Tackling the issues.
I could start off my Madden review once again about how it is Madden Season, or better yet the go-to intro about sports games and their changes each year. Instead I am just going to come out and say: Madden is that game that every year I truly look forward to kicking off the Fall season of gaming. It represents the seasons changing, and the incoming flux of big titles launching this year. It also represents the return of my favorite sport, and the reason my Sundays are lost between September and February.
Every year there is a bullet point list of improvements to the game. Some are very surface level, while others are something only long-time players will notice and/or appreciate. The biggest change to this year’s game though has to be the presentation package.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
The commentary in Madden NFL 17 is the best I have heard in a sports game to date. Yes, that is a bold statement, but the team behind the game has really stepped up their, well their game this year. Gone are Nantz and Simms, and instead we have Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. The conversations feel more like a true NFL broadcast than a pieced together effort. Hearing them argue over plays, and make small quips back and forth truly add to the experience. Toss in the fact that EA is planning commentary updates throughout the season, and games will continue to feel fresh all year long.
In addition to the commentary, the camera angles on the field have also been improved. Pylon cameras and more realistic views of the action are present all over the field. There is now an updated ticker during franchise mode that showcases scores around the league, and highlights important division games and upsets. Sadly we still have a pretty lackluster halftime show. I really want EA to sit down and do this proper at some point.
Franchise is where I spend the bulk of my time every year, and there are so many improvements to the way things are handled. Upgrading players and executing practice drills feel much more meaningful. The menu screen is still a bit hectic, but everything is there, and easy to comprehend. I love that I can choose to ignore it when I want, or dive in if I feel compelled.
As for games in franchise mode, I love the new options for playing them. I can take on just offense or defense, or opt for the new Play the Moments option. This allows me to take control at key moments in every game such as critical third down situations, or red zone possessions on both sides of the ball. Of course I can always opt to play the entire game, or simply simulate one game, or half a season if I so choose.
The biggest upgrade for me though is that all of the onscreen updates and visual feedback is now buttery smooth. Last year’s game suffered from these onscreen notifications chugging the action, but I can now leave them on thanks to the improved performance. I love seeing my players’ confidence go up every week. It is like a mini-RPG for sports nerds, and I adore it.
Several key areas in the game play department have also been addressed this year. The running game is much more refined. On lower difficulties runners will automatically perform necessary actions such as jukes and stiff arms. There is now a running arrow that shows momentum on the run, and holding the left trigger allows for finesse moves. It just feels better all-around. Tackling has also been improved with a sort of mini-game whenever engaged. The first player to hit the button that prompts onscreen is awarded with the tackle, or if on offense, breaking it. It is a fun portion to an otherwise mundane task.
Special teams has also been given a focus this year. The game wants players to feel like they can actually make a difference on punts and field goal attempts. It works out pretty well, as I have actually blocked important kicks in the game. It is not automatic, and they seem to balance it well.
Ultimate Team and Draft Champions make a return, but also make the smallest changes. Both modes feel mostly untouched outside of a few quality of life improvements for hardcore users. One example is now challenges can be completed without having to finish the entire game, which helps with grinding in the higher tiers of play. These modes remain a cornerstone of the series, but this year seems to have taken a backseat to the rest of the package.
Madden NFL 17 feels like the largest jump in the franchise since Madden NFL 10. A lot of the issues I had with past games has been addressed, and I can easily see myself sinking another 60 hours into franchise mode as I take my Raiders to their back-to-back Super Bowls. Fans that may have fallen off in recent years will find plenty to come back to with this iteration. There is so much improvement it is impossible to list it all here without sounding like a press release. It is indeed Madden season, and football fans have a lot to be excited about with this year’s game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.