At this juncture, Madden is really less of a game than an institution. You generally know what you’re going to get from a Madden game, for good or for ill. That’s not always a bad thing, of course, but it can be a little stifling for those who want a more innovative football game. Since Madden really is the only option available at this point for gamers, it’s natural to want the series to make a few improvements every year. Even though Madden 19 is a thoroughly solid game, there’s clearly a lot of room for changes in the future.
Madden 19 is probably the most ‘Madden’ that the game has been in a very long time. There are some real improvements made with this iteration – Real Player Motion, for example, absolutely breathes new (if imperfect) life into the running game – but what you’re really getting from the game is small improvements over the old formula. Ultimate Team is around, but without the contract system and with a new solo battle mode. Franchise is still around, but now you have a few extra options and some interesting bells and whistles. There’s not a lot that’s really new here, and that’s absolutely fine with many players.
The only place in which Madden 19 stumbles is with its story mode. Homecoming is just filler, really, a bit of story tacked onto a game that most people won’t care about. It’s not nearly as good as last year’s story iteration, though the inclusion of the high school football team is nice. This mode seems like an obligatory piece of fluff that used resources that might have been better used elsewhere. If you’re going to start improving Madden, the best place to start is with this mode.
Improving Madden 20
Madden’s 2020 iteration is pretty much a blank slate at this moment, so it’d be nice to see some major overhauls. The story mode from 2019 was the weakest aspect, so that’s where any good overhaul should start. The mode needs to either figure out a way to matter to the game at large or be removed – something as simple as a “Road to the Superbowl” would be much better than a half-baked attempt at drama. Filling the story mode with choices, drama, and better scenarios would go a long way towards making it matter more to players.
The big hope for any Madden game is always going to be that it drops EA’s problematic Frostbite engine. The engine has more or less been forced on every game under the studio’s umbrella, often to disastrous ends. Madden hasn’t suffered as much as some games, but a dedicated football engine would help the game to become something more. While the Real Player Motion isn’t for everyone, it’s actually something that should stick around and be innovated upon – the added sense of weight and momentum for players is something that has been missing in many other versions of the game.
Beyond that, it’d be very nice to see more changes to Ultimate Team and Franchise. Both modes need a little tweaking to become more new-player friendly, with some solid tutorial modes and clearer explanations of what’s going on. Both of these modes are about as good as they are going to get at this point, though, so simply making them a bit more accessible for new players is the best for which one can hope. Little changes can payoff big in video games, though, so be on the lookout for more tweaking to these formats.
Madden 20 is probably going to be more of the same. Expect a new story mode, a few new mechanics, and tweaks to what you’ve already seen before. EA could, though, go big on this one – and that might be the best way to breathe more life into a stagnant franchise.