After a decade of waiting, the Madden franchise has finally returned to PC with Madden NFL 19. It may not be as popular in Europe as it is in the US, but it seems to be catching on in the UK and other European countries. American football is like a brutally played game of chess, it's why coaches and staff are often caught recording coaching signals and so on. It is much more strategic than FIFA, and in Madden 19 far more challenging Madden games used to be. This is a straight-up port from consoles so don't expect any amazing PC bells and whistles.
I'll be upfront and say this review is from the perspective of a PC gamer who's been without Madden for the last ten years. No doubt a lot's changed with each iteration between now and then, but I'm coming at this in terms of the leap Madden has made in the past decade.
At its core, Madden 19 feels like every other Madden. It is, after all, yet another game about American football. However, with Madden 19 EA Sports has changed quite a few things. First of all, passes can be thrown through five different means: low pass, high pass, lob pass, bullet pass and half speed. It used to be either lob or bullet yonks ago when it was last on PC. Catching is now also a bit different as you can either receive a ball, catch it and keep going, or aggressively catch it, wherein you catch it and don't land on your feet. Both have their uses and make the game fairly different from the Madden of yore. The movement is very realistic and it's not as easy as it used to be, it's all very FIFA-esque. The ease of previous Madden franchise games is officially gone while playing in Simulation, replicating the feel of real NFL rules and regulations. As per usual Madden games, there are also Franchise and Exhibition modes.
Franchise gets you to play as either coach, individual player or general manager. You can still control the team to your choosing for each game. Exhibition is just quick play, practice or training. New for us on PC but not Madden 18 users is MUT,or Madden Ultimate Team. This is incredibly similar to what FIFA's had for a few years now, FIFA Ultimate Team. For all those who have played FIFA it should be easy to pick up and play through. Simply create an entire team through buying and earning new players to get your ranking up, playing against either AI or PvP against other Ultimate Team squads. Do not expect this to be easy; you must know at least a bit about American football to do this, the same way as you would in FIFA. There are quite a few more positions in American Football, sometimes requiring two or three players for a single position, players are often rotated, and don't play every single play.
Also new for Madden 19 (and again Madden 18 for console owners), is something called Longshot, again exactly the same idea as The Journey in FIFA. In Longshot, players step into the pristine boots of a young football player rising up through the ranks with some flashbacks to his younger days. There is, however, a very unfortunate downside to PC owners getting Longshot Homecoming (the sequel to Longshot in Madden 18). We've missed out on last year's story so we're forced to hop into the second year of his career. Fortunatel it's not too hard to figure out the story and it's quite enjoyable to play and even earn you some rewards for your Ultimate Team. It would've been nice if there was maybe a tiny bit of a recap of the last one as PC gamers have kind of been thrown to the dogs with this aspect.
Graphically, Madden 19 is indeed a port from consoles to PC. The visuals when playing Madden 19 show clear signs of its heritage as a console port, especially when on the field. However, the cut scenes and during the huddle scenes before and after a play look fairly amazing; the sparkle of the metallic paint on the helmets shines through, no problem.
In terms of performance, this is where it becomes interesting. In ultrawide 2560x1080 on Ultra with FXAA enabled, the cutscenes are very taxing. With my AMD Radeon Vega 64 and Ryzen 7 2700X rig, I can see the FPS dip below 50fps during some cutscenes and huddles while picking a play. It does not affect gameplay but should be taken into consideration, especially during some Homecoming cutscenes where it can dip even lower. Luckily being a PC game there are a long list of options including running the game in either DX11 or DX12. Gameplay can be locked to 30, 60 or unlocked frame rate, while the AMD frame rate cap seems to work fine in Madden.
AMD has a game ready driver for Madden 19 while, as of August 14th, Nvidia does not. The AMD drivers seem to help during gameplay. However, when the detail pops during a huddle or after a play, when there is a lot of player detail, the frame rate can drop dramatically. Keeping a locked 30/60fps average on ultra for most people shouldn't be a problem, although some tweaking may be necessary. The good news is Madden 19 is very smooth when it comes to the gameplay. Some cutscenes and movies in Homecoming are a bit stuttery and laggy but overall it runs decently on Frostbite 3. There is some character glitching in some situations and after play. Again, perhaps symptomatic of a console port. It's a shame because the cutscene visuals are fantastic.
The audio in the game is fantastic, from the bone-crunching hits to the audible calls from the quarterbacks. Playing as the Patriots I could absolutely tell the voice difference between Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer, it's progressed quite a lot in the past decade. The audio can be adjusted as like any other game with SFX, Crowd Volume, Commentary Volume and so on. There is one very annoying and glaring issue though, and one it's surprising to see has made it through to the full game - voice chat seems to always be on when playing online with a friend. I tried muting it in Origin to no avail. It's just on at all times. When using Discord or other voice software, it ends up being a very annoying echo. It's disappointing to see an oversight such as this make it through.
One quick graphical word of caution. Madden NFL 19 seems to play much smoother locked at 60fps. Anything above that seems to cause some serious jitter/TruMotion type effect, almost to a ghosting level. As of now for those who own the game or plan on buying it, the recommendation is to lock it at 60fps.
Madden 19 is something PC users have been waiting for since Madden 08 came out in 2007. Sorry MacOS users, Madden 19 still isn't available for MacOS, unfortunately. What may be shocking to some of us (mostly the Europeans), is that the Madden Franchise has been around longer than the FIFA Franchise. That's right, American football has been a game much longer then FIFA has. I do believe though that FIFA has evolved much more then Madden has over the years, and this can be reflected in the sales figures as well. In Europe, FIFA dominates the sales, but in the US that honor goes to Madden.
Was it worth the wait? It's a bit of a mixed feeling on this one. Unfortunately, it's the only option for people who have a PC and want to play Madden. The game runs beautifully but the few glitches/bugs that exist are something that should've been fixed, especially for players are forking out 80$ for the Hall of Fame Edition. The game is very fun with lots to do, especially in Ultimate Team, or online if you can track down a similarly-minded gaming buddy. American football, unfortunately, isn't like FIFA wherein you can just pick up a controller and play. Everyone has some knowledge of football; American football is a different beast altogether. Between the offensive plays and defensive plays, and reading the other players line, it's quite difficult, but also incredibly enjoyable when you get it right.
For those who enjoy Madden, I think it's definitely worth a buy over the console versions, particularly if EA Sports can fix the jittery over-60fps gameplay. Most of us like the flexibility that PC gaming offers just in the options alone. Once the few bugs are ironed out (including Madden having issues connecting to EA servers, repeatedly), I think the game will be absolutely brilliant. They have made a great attempt at a comeback on PC, it just ends up being marred by some minor glitches which can prove immensely frustrating.