Madden 19 is unquestionably geared toward hardcore fans of the series. It goes deep on gameplay, seeks to address issues with franchise mode, and prioritizes eSports wherever possible. It's a sports game designed to keep the faithful happy.
EA's marketing campaign has focused on back of the box jargon like Real Player Motion and Push the Pile, while also promoting the sequel to Longshot and more. But there are plenty of smaller additions that you might have missed. Check out my review of Madden 19, then see what else is on offer in this year's update.
1. No More Target Passing
Let's start with a feature that was removed from this year's version of Madden. Last year, EA introduced a manual passing mechanic geared toward hardcore fans where they aimed a cursor to direct throws. It was meant to give elite Madden players more control, but the extra second spent aiming the pass tended to result in a sack. The awkwardness of the Target Passing made it unpopular with players of all stripes, leading EA to drop the feature for Madden 19. Chalk it up as a failed experiment.
2. Revamped High Point Catch Mechanics
"High pointing" is a key tactic in the NFL that has been inconsistently portayed in Madden. The idea is to toss the ball up to where only a very tall receiver can catch a ball, allowing them to climb the ladder over a defensive back and come down with the catch. This is especially important in the tight quarters of the endzone, where receivers and cornerbacks are forced to battle for space. Holding L1/LB when throwing will trigger a new high point animation that lets you get the ball over the defense for a catch in the back or corner of the endzone. If you're having trouble finding space in the redzone, give it a try.
3. Franchise Mode's Gallery Feature
This is probably my favorite addition to franchise mode. Over the course of a game, Madden will automatically take screengrabs (you can also take them manually through the instant replay feature), which are then collected in a gallery that you can revisit throughout the season. These photos end up appearing everywhere: in-game headlines, on the screen in the coach's office, and even the in-game mode selection menus.
Madden has long struggled with a lack of institutional in-game memory. In the past, completed games basically went down the memory hole, their only record preserved through PS4 screengrabs and stat screens. The gallery feature makes these games feel a little more permanent, giving franchise mode a weight that it has lacked to this point. It's a small addition in the grand scheme of things, but a meaningful one.
4. You Get Lombardi Trophies if You Win the Super Bowl
Speaking of small but meaningful additions, Madden 19 will now show your coach wandering around their office, fiddling with their Microsoft Surface, and watching tape. Eagles fans will notice their shiny new Lombardi Trophy sitting in the background (ugh). Those trophies multiply as you win the Super Bowl, making the office a sort of de facto trophy cabinet. I wish I could say that I expect to see plenty of trophies from the Vikings, but who am I kidding? At least I can still present with Madden.
5. MUT Squads Can be Played Against CPU Opponents
I'm really curious to know how MUT Squads is doing. The revamped co-op mode was introduced last year, and EA has been seemingly extremely keen on trying to make it a thing (likely for eSports purposes). The 3v3 team play mode is definitely interesting, but EA has yet to figure out how to really make it fun to play as any position outside of QB and maybe HB.
Anyway, MUT Squads lets you play against CPU opponents now, making it much easier to gather up a group of friends on a Friday night and earn some rewards. Is it even half as good as what's on offer in NHL and NBA 2K? No, definitely not. But given the limitations that EA has to work with, MUT Squads is good enough.
6. Two New Playable Teams: Madden Elites and Madden Legends
Couch play is a dying art for Madden, but for those who still like to play with their friends, there are two new teams to choose from. Madden Legends features some of the greatest players in history: Dan Marino, Randy Moss, and Lawrence Taylor, just to name a few. On the other side of the field are the likes of Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, and Luke Kuechly.
It's annoying that the legendary players can't be imported into franchise mode, but that doesn't make it less cool to see Dan Marino dueling with Aaron Rodgers. It's a nice addition that has strangely flown under the radar with the release of Madden 19.
7. Solo Battles Offer an Alternative to the Solo Challenge Grind
Madden 19 Ultimate Team introduces Solo Battles, a mode patterned after FIFA 19's Squad Battles. It pits your Ultimate Team against a handful of CPU-controlled opponents. Victory earns you points that send you up a leaderboard, with results tallied at the end of the week. The more you play, the better the rewards.
I found Squad Battles to be a highly addictive and substantial way to earn rewards in FIFA 18, and Madden 19 is much the same. It does its part to liven up the often monotonous solo grind while offering some choice rewards. It's a great addition to MUT.
8. A Revamped Halftime Show
NFL 2K5 remains the gold standard for halftime shows in a football video game. It even features an in-game Chris Berman, complete with nicknames like "Starvin' Marvin" Harrison (boy isn't that awkward in light of what we know about Marvin Harrison now).
For whatever reason, Madden has never quite reached the level attained by ESPN NFL 2K5, and that remains true in Madden 19. But there's no denying that Madden's opening and halftime show is better than it's ever been.
If you care to stop and watch, the new halftime show takes you to games around to country with stats, score updates, and commentary. You won't see any nifty highlights, but you will get a feel for what's happening in the league, which helps to make the game feel like it's part of a full slate of NFL games. Franchise mode, and Madden 19 as a whole, is built around these sorts of understated additions.
There's a lot more to find in Madden 19, but these are the additions that jumped out a me. Wondering where to find Madden 19 money plays or the best playbooks? Head on over to our Madden 19 guides and take a look.