Yes, it’s time for another Madden – and, like clockwork, it’s time for a number of fans to complain about how this year’s game fails to do anything significant over the releases that have come about the last few years. But not so fast – EA Tiburon has made some real strides with Madden NFL 17, and the game feels more complete than it’s ever been. It actually makes it feel…wait for it…exciting to play again.
First up, passing hasn’t taken emphasis this time around, as the model from previous years’ releases continues to make great strides when it comes to connecting receivers with the ball (well, depending on the skill of the quarterback and receivers, of course). So that leaves improvements to other areas, namely with the running game. A new button system enables you to run the ball with ease, using moves to escape would-be tacklers with split-second timing. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a system that works for all the better.
Likewise, on the defensive side, you can actually make a few moves all your own to try and stop a runner in their tracks, especially if they’re trying to make a dash for the end zone. These create some great, intense moments within the game, especially if you’re taking on a buddy and want to take the risk of showboating in an effort to grab an easy six – or lose the precious ball with the wrong kind of tackle.
This all ties in with the new team chemistry system. Along with Franchise mode, you’ll help balance your players so that you can see how pivotal their roles are on the team. Having that chemistry really makes all the difference, especially as you’re trying to put points on the board and capitalize during a contest. It’s a subtle difference, but one that football fans will easily notice compared to previous versions of Madden.
I’m also a fan of the new special teams kicking system, which does away with the analog aiming in favor of a three-button tap system, akin to what the previous PGA Tour golf games did. Sometimes a kick can still get flubbed a bit too easily, but it’s a system that works very well. In addition, you can also set up positioning for running back the ball, and if you hit the right buttons, who knows, you might even pull off a Devin Hester and score an easy six.
While the modes haven’t gone through too many changes, they remain a key asset in Madden’s game, especially when it comes to online accessibility. Ultimate Team and Draft Champions continue to be pivotal when it comes to community, and hooking up with other players, win or lose, is a gratifying experience, as you earn cards and create an even stronger squad for the next time around. There are plenty of bonuses to score as well, if you feel like stocking up on better team chemistry. And we all know how important that chemistry can be when the situation calls for it.
Along with excellent gameplay tweaks and plenty to do offline and on, Madden NFL 17 also benefits from its best presentation to date. There are weird glitches that happen on occasion, but for the most part, the fields look fantastic; the player animations can’t be beat; and the camera angles for the highlights look ripped straight from a TV broadcast. It’s really something, especially when you get a key play that you can’t help but look at again and again.
The audio is superb, too. Gone are the older announcers that put us to sleep – Phil Simms and Jim Nantz – and in their place are the much livelier Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis, who nail the game with accuracy. Sure, they repeat on occasion, but not nearly as bad as the other two did. And their factoids during halftime and post-game can’t be beat.
I do wish some better music choices were made with the in-game menus, but overall, this is a solid presentation that does the game of football justice.
Madden NFL 17 may still not convert certain players who think this is just the same old game they’ve been digging into for years, but I implore you to give it a look. The small changes really make it feel like a well-rounded product; the presentation is as good as football gets (to this point, anyway – just wait till next year with Scorpio and Neo); and the online stuff is sheer crack for the players that can’t get enough of it. You think you know football? Give Madden NFL 17 a try and then you’ll know football.