Madden 18 CFM -The Annual Dumpster Fire Keeps Burning

With almost two months to go before Madden 18 graces us with another year of incremental updates we are starting to get a similar message about Franchise Mode (CFM).  Sports games have moved more and more towards the micro-transaction over the last few years.  It makes sense from a business perspective, but in terms of actual improvement and innovation of the game itself – no so much.


It turns out that Franchise Mode is once again more or less on the back burner.  At this point, it is safe to say that it’s actually in the microwave and waiting to be heated up again as a left-over from a few days ago. 

Sports games have all decided that they want to move in a direction of Story Mode rather than any sort of immersive Franchise Mode experience.  This is great for the YouTubers out there that seem to make their money from their over-the-top internet ‘personalities’ and gameplay videos.  I guess it is a matter of taste, but they don’t do much for me when I am trying to play my own game.  Maybe we live in a more vicarious gaming world than I thought.

No matter how you slice it, Madden has moved towards completely focusing on two modes in particular this year.  They are banking on the Longshot Mode to be their saving grace in offline experience.  As usual, they are going to bring all of their post-release cash grabbing from Ultimate Team.  I see this as the continuation of sports gaming’s innovation decline more than anything else.  I don’t post much about MUT or any online sports gaming experience because it’s tiresome and really takes away any sort of gaming immersion. 

Franchise Mode announcements have come and gone.  The primary aspects of change that have been announced are that they have introduced MVP chatter into the commentary as well as new quick entrances and fireworks in the stadiums that we will continue to hold the X or A button to skip through.  The developers in charge of this mode seem to believe that CFM needs more visual bells and whistles than actual immersion in the guts of running a team on the management level.

One of the things that really killed my experience in Madden 17 CFM was a combination of the XP System and terrible Defensive AI (especially with DBs and WRs).  One of the easiest things to do after leveling up during the first season or two is increasing your WR’s Separation ability along with a few other mechanics.  I did this with Corey Coleman and managed to not only turn him into an unstoppable force, but also made RG3 into one of the best QB’s of all time.  All that needed to happen was for the CB on Coleman to play him in a Man To Man Press (up close to the line of scrimmage).  Coleman has great speed and acceleration already.  By the time I finished building his separation and strength attributes in 2016 all I had to do was call a hot route in 2017 if he was being pressed.  Even with safety help, he would burn the opposing team for a huge TD on a fly route over 60% of the time. 

The results?

I built my team into an absolute juggernaut on both sides of the ball.  The fact that I could score 70 points a game on All Madden without blinking made the entire experience feel as disposable as the developers seem to believe it is. 

That said…

One of the aspects about Madden 17 that I really enjoyed was feeling like I could play defense most of the time.  This took a lot of slider adjustments and house rules (including a ‘no switch’ rule).  The no switch rule will actually improve how your defense plays through the game.  Why?  Because your AI players will stick to their assignments for the most part if you stay with one player during each play.  The AI will start to break down as soon as you switch players at the wrong moment.  This includes run plays especially as your entire defensive squad will essentially be rendered useless and the CPU will break off a big run most of the time if you have to switch to the other side of the field to defend against a run.  (You are actually better off trying to run with the original player than to switch to the closest defender on CPU run plays to the opposite side.  It doesn’t make sense, but then again… neither does Madden.)

Madden 18 won’t have editing for Draft Classes.  It will have the same relocation mode, but no expansion options.  CFM also won’t have any real changes to the injury system other than supposedly including off-ball injuries.  It seems like Franchise Mode effectively died after Madden 2005.  With the PS3/360 consoles bringing high speed online gaming to the forefront of almost every gaming experience it’s really no wonder that this mode has lost so much momentum if not gone backwards a few steps over the last decade-plus.

This genuinely feels like a Madden CFM experience that most would be better to wait on for a purchase rather than buying on release day. 

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E3 Is Dead – Long Live Corporate Prosaicism

As we move past E3 2017 and into the second half of the year it is starting to feel more and more like gamers are reaching a similar jaded point to movie-goers.  Then again, maybe it’s the other way around – take a look at the box office numbers for a majority of movies anymore and you will see a similar downward spiral.

No matter how you look at it, the state of video games is still strong.  I feel like the trend of indie games has finally hit a downslope as there isn’t much out there that I am hearing about to make me think of some of the big hits we experienced a few years ago.

