Madden NFL 19 (PS4)

Two percent of college football players make it to the NFL. High school? 0.09%. Google “NFL dreams” and up come a litany of stories of kids and adults refusing to quit. The NFL relies on a dream for recruitment. One day, that dreamer will escape poverty, play for the Dallas Cowboys, make millions in shoe deals, and buy their mom a house. Kids break themselves trying to get there. They ignore education. Who knows what they do to their bodies to be part of that small percentile.

Madden 19’s story mode, Longshot: Homecoming, a follow-up to Madden 18’s Longshot, does approach this reality. It’s unusual for a league often unwilling to show failure. Colton Cruise is one of those dream-addled kids though. He’s holding out for an NFL roster spot into his mid-20s. Then adulthood happens. Either he lets go of the dream to handle family matters or keeps at it; there’s no in-between for him.

Although riddled by cliches (including a grinning Texas capitalist looking to buy a high school’s land), Cruise’s story does skirt honesty. Most of Madden doesn’t. There’s still Cruise’s counterpart, Devin Wade. He’s aiming for the pros as a Cowboys back-up QB. There’s no failure there. Mess up a touchdown drive and a prompt says to start over. Second, third, fourth chances; whatever it takes, crushing that honesty.

“Football is life,” becomes the mantra as Cruise bides his time coaching a high school team through a turbulent season, putting more emphasis on sport than any school reasonably should. In the end, Longshot: Homecoming is just as gaudy a sports story as any other, ceding to those dream-weary kids. Don’t worry. Football and the NFL have other opportunities beyond the field. Football will always be there, feeding the billionaire owners of its major franchises and selling tickets to those who live vicariously through Tom Brady.

Madden 19 looks the part. It’s every bit the expensive, glossy production expected of the NFL. Attractiveness matters to the league and Madden. Every year is a little fancier, a $60 (or more) marketing opportunity for the real world game, so kids can stay in the football trap, even out of season. Because even if only 1% of them grow up to become superstars, those one percenters make the corporate brand millions. That’s what matters. Football is life, but without money and battered kids who won’t quit, there’s no football.


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