the NFL despite what everyone thinks and says about you.
In this story mode, you can make certain decisions that affect your player’s draft grade throughout the whole story — it reminds me of the story mode in Injustice 2 when you have to pick a fighter for a certain level. It’s damn near identical. You have a limited amount of time to make each decision, so choose wisely.
Wade’s backstory isn’t full of sunshine and roses. While you’re playing, you find yourself anxious to figure out what the hell happened in his life. There are plot twists and character development as you start to learn more and more about who your character is and all the things that he’s been through to get to this point. While most of the backstory is concrete, you still have to make a few decisions for Wade. The more serious choices occur during the present part of the plot, where every decision has to be made with his draft stock in mind.
Because the scouts are always watching. Always watching.
Every step of the way, you’re asked to make certain decisions that scouts will analyze and record. All of the repercussions of your decisions are immediately updated on your scouting report, which you can always view in the pause menu. The most difficult part about the story mode is the fact that the choices you make affect both your draft stock and Colt Cruise’s stock.
These choices seem to affect your character, which can in turn impact your draft grade, even if it’s the most innocent of decisions. For example, I stopped to take a Facebook Live in front of a banner with Colt Cruise and they said I SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I WAS ON THE VIDEO FOR LIKE 10 SECONDS.
I’m serious! Watch!
The game makes you feel like you have to make the NFL at all costs. For Wade, it’s either that or shoveling stuff in Texas with your high school teammates — it's really do-or-die out here. Wade’s life isn’t perfect, his relationship with his friend isn’t always jokey and light-hearted, and even though this is a video game, not every challenge you face will wait for you to have a certain score to move on to the next level.
You might lose in a throw-off against Dan Marino and you might answer some questions wrong, but instead of the story making you do the challenge over, it keeps on trucking.
(Unless you go back to the last save point and do it over again; but then what’s the point?)
The Texas-style play-by-by broadcasting you have to listen to when you’re doing the high school challenges is awesome. It really makes me feel like I’m a parent at the game and still listening to the broadcast on an AM radio. The game also drops hints about Wade and Cruise’s upbringing.
In addition to that, you learn other things about the team and how your dad was a local legend in Texas. You also really start to realize just how close Wade and Cruise are, not just as teammates but as lifelong friends. Longshot is more emotional than you might expect. You start to feel bad for certain characters and become flat-out annoyed by others.
The ability to make your own choices off the field at every step of the way was a fun way to feel like I was out there controlling my player's temperament. A lot of the choices seem innocent on the surface, but as someone who has played it twice and witnessed the alternate endings, I think it’s clear that the choices you make absolutely affect the outcome.
The storyline was great. I entered this mode knowing very little about the game, and I was surprised with the plot twists and overall story developments. The time jumps and plot points seemed to make sense, on top of the fact that this story mode touches on tragedy and the real shit that athletes in the spotlight have to go through sometimes.
One example was Wade having to listen to all the criticism of him during his football career. Athletes have to deal with the ongoing feedback from a fan base every day. The good, the bad and the absolutely terrible can reach and affect an athlete with a page view, a tweet, or a radio show.
I also appreciate the fact that even though this game makes you follow in the footsteps of a football player, it’s still simple enough for the most casual of fans to follow along and enjoy it. For example, you have a few moments in the story mode when you are asked to sit down and answer some football-related questions.
It’s not like in Gruden’s QB Camp where one second you’re on board, and 10 seconds later you’re completely lost.
Not all of us speak football or know everything about the game — and this story mode recognizes that. It’s pretty digestible, whether you’ve played football all your life or just play video games. Hey, you might even learn something.
Yes, there are challenges and decisions you have to make off the field, but you don’t have to actually become a football savant by the end of this thing. Longshot makes you feel like a football player, but makes it simple enough for the most casual fans to comprehend and still enjoy the mode.
Longshot’s strengths are also its weaknesses. The overall effort and detail that Madden put into the story, plot, and challenges make the game mode inflexible and not as versatile as one would like.
You can’t change your player's appearance…or position. TO BE FAIR, that’d just be a whole lot of extra work for game developers, given the storyline, plot and separate challenges you would have to make per position. Unlike other “playing as a character” modes like Campus Legend and NFL Superstar, you can only be Quarterback Devin Wade. In the other modes that I mentioned, you have the option to play many different positions, and if you’re daring enough, even change positions between seasons (in certain college games).
While you have the flexibility to make decisions on the field, as soon as you step in between the lines, it’s another story entirely. In 98 percent of the challenges that you play in, you have zero control over what play you actually run.
This is one of the few times in the series that Wade calls a play:
Wait, never mind, COLT CALLED THAT PLAY, AND HE’S A WIDE RECEIVER.
It would have been cool if there were more challenges and more features inspired by the Campus Legend/Road to Glory game modes. In NCAA Football 13, you can earn the right to call hot routes and even pick some extra plays if you don’t like the one you see.
In Longshot mode, you can’t even call a hot route. Am I asking for too much here?
While this is understandable because Wade’s football IQ is extremely suspect, there are certain points in the game where the play call isn’t what’s best for the situation at hand. Say you need to go out of bounds to save clock. The coach might call a play to help you, and he might not.
Unlike Road to Glory mode in the college football editions, Longshot wants you to trust the process and not try to challenge the coach in any way, shape, or form. The only time you can “rebel” against the play call is when you scramble out of the pocket. While I understand that Wade isn’t adept at making reads or remembering plays, it’s kind of frustrating when I can’t even tell Cruise to run a slant route instead of curl, and I’ve been playing with him since I was a kid.
You can’t skip stuff.
Because of a number of decisions you have to make, you can’t skip any cut-scenes —even if this is your second time going through the story mode. It doesn’t matter because what happens in the story mode relies on the choices you have made.
There isn’t just one singular ending to this story mode, and your choices will determine which ending occurs. The scenes run long at certain points and save checkpoints aren’t as convenient. There were times when I was scared to quit the game because that would mean that I’d have to listen to the same dialogue again.
I’m probably not going to play it again.
Longshot has very little replay value. Playing this story mode a second time is like when you and your friends don’t putt the ball into the 18th hole at mini golf and play the course again. Yes, you’re still playing mini golf, but you know what to do and what not to do to help your score. It is what it is. Unless you’re one of those people who wants to earn a 10/10 scout grade, you’ll likely be content with the final result the first time you run through it. Unless you tanked it like I did.
I got a 9.9. on my second go-round and I’m pretty content with it.
Longshot is good for what it is. It has a strong plot with a read-and-react style of writing that makes you seem like you’re active and important to the story. While it isn’t perfect, I wasn’t expecting it to be on the first attempt. I entered this game mode with no specific expectations and was surprised with the format, storyline, and plot.
I’m excited to see what Madden will do for the next version if it continues making stories like this.