Football season is on the horizon. There’s one week left to go until the regular season will be in full swing. This also means that the yearly edition of EA’s Madden franchise has released. With Madden NFL 17, EA Tiburon has reached a level where they are not reinventing the wheel every year, but polishing up what is working. Last year, they added different catch mechanics, pass defense mechanics, and throwing mechanics. Also added last year was the incredibly entertaining Draft Champions mode. Madden NFL 17 finally addresses the Franchise Mode that fans have long asked EA Tiburon to improve on. There is also a bit more that has been added to help make this the best Madden ever released.
If you play Madden regularly, then you have an idea of what to expect. There will be a learning curve at first in terms of gameplay, as this year all the little things that have been overlooked in the past add up for your chances at success. Starting off with the Skills Trainer, the game goes deeper this year and actually teaches you how to read a defensive coverage. This makes understanding the game of football to casual fans that want to learn much more accessible. The skill moves such as juking versus speed juking are the gateway to your success on the field. Knowing when, where and what type of maneuver to pull off in a quick situation is very important, more so than in the past. Running backs can now skinny up by holding R1 to get through small holes in the line. The other important factor this year comes from the defensive line play as gap assignments play a much bigger role then they have in the past. Finding the open hole behind a strong offensive lineman is the key to running the ball, and not holding sprint immediately.
The improvements to Franchise Mode make Madden NFL 17 seem less stale. Gameplanning for an opponent in practice prior to a game can severely impact your performance in a game. Executing the drills in practice, like in the past, ultimately has not changed. However skipping gameplanning, or failing at it, means more this year than it ever has. You can also focus on three players, which is a great way to help earn XP for young players as they will get bonus XP. Upgrading your players is more simple than ever, and the entire user interface with these changes in franchise makes everything quick and easy. Players doing Franchise now also have the choice to play a full game, play the key moments (which is equivalent to 20 minutes), or Super Sim. The key moments are great for quickly progressing through a season while feeling an actual part of it.
Players have the choice in Franchise to choose whether to be an owner, coach, or player. The owner runs everything including stadium upgrades, while the coach can be inherited or created from scratch. The newsfeed also gets an update, but the page is a bit overwhelming at times. Your main page will auto-populate the tweets and scroll through automatically with a bit more organization. One of the biggest additions to Franchise Mode might be the smallest. There is finally a live score ticker across the bottom during gameplay. It will give urgent score updates for division rivals, and stat leaders from the game. This brings you closer to feeling like an actual part of your league. Sadly, the ticker is only in-game, so any games scheduled later you would have to search for within the Franchise Menu. It would have been nice to have the score overlay outside of the game, as well. Lastly, players can finally be assigned to the practice squad when playing the preseason. A lot of fans have wanted this for years and it is now available.
One of the most satisfying things in Madden NFL 17 is executing a gameplan successfully after correctly reading a defense. It is that moment that you feel your hard work in practice paid off. Knowing what play to call, when to audible, and how to execute has never been bigger in a Madden game. Now if you know how to read every defense already, this might not be as gratifying to you. It is the fact that EA Tiburon has instilled this into the game as part of the tutorial. Like EA’s NHL series, you have the option to leave tutorial prompts on the screen that will help guide you on where to run and what to do. Lastly, during gameplay on defense, quick time events will pop up that are used to try and create a fumble. This is a fun little accent to add to the game.
On the field, the gameplay control feel like the tightest they’ve ever been in the series. Doing moves while sprinting versus doing moves while not sprinting make a huge difference. You have to know when to use your full speed. Ball carriers will bounce off of lineman, but it would have been better to have a different animation that allows you to push behind the lineman. It feels like you get hung up at times, especially on screen passes. Lastly, if you are expecting an improvement to penalties, there isn’t. I have had one defensive pass interference called during the many games I have played.
As expected, Madden NFL 17 is the best looking version that has been released. Player faces are ultra-realistic, the stadiums come to life, and the lighting is fantastic. The actual player models, however, need an overhaul. If EA Tiburon can do facial scans, why could they not employee full body scans? Watching the opening sequence which features Rob Gronkowski, he looks like a wide receiver body with his face painted on. They should look at getting more detailed with the player models. Otherwise, everything on the field, the new presentation and camera angles, all look fantastic.
As much as I liked to hear Jim Nantz and not necessarily Phil Simms, I worried about a downgrade in the broadcast booth. A largely unknown name in Brandon Gaudin, who does play-by-play for Georgia Tech sports and formerly with Westwood One, does the play-by-play in this game. Charles Davis joins the booth as the color commentator. The idea behind these two was to create a special broadcast team specifically for Madden. EA Tiburon wants to take advantage of the new generation hardware and build chemistry with this team, and this team does certainly have chemistry. Most importantly, however, is commentary content updates throughout the season. The team records new content every week. Hopefully, this will lead to less repetition, which it seems to have already done. You will hear small comments that are cool, like referencing Madden releasing. Charles Davis’ stories about a player tend to get repetitive, but it is already an improvement compared to the previous team. They really bring you closer to the game.
While Franchise gets the overhaul and there are the expected modes, not much else has changed. Ultimate Team returns with no enhancements, and as good as Draft Champions was, it is unchanged. Franchise got the bulk of the attention, and you can still play the mode with friends. Online play is obviously still in the game, and nothing has changed about that. Lastly, there have been some glaring bugs that have popped up on the Internet recently. I had an issue where the computer was behind in the last two minutes of the game, and never hiked the ball and took a penalty. These are all things that should hopefully get addressed with a patch.
Madden NFL 17 is the quintessential Madden. While it is not perfect, it is the best version of the game to date and features some gratifying moments and polish where needed. The new commentary team brings a new flavor to the series and will feature updates throughout the season. The new kick meter is not to be taken for granted, and the ability to block a kick is possible. The Franchise Mode answers a lot of fan’s requests, and ultimately becomes the deepest iteration in the series. If you have been waiting for these Franchise improvements, this is the Madden for you.