E3 came and went without giving me much pause this year.  The Xbox One X doesn’t impress me any more than the Nintendo Switch does with portable controllers.  It’s just a lot of ‘meh’ when it comes to my needs and general taste as a gamer.  Maybe it’s because I am a bit more difficult to impress as I get older.

The few games I am looking forward to that were either covered at E3 or are simply coming out soon are:

Shadow of the Colossus –

This was one of my favorite titles on PS2.  I fought the urge to buy it on PS3 simply because I didn’t have a lot invested in the system or my game library.  SotC was one of the most beautiful games I had played simply because it felt like I was walking through a misty dreamscape the entire time.  The idea that a world was there with giant bosses to hunt down and figure out on the fly made it all the more intriguing.

Wolfenstein 2 – The New Colossus (yes, another use of the word ‘colossus’) –

The New Order truly surprised me from a story perspective.  It included a lot of humor and some unsettling circumstances that made it fun to kill Nazi’s again (it doesn’t actually get old).  Wolfenstein was announced by Bethesda while they didn’t announce anything for a new Elder Scrolls game that wasn’t MMO related or money grab related with their newname for a paid mod system.  Wolfenstein looks like another game that will be fun as hell to play through.  My only wish is that it had some sort of multiplayer along the lines of the old PC game ‘Return To Castle Wolfenstein’.

Call of Duty – WWII –

I can’t help but find myself excited to play through this campaign.  Why?  Because there aren’t going to be stupid booster jumps and wall running.  There won’t be any sort of futuristic guns that can somehow shoot plasma charges or whatever the hell they have been doing since Advanced Warfare.  The multiplayer in COD has taken a back seat for me over the last few years.  Now that I have more important things to take care of or spend time doing, I really don’t care about my place on leaderboards.  I probably won’t buy this on day one, but I will certainly give it a try.

Crash Bandicoot – N Sane Trilogy –

My brother and I used to play the Crash Bandicoot all the time as kids on our PS1.  This game really has my nostalgia more than anything.  I think it might be something I wait to buy for some time simply because there isn’t anything ‘time sensitive’ about this game in my opinion.

 

I am on the fence with one of my annual purchases…

Madden 18 – Of the many things I am hoping for, it is the continued improvement of Connected Franchise Mode.  There are so many parts of the Madden experience that can be improved for fans of franchise mode that I find myself on the fence when it comes to disappointment or content with the progress.  The new cinematic mode ‘Longshot’ seems to be playing at the desires of Youtubers and their ilk.  I must say, it looked somewhat interesting, but if I want to play a story game I am going to stick with legit RPG’s and such.  Madden needs to stick to what it is trying to do the best – and that is making a strong simulation football game.  If you want to be honest about sports games at this point you will see that they are turning into microtransaction machines for their Ultimate Team modes far more than improving the actual game.  I can’t really blame them for bending to the whims of their corporate masters.  I can speak with my wallet and to that end, I have been siding with the growing numbers of people that wait to play these games until they come down in price or get them on eBay just to keep the money out of the publishers hand a bit more.

The other aspect of Madden that has all but turned me off completely is the community that EA Tiburon has generally focused on over the last few years.  I refuse to give these guys any sort of shout out or publicity – suffice to say that they all generally gather in a specific online sports gaming forum, run YouTube Channels, are a part of the ‘Game Changers’, live on Twitter, or a mix of all of those things. They seem to think they are experts when it comes to the game of football.  They also seem to grovel at the feet of EA Sports.  They will occasionally say something to make a point of false contention, but in the end – they are in this for their own motivations and have no reason to bite the hand that feeds them (monetarily, with free games, extra access, etc.).

Obviously this criticism comes off as me either being a hater or some sort of jealousy.  I am actually proof reading what I type down and try to remain honest and critical when it comes to my work as well.  My real beef with the Madden community is that it isn’t a functional community anymore.  The YouTube crowd and Madden Tournament crowd has destroyed this community.  The idea that there is almost literally no other football game for anyone to play goes further in destroying the community in terms of feedback, conversation, and synergy.  The ongoing monopoly is hampering creativity with Madden as well as MLB The Show.  When these games both have to copy the style of NBA 2K in order to bring something new to their games it would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.