Also On: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360
Developer: EA Tiburon
August is a special month for me. You see August means preseason football, and that the regular season will soon be here. It also means fantasy football, Madden and my wife getting real annoyed with me on gamedays. Madden is one annually released title that I make sure to pick up every season (along with the WWE series). Madden games are known to be hit and miss, which is somewhat expected in a title that is released every year. That being said, the past few years have been some of the best Madden games in a long time. Since the rivalry with 2K ended, and EA buying the exclusive rights to the NFL, many view the Madden franchise as marginal improvements year over year. With no competition, Madden is the only football game in the market so it’s either play it or play no football (and that sounds like a sin). The current gen consoles have had some great football in my opinion and I didn’t think much could be improved from last years game. I was wrong.
Something I noticed immediately after starting a game is that Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are no longer on commentary (THANK GOD). The new team of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis are not major staples of any NFL real broadcasts, but they do have some football experience on their resume. For the most part I enjoy the new commentary. It sounds like much more of the dialogue was recorded together, so there’s pretty good chemistry. Along with this drastic change, EA has come out and said that commentary will be added as the season goes on and that could potentially be something really cool. Say Von Miller is having a killer season and by November has 10+ sacks, adding in some lines of commentary for the team to mention this stat, among others, would be rather impressive. I still find it odd that they didn’t go with a known TV announce team, but I guess availability and chemistry took precedent.
My problem with Madden has long been the lack of licensed TV presentation. The visuals and in game presentation is top notch, so don’t get me wrong, but why aren’t there any licensed graphics. I appreciate EA trying to add more TV style presentation to the games but it doesn’t add up to some of their other titles such as NHL and even former NCAA titles, which they no longer make. The main issues I have with the presentation is that EA has the rights to use ESPN and NBC in their games, yet for some strange reason they are not utilized for any visuals or audio queues. Some Monday Night Football graphics or NFL Live style segments would add some extra authenticity and make the experience that much better.
Now lets talk about some gameplay before I go on a major tirade on what’s wrong with having only one NFL title. The gameplay of Madden 16 was as close to perfect as I thought Madden could get. Madden NFL 17 actually improves it in a handful of ways. The running game is completely overhauled and is fantastic. Blocks are better executed and you have precise control over your runner. Squeezing through a hole, trucking a defender, and executing a spin move have never been easier. There are many other minor refinements and tweaks as well, but the other major change is the kicking meter. This change makes kicking a little bit tougher and something new to master because remember, punters are people too.
Returning modes include; Franchise, Draft Champions and fan favorite, Madden Ultimate Team (or MUT). Draft Champions and MUT are mostly the same from last years title, which isn’t really a bad thing. MUT is still a lot of fun to build your fantasy roster and compete in challenges and play against other people’s teams (look for the Eyehole Men on Xbox Live). Meanwhile Franchise mode does get a significant new feature called; Play The Moments. The best way to describe it, is to say it’s a game simulator with you jumping in to “play” key “moments” (hence the obvious name). You have a graphic of the field and pop-ups with what’s happening on a given play, then you’ll have pop-up notifications when it’s an opportune time for you to jump into the game and help lead your team to victory. So this could range from 3rd and short, running a two minute drill, blocking a field goal, stopping an opponents red zone attempt, and much more. It’s a unique way to play the game at a faster pace.
However, I do have some opposing thoughts on Play The Moments. On one hand, Franchise is a long and deep mode, and to play every game to completion may tire out some players if they are looking to truly build their franchise for years. In that case the Play The Moments is a fun way to help your team, without just skipping the games via simulation. On the other hand, the point of the franchise mode as it’s been built up recently is to control every aspect of a franchise. If you're going to control every aspect of a particular team, aren’t you going to want to control all of the goals and stats your player gets? Your defense can let up touchdowns and your quarterback can throw interceptions all without you doing a single thing, and that isn’t what a lot of players will want. Play The Moments is completely optional, so if you want to control every player stat, you still can.
Online play is something that EA generally does pretty well with previous versions of Madden, and this year is no exception. All of the modes have online functionality and offer you many different ways to play online gridiron greatness. I would also be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t mention the in game soundtrack. It is absolutely HORRIBLE! I usually can find at least a couple of tracks that I like within these sports games and Madden NFL 17 has nothing even close to decent. I found that I would rather shut off the music completely than listen to anymore of it. EA what happened to including ANY rock music?
Music aside, overall this year’s madden is a definite buy if you are a fan of the series or a fan of the NFL. Honestly if you aren’t a fan of either I doubt you would have read this entire review. While I’m still looking for some licensed in game presentations (and I don’t agree with the caveman, Gronk, being on the cover), the gameplay continues to make great strides year over year. Fans will feel right at home with the gameplay and the new mechanics are easy and intuitive to learn. You only have a few weeks before the season kicks off, so grab Madden NFL 17 and control your team’s destiny.