Madden 18's new story mode was revealed for the first time at today's EA Play presentation, and it might be the most ambitious mode ever developed for a sports game.
The story EA is calling "Longshot" will effectively comprise an entirely different game, featuring a mix of elements from such disparate sources as Telltale's Walking Dead and Bully. It's so different that EA's Mike Young says it won't feature so much as a down of actual NFL football.
Yes, you read that right. A game that is ostensibly about replicating the NFL will have a mode in which you never play an actual NFL game.
Instead, you will take control of Devin Wade—a college washout trying to to break into the NFL Draft through a regional combine. Wade's story will be told as one complete story with branching dialogue choices, multiple endings, and relationships. It will lack many of the traditional sports sim hallmarks like XP and practice, focusing instead on a more adventure game-like storytelling experience.
"It's definitely a risk, but I didn't want to just follow some formula because I think you ultimately end up with a cliched, boring experience. For people to really care they have to have surprises, they have to really connect to the people, to not just be, 'From Zero to Hero. I'm going to win a Super Bowl.' We've had that," Young told USgamer. "So I hope people will really give it a shot; but so far with our playtesting people really relate to it, and aren't missing that. And I think that it's because they have stuff like the NFL Combine, things they've wanted in Superstar Mode for so long,"
According to Young, Wade's story will begin at an NFL Regional Combine and continue through a wide variety of situations as he and his friend Colt—a Danny Amendola-like wide receiver—try to get drafted.
Some details that Young shared with us:
- There will be multiple endings. Some will see Wade get drafted but not Colt, and there will be some where Wade doesn't get drafted at all. A scouting report will track Wade's decisions on and off the field and offer some insight into his progress.
- Dolphins legend Dan Marino will be Wade's mentor, and familiar faces like Chad Johnson (formerly Chad Ochocinco) and Bill Cowher will appear as well. In that regard Young says that it will make players feel like they're part of the NFL in a new and interesting way.
- There will be a classroom setting where Wade learns about different formations, which is where the comparisons to Bully come in. Young hopes that it will help to stealthily teach new players the basics of the game and get them to a place where they can call plays without feeling intimidated.
- There will (of course) be a strong Ultimate Team tie-in. You will begin unlocking cards as early as 15 minutes in, including legends like Marino and Ochocinco. Wade's father will also be available as a coach.
- Longshot will mix in high school football sequences with different commentators, a different audio mix, cheerleaders, and everything else you expect from Texas high school football. It's here that players will be able to take control of Wade and actually be able to play a bit of football.
- The Combine sequences will feature minigames, 7v7 football, quicktime events, and special passing mechanics that are based on new mechanics from elsewhere in the game.
- The classic Connected Franchise Mode where you can create your own player and play through a career will continue to exist separately from Longshot.
- Young is billing Longshot as an origin story; and depending on the fan reaction to Colt and Devin Wade, there may be additional episodes and seasons available as DLC.
I was able to speak with Young at length about his plans for Longshot, and you can read the full text of the interview here. It includes lots more details, including how Longshot came to be and its relationship to FIFA's The Journey, which debuted last year.
For sports games this is a bold step in an uncertain direction. NBA 2K and FIFA have both featured story modes in the past, but they've been mostly focused on the core gameplay on the court and the pitch. Madden is trying something different, which could either be very good or very, very bad. But at the very least, it will be interesting.
Madden 18 will be out August 25. Check out our complete listing of everything we know for more info.