One of my biggest reservations about jumping back into Madden after being away from the series for more than a decade was not knowing anything about football.
Maybe that’s an overstatement. I at least know the basics, like who plays what position and what the rules are. But as far as strategy goes, let’s just say I’m no football Sun Tzu. I can tell the difference between 4-3 and 3-4, but beyond that I’m a total naif.
The first couple of hours I spent with Madden 19 were rough. I was constantly throwing into coverage, reading the routes wrong, and basically just making poor pre-snap decisions that would ultimately set me up for failure. More often than not, I found that scrambling up field was my only reliable course of action.
Before giving up, I decided to check out the game’s practice modes, and lo and behold, my prayers were answered. Among the many skill trainers that Madden 19 offers, there are a few that go beyond simply showing players what the buttons do.
One shows players how to recognize different defensive schemes and counter them with different passing routes. Another does the same for running plays. There are similar trainers for the other side of the ball as well.
This was a revelation. Pretty soon, I was deciding who to throw to before the play even started. I was making pre-snap hot route decisions and connecting on long bombs. I felt like I had control for the first time since starting the game.
Madden opened up a world of possibilities within its own game for a rusty player like myself. Instead of locking the secrets of football behind a secret door, Madden 19 empowered me with knowledge.
I found myself in a similar situation last year with both of the mainstream NBA titles. Not having played either game in a long while, I had to reacquaint myself with basketball. Sure, both titles offer spaces to practice running different plays, but they’re missing a key component: strategy.
When do I run a jungle zip trip? What defensive strategy can I counter with a box up cross? Having this knowledge can allow new or returning players to take to the court with confidence while adding more strategy to games where winning and losing basically boils down to who’s better at manipulating the right stick.
When I play sports games, I want to learn about the sports I’m playing. Madden NFL 19 might not be the perfect game, but at least I know more about football than I did before. Hopefully, NBA Live 19 or NBA 2K19 can similarly teach me what works and what doesn’t when they launch in a few weeks.