Madden 17 – Review

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Posted August 31, 2016 by John Newby in Video Games

Developed By: EA Sports

Published By: EA

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PS3

Release Date: August 23rd, 2016

Every August, EA releases a new Madden, to the chagrin of some console owners and the excitement of many others. Oftentimes, the new Madden only means updated rosters and minor changes, but there are precious few years in which EA Sports tries to completely upset the balance and add a ton of new features. Madden 17 is one such year, with major updates to the standard gameplay and added features in Franchise Mode. Not all of these changes are necessarily good, but at least EA is trying to mix it up.

For those new to Madden, there are five main modes: Franchise, Ultimate Team, Draft Champions, Online, and Play Now. The simplest of these is Play Now, which focuses on quick offline games for up to four players. This is the best mode for when you only have 40-60 minutes of free time. While basic, Play Now is perfect for those competitive matches between friends or simply learning how to throw. Sure, you could try the practice modes for learning the basics, but that’s just not the same as a stress-filled game.

Madden NFL 17_20160823220748

Much like Play Now, Online is the age-old Madden mode, only with the added benefit of listening to random strangers scream obscenities every time you gain 10 yards or force a turnover. Online is obviously appealing if you are a Madden guru, but there really isn’t any benefit beyond playing against friends in different area codes. Competing in Madden against strangers really isn’t that great, especially when the ability to jokingly talk trash is taken away. It also doesn’t help that the online games seem a little dialed back with different camera angles and lower resolution graphics.

Ultimate Team and Draft Champions are separate modes, but they can be lumped together based on the similarities. Both modes use player cards made up of modern and classic figures to build pseudo-fantasy teams. Draft Champions is the more basic mode