The 2017 NFL season doesn't kick off until September 7, but anyone with a hankering for pro football and a games console can get more than a sneak peek of the action this week. On August 25, EA Sports' Madden 18 will be available worldwide, with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gracing the cover.
If you pre-order the game's "G.O.A.T" edition, you will get to start mashing buttons on August 22. And if you are an EA Access customer, you've probably been at it since August 17, when the 10-hour Play First trial went live.
Whenever you first fire up Madden 18, you'll find fresh ratings for every player—rookies included—along with a brand-new Long shot mode, wherein you follow a player on his path to NFL stardom.
Before we delve too deeply into the game's other details, let's have a look at the 20 highest-rated players heading into launch day.
Top 20 Overall Players
- Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots, 99
- Aaron Donald, RE, Los Angeles Rams, 99
- Von Miller, LOLB, Denver Broncos, 99
- Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots, 98
- Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons, 98
- Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers, 98
- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, 98
- J.J. Watt, LE, Houston Texans, 98
- Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers, 97
- Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers, 97
- Khalil Mack, LOLB, Oakland Raiders, 97
- Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons, 96
- Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens, 96
- Kam Chancellor, SS, Seattle Seahawks, 95
- Brandon Graham, LE, Philadelphia Eagles, 95
- Zack Martin, RG, Dallas Cowboys, 95
- Trent Williams, LT, Washington Redskins, 95
- Eric Berry, CB, Kansas City Chiefs, 94
- A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals, 94
- Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos, 94
It should come as no surprise to see Brady with a perfect rating of 99. Even at 40, he remains one of the game's preeminent signal-callers—which he made abundantly clear in leading the Patriots' epic comeback against the Falcons in this year's Super Bowl.
It's no shock, either, to see Gronkowski as the top-rated tight end. He graced the cover of Madden 17 and, when healthy, is a force to be reckoned with at his position.
Madden 18 Modes Preview
Long shot is Madden's first crack at bringing a story mode to the franchise. You'll follow the tale of Devin Wade, a former 5-star high school recruit, played by J.R. Lemon, who's looking to make his mark in the NFL draft after three years away from football.
The story also features appearances from Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights), Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight).
The mode itself is essentially a playable movie. You'll help Devin decide what to say and do in certain situations. When the story flashes back to his high school and college games, you'll get to control what he does and to whom he throws. You won't, however, be able to change plays, call timeouts or switch players in and out.
What you say and do as Devin affects the story arc. There are three different endings in Long shot mode, with fixed save points along the way if you can't or don't want to complete the whole story in one sitting.
Just don't expect to play any NFL games in Long shot. The story follows Devin up until draft day. The good news is, finishing Long shot unlocks rewards that transfer into Ultimate Team mode.
In Madden Ultimate Team, you will now be able to join forces with friends in three-on-three online play. You will still collect players past and present to build your lineup and upgrade your squad through solo challenges, auctions and collections. Once online, though, you'll get to combine your roster with those of two friends and split into three different roles: offensive captain, defensive captain and head coach.
As offensive captain, you're in control of lineups, play calls, audibles and adjustments for offense and special teams while manning quarterback. If you play as the defensive captain, you'll take the wheel of the defense, from setting the lineup and the playbook to calling audibles on the field and switching between defensive players as you please. The head coach will focus on clock management, stadiums and uniforms, they and can operate any player on offense or defense that isn't already controlled by either captain.
Madden has featured online co-op play before, but the return of the experience through Ultimate Team should add an exciting twist to this years' edition.
Play Now LIVE
Play Now LIVE allows you to follow along with the actual NFL season and playoffs as they are happening. Each week, Play Now LIVE updates stats, rosters and commentary to keep things current, with new matchups posted.
After each Play Now LIVE matchup, you will have the option of continuing through a simple season or playing a full-control season from that point on.
In Madden 18, you will get to choose between three new game styles: Arcade, Simulation and Competitive.
Arcade delivers a fast-paced, action-packed style of play that appeals to the casual gamer. Whichever player you decide to be becomes the most powerful figure on the field. Penalties are reduced, with big plays and high scores taking precedent.
Simulation offers a more realistic recreation of the NFL game. Penalties, injuries and other oddities are all par for the course in Simulation. Player and team ratings are taken more seriously, as are the rules themselves. If you're a hardcore football fan who lives for the details—or you're just playing connected franchise mode in default—this is the style for you.
Competitive is geared toward head-to-head and tournament play. Penalties are reduced, random outcomes almost erased entirely and injuries are eliminated, thereby allowing you to focus on the mechanics of the game and situations that arise therein. This is the default style for EA's competitive events and online game modes.
Coaching Adjustments and Target Passing
For Madden 18, EA Sports brings its popular Coaching Adjustments feature from its NCAA Football games to its NFL franchise. You'll get to dig deep into how you want your team AI to operate, from pass rushes and cornerback matchups to blocking and pass catching.
With Target Passing, you will be able to throw the ball to wherever and whomever you want, open or defended, with greater control and precision. Like a real NFL quarterback, you can visualize where the ball will go before you release it, lead receivers with throws out ahead of them, drop the ball into tight spots and hit your preferred before a cut amid defensive pressure.
Both features figure to make game play that much more realistic while giving you the power to tweak things as you please.