Two releases are a certainty in EA's release schedule each year - a new 'FIFA' title and a new installment in the 'Madden NFL' series.

Madden NFL 18

Madden NFL 18

When the company released 'John Madden Football' in 1990 - it's second Madden game - on the Sega Mega Drive, and then later on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, it was able to do something that no one else had been able to do before, create a realistic and fun console recreation of American football which could even be enjoyed by casual followers of the complex sport and also by non-fans.

Now, 27 years later each installment has improved on graphics, gameplay, tactics, sound and realism culminating in last year's near-perfect 'Madden NFL 17'.

The question to be asked of the just-released 'Madden NFL 18' is how can you improve a game that was so good?

The answer comes from its sports simulation running mate, last year's 'FIFA 17'.

Players of the sublime soccer title got a mode that had not been seen in the series before, nor in any computer recreation of the beautiful game - The Journey.

You got to take control of 17-year-old player Alex Hunter and after picking his team and his position you then had to guide him to footballing greatness over the course of a full Premier League season.

The mode borrowed heavily the story of heavyweight hopeful Andre Bishop in 2011 boxing game 'Fight Night Champion' and rightly was praised for providing a cinematic-style experience which encouraged gamers to become invested in Hunter and the path he was on, as well as providing the usual fantastic gameplay.

Hunter is, of course, back in the soon-to-be released 'FIFA 18' for The Journey: Hunter Returns and thankfully the makers of 'Madden 18' took notice of the mode's popularity because the NFL sim now has its own story.

Longshot puts you in charge of Devin Wade, a young player desperate to make it in the National Football League.

Wade's backstory has all the hallmarks of Hollywood movie; he's the star high school player from his small Texas town, but he is left no choice but to quit his college team after a family tragedy and it's up to you to guide him through his return to the sport.

Just like The Journey - and it must be said the fantastic Telltale point-and-click games - the decisions you make for Wade, both on and off the field, affect his destiny and depending on what choices you make there are multiple endings. And there is much to think about when it comes to how your decisions will influence Wade's best friend Colt Cruise.

Wade gets his chance to go pro thanks to a reality TV show titled 'Longshot' which is run by a ratings obsessed producer, who veers into cartoon villain territory.

Although some of the reality moments fall a little flat, the flashback cut-scenes to Wade's time at high school and then college and recreation of those matches definitely do not and deserve a special mention as they are heavy on emotion and interestingly explore the idea that sport can mean something much bigger to a community and to a person and drive you on to get Wade to the league.

EA's first attempt at a story mode in 'Madden' is definite success and lays the foundations for it to carry one next year and beyond.

And once you've complete Longshot there's still a brilliant Frostbite-powered American football game to play over and over again.

There isn't a huge shift from the gameplay that featured in last year's installment - although the new mechanic which allows you can dictate precisely where you want the quarterback to throw the ball is very welcome and although the technique is very hard to master once you do the defending team's interceptions will plummet.

After Longshot the next go-to game mode has to be Ultimate Team. Who can resist the lure of creating their own playable fantasy football team and the mode goes deeper than ever before. You will also be able to get your hand son player cards for the 'Longshot' characters, including Devin Wade and Colt Cruise, and if you create a 'Longshot'-heavy team you will get the chance to take on 30 challenges.

Multiplayer has been improved so that you can participate in co-op play with one person taking on responsibility as as the offensive captain, another acting as the defensive captain and one more playing as the coach.

So the ultimate question is should you go out and buy 'Madden NFL 18'?

Well if you're an American football fan and a gamer then you'll probably be buying it anyway and you won't be disappointed, it's a touchdown of a sports game

And for gamers who may not rush out for the annual NFL extravaganza then 'Longshot' should be the reason why you step onto the pixelated pitch. Just keep those tissues handy for Wade's tale...

'Madden NFL 18' is available now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Rating: 4.5/5

By Philip Hamilton.