Five things you need to know about Madden 19 franchise mode

Confirmed for a release date of 10 August, it’s been a promising E3 for Madden 19. Devin Wade and Colt Cruise are back in returning story mode Longshot: Homecoming, and the reveal of Shaquem Griffin’s likeness had an often-cynical community smiling without exception – Griffin is the first one-armed player selected in the NFL draft. However, franchise mode is the meat of the series, and the main point of discussion among that community ahead of Madden 19. 

We’ve repeatedly criticised franchise in recent years for coming across as a development team afterthought, but LA’s big show suggests that the tide may be turning. Below are five reasons why, on the basis of E3, the mode finally has a chance to recapture the magic of its PS2 wonder years. 

QB behaviours make your signal-caller matter

The core of any franchise is your quarterback, and this year team selection at the outset won’t only be critical because of across-the-board attributes – you’ll also want to know your QBs. Developer EA Tiburon insists that it’s put painstaking effort into making signal-callers look and play just like their real-life counterparts.

“We studied hours of film and watched QBs across the league to identify what makes each QB unique in his behaviours and mannerisms before the snap and have begun to reflect that in Madden,” says lead gameplay designer Clint Oldenburg. “Aaron Rodgers adjusts his thigh pad all the time. Patrick Mahomes is very deliberate when making pre-snap adjustments. All of these behaviours will be reflected in Madden 19 on multiple levels, including Contextual (fidgets), Functional (pre-snap adjustments), and Audio (all supported QB’s will have contextually correct on-field wires associated with each signature animation). We are launching with a handful of NFL QBs fully supported and will update more via post-launch updates.”

Playbooks are expanded to include schemes

2K’s ESPN NFL games from the early 2000s are still revered for their usage of realistic offensive and defensive schemes, and this is the year where Madden finally catches up with its long-lost rival. There are 14 in total, report GameInformer. They are:

Offense: Spread, West Coast Zone Run, West Coast Power Run, Vertical Zone Run, Vertical Power Run, Multiple Power Run, Multiple Zone Run, Run and Shoot

Defense: Base 4-3, Multiple 4-3, Base 3-4, Multiple 3-4, Tampa 2, 46

In addition, EA has sought to transform defensive logic within those schemes. On the reworked Tampa 2 coverage, for instance, Oldenburg says: “The primary of focus with Cover 2 was adding new rules and logic for the Middle Read and Vertical Hook defenders. The Middle Read player will now do a much better job of getting to the deep middle of the field to defend against pass routes that cross that area. We also continued the work with our Cloud Flat players in regard to defending hi-lo route concepts and with new press animations.” That may sound complex to the causal player, but it’s a sign that EA is striving to re-engage Madden’s hardcore fans this year.

Custom draft classes are finally coming

I’ve repeatedly used GR to bang the drum about Madden’s need for custom draft classes, and now they’re finally coming. The long-rumoured draft class editor, confirmed as official by EA in the tweet below, is available from week three of each season in franchise mode. As with previous seasons the initial crop of players will be generated by EA, but you can customise every aspect of them; or import one made elsewhere in the community. That means not having to wait until Madden 20 to play as prospects such as Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Houston’s Ed Oliver, with dedicated creators likely to have them ready for you within days – nay, hours – of Madden 19’s release.

Player progression feels more organic

In what’s certain to be a controversial move, you still assign XP to players in order for them to progress, but can no longer specify which attributes are upgraded. Reflecting on previous Madden instalments it’s easy to see the thinking behind that: like in FIFA and NHL online users are obsessed with Speed, and so individual stats would constantly be boosted in that category before any other. 

Now when you apply XP to a player’s ‘archetype’ – the new means of categorising players within their positions – the game decides contextually, but with a degree of randomisation, on which stat goes up. So wide receivers are still more likely to receive Speed upgrades than defensive linemen. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, but should enable balance to be retained in online leagues, which you can understand being a studio priority.

There’s much more depth, including customisable captains

As well as listing the schemes available in franchise mode, Gameinformer’s piece also hones in on smaller details which will delight sticklers for authenticity. For instance, you can now hand-pick your own captains, with their jerseys updating to include the now-traditional captain’s patch when you do. Depth charts have been neatly revised to encompass player-specific roles such as slot receiver, rush defensive end, and sub linebacker. Draft day, meanwhile, has been overhauled to ape its real-life grandness, with your chosen players appearing on stage in front of a bustling crowd. Even more details are expected within the next week, and we’ll have a follow up news story in the coming days covering any not already listed here.

Madden 19 is released for PS4, Xbox One and PC on 10 August. Already pondering your franchise mode roster of choice? Then check out 7 teams we can’t wait to play as in Madden 19.

Ben Wilson

I'm GamesRadar's sports editor, and obsessed with NFL, WWE, MLB, AEW, and occasionally things that don't have a three-letter acronym – such as Chvrches, Bill Bryson, and Streets Of Rage 4. (All the Streets Of Rage games, actually.) Even after three decades I still have a soft spot for Euro Boss on the Amstrad CPC 464+.