Madden 18’s Longshot: A Fresh Approach To Sports Gaming Storytelling

Josh Challies

EA Sports has worked hard to restructure their games in recent years, but Madden 18’s ‘Longshot’ mode takes them one-step further, despite the fact this isn’t exactly new territory for their franchised games.

FIFA 18’s “The Journey” earned plenty of plaudits last season for its cinematic approach, yet many were left a little uninspired. Fans of the series struggled to connect and empathise with Alex Hunter, sustaining a detachment from the game rather than living out ‘their’ story.

“Longshot” is different. As a player, Devin Wade feels like my character, even if thousands of other gamers are to experience a similar journey.

In the opening scenes, the protagonist has already made an immediate impression and the story has all the elements required to keep the player hooked – a far cry from the standard zero to hero story that you’d expect.

There’s no meteoric rise, the end goal is the NFL Draft rather than the Superbowl itself, echoing the more-relatable narrative of Netflix’s “Last Chance U”. It’s the grassroots connections that immediately engage players with the story.

From singing along to Hannah Montana to physics-defying, slow motion throws, that pick off the perfect pass, players get a chance to live out Wade’s journey.

The story teaches a player, who may know nothing about football, some details about the game – that accessibility is key.

The game similarly addresses some core aspects of modern sport. In a world driven by social media and it’s a highly critical environment, a bad match for a player can lead to many fans and some within the media writing them off completely. Longshot highlights the potential behind the scenes effects, where fans may typically only focus on what we see for a couple of hours every weekend.

This is where the future of sports gaming comes in. So far, we’ve had simulation or arcade, there’s not really been a middle ground. If you’re a new player, you’re thrown straight into the deep end and heaven help you if your first encounter with a sports game is over at your mates house, because they’ll probably tear you apart and won’t help you. You need a way in and Longshot provides just that.

With an immersive story driven approach, it’s the perfect way in for a new fan. For the experienced Madden player, it’s a different pie to sink your teeth into and there’s a high chance you’ll end up hooked like me. It’s a good time to be a sports gamer and things will only get better.

For now, the story is about Devin Wade. EA’s use of the Frostbite engine allows them to create the ideal story about this created character. In a couple of years time, customisation options mean there’s a high likelihood you’ll have your own journey with your own player.

It remains to be seen just how different each player’s journey will be in Longshot, but the fact it doesn’t feel as scripted as The Journey did on FIFA last year is significant. Regardless of whether my friends made the same choices I did, it feels that little bit different.

It’s unclear exactly where Wade’s story is heading, yet it’s driving me forward to find out. It’s the sort addiction that sports games have lacked in the past when compared to some of the larger titles; a new dimension that could open doors for the Madden franchise.

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