A year ago our very own Santino Filoso wrote a review of an independent Canadian football game called Canadian Football 2017. In it Santino talked about how the game was fun, but flawed.
Fast forward a year and Canadian Football 2017 has become Maximum Football 2018 and has finally hit the PlayStation 4 (last year’s game was an Xbox and PC exclusive, meaning gamers such as myself who are #TeamPS4 were left in the dust).
We must, of course, preface any and all criticism with the fact that this is a game created by an independent company based out of Peterborough, Canuck Play. This game did not have the budget of an EA Sports or 2k Studios title and so it is unfair to judge it against those titles. The fact that this game even exists is a minor miracle and if you are just looking to be able to play a video game on your console with Canadian rules in Canadian stadia with Canadian teams, then this is your only option and while the game has its flaws, it is also really fun to play.
Let’s start with the positives, and the biggest one for me is the customization of the game. While it should be obvious that you won’t get CFL team names or CFL players in the game (due to the game not being licensed by the CFL or CFLPA), you can customize team names and player names. So if you wanted to make the Ottawa Lumberjacks the Ottawa Redblacks or change Winnipeg’s starting quarterback’s name to Matt Nichols, you are free to do so. I am the guy who would get the old NCAA football games and edit the rosters so that the players had the correct names, so being able to do that here is a big plus for me. I’ll probably end up spending an inordinate amount of time editing each roster to get the actual player names in the game — the teams is another thing, but a logo editor is apparently coming soon and if we can get the actual CFL logos in the game somehow that will really kick this up a notch —and I doubt I’ll be the only one.
Secondly, the stadia look pitch perfect. I played games in Hamilton, Ottawa and Edmonton and the resemblances to Tim Hortons Field, TD Place and Commonwealth Stadium, respectively, are remarkable. I’m a fan of the little things, and stuff like the places you play looking like the places you watch games adds that bit of authenticity that makes it just a little more fun to play.
Returning kicks and punts can be frustrating in Madden, but in this game it is really fun. You usually get off big returns, which is not commonplace in Madden (or at least it wasn’t; I haven’t purchased a Madden game since 2009). I also induced a no-yards flag on one return, which was just cool to see, but the fact that you routinely return kicks 20 and 30 yards, I even almost took one to the house, makes the game a little more enjoyable.
The kicking game, however, is as frustrating as the return game is fun. This is probably the area that needs the most work. You don’t really know how hard the ball is being kicked, so every field goal or extra point attempt feels like luck. I played three games and did not connect on a single field goal and my kickoffs were often short while my punts did not seem to get any air under them. Maybe my issues here will change after I play the game more but there is no need to make this aspect of the game to be so difficult, even for a novice player. Adding something as small as a kicking metre would make things so much better, but unfortunately, that does not exist in Maximum Football 2018.
On offence, things run rather smoothly. It does seem random whether a player does or doesn’t catch a pass, but that’s probably my only real complaint about the offence. The waggle is there and there is no denying that sending players in motion prior to the snap of the ball is just cool to see. There was one glitch I saw on offence and that was when I played Edmonton. The opposing QB fell to the ground without being touched and threw the ball from a supine position. It was weird. But when you are on offence is when the game is the most fun (which is probably no surprise).
The 20-second play clock is a little hard to get used to. It is fast and I felt rushed to select a play, which made me usually stick with the first couple plays in the playbook. There are options to have a 30- or 40-second clock (or even turn the clock off altogether) and while it will make the game less authentic, it will probably make it more fun to play. You simply don’t have enough time to look through your plays, pick one, scan the defence and read the routes, and put players in motion in 20 seconds. Unless you want to run the same plays over and over — and where is the fun in that? — it seems like using a longer play clock is the way to go.
Playing on defence is not as fun as playing on offence, but that’s the case with almost any football video game. Generating a pass rush from a lineman is nearly impossible, and since I like to play as one of the big men, that was frustrating. Over the years the Madden games have added swim moves and bullrushes to make playing as a lineman more fun; this game has none of that. You can play as a linebacker, but unless he is blitzing, good luck. Trying to cover someone is nearly impossible, but that’s not a Maximum Football 2018 issue as much as it is a football video game issue. You don’t want to play as a defensive back. But playing defence isn’t hard, just not as fun as when you are on offence. You don’t feel as in control, but that isn’t any different from any other football video game out there.
The last thing I will touch on, and this is a really minor quibble, but the option to defer your choice until the second half after winning the coin toss is not there. I have no idea if you can do that in Madden, but given that sports simulation games try their best replicate the actual experience of a game, it was a little disappointing to not have that option.
There are also no play-by-play announcers or commentary guys. That was to be expected, and it isn’t something you will notice when you play, but I wanted to make sure people knew not to expect it when they purchased the game.
Oh, and if you want to get a jump on expansion, the game gives you the ability to play in a nine- or 10-team CFL in season mode. Yes, there is a Halifax team in the game that you can play as or against. Their stadium is obviously more generic than the other nine, but I think that was a cool thing to have in the game and give fans the option of seeing what the CFL could look like with 10 teams.
All in all Maximum Football 2018 gives Canadian football fans a taste of what could be. It is a game with its fair share of flaws, but not ones so crippling that you won’t enjoy. If you are a CFL fan and can part with $22.99, pick this game up. It isn’t the perfect video game, but it is the best we have and the more people that support it the better the game will be in the future.