Many of the EA sports games have come out every year, with me casually picking them up once in a blue moon because knowing another one would come out next year removed any urgency. Then along comes Madden NFL 17 with Longshot mode, a campaign that popped that game right at the top of my anticipated list. With Madden NFL 18 we have Longshot: Homecoming continuing the story we enjoyed in the first Longshot.
First things first, if you haven’t played Longshot from last year’s game, I highly recommend you go back. It was a fun popcorn munching adventure that follows a couple of guys as they try to get into the NFL through a gameshow. It wasn’t the perfect game, but even the most casual sports fans should enjoy its light hearted, feel good story using your choices and dabbles of Madden gameplay along the ride.
Longshot: Homecoming picks up a little while later, Devon is still in the NFL, but fighting for his position, and Cole is still waiting for his chance to succeed. Cole hasn’t been only training though, he has also had a small music career thanks to a hit song aptly named “Longshot”. Trying to make ends meet as a struggling musician, hoping to make it back into the NFL, Cole finds himself with a half sister being landed in his life thanks to a deadbeat father dropping her off.
The game switches between the two, jumping from Cole reminiscing as a Bullfrogs player, and helping to coach the current Bullfrogs team, to Devon trying to make his plays to retain his position as a player in the Cowboys team. This works well in a weird way, as the strategies and skill levels of your opposition switches around keeping you on your toes.
This does bring forward the first issue I hit as the most causal of fans. If like myself, you haven’t played since last year after beating the campaign, and a week of playing other modes, then you will have a little uphill battle remembering how to play. There was no tutorial in the story mode, so it took some fumbling before how to play clicked back into my mind. This is a thing that would impact a small minority of us, so if anything, I recommend jamming some matches in the many other modes first, to avoid this frustration.
The real issue that the story has, is it isn’t long enough. Not to say that a story mode must be long, but there are regular story beats that are clearly pointed to have an emotional impact that doesn’t hit that hard, which is simply because they don’t spend enough time on it. The mode doesn’t make it concise but powerful like a 90-minute movie can and doesn’t have enough time to have long arching emotional journeys like a TV show, or a longer game. Instead you wind up in the middle where what they are trying to make you feel is clear, you don’t have enough investment.
The other major issue, which likely contributes to its length not hitting home as hard, is you don’t have the choices you made in the first Longshot. The first story had you making decisions on dialogue regularly, this had a huge impact on your investment in the story and your characters, but there is next to no opportunities like that in Longshot: Homecoming. Instead you spend most of your time watching the cut scenes or playing football.
I won’t touch on the other elements of the game, because I don’t know enough about it, and its improvements on the series or genre. If you haven’t played Madden for a while, there is so much fun to be had from playing seasons through to the ultimate Team mode, if you do play regularly, this review won’t help you know if it’s a worthwhile upgrade.
But if you are tossing up checking out Madden NFL 18 for Longshot: Homecoming like I was, it is worth your time. The first one is crucial to the enjoyment of this story, and a better game if I’m being honest, but it does wrap some nice character arcs up, and is a worthy second chapter. It’s not much more than that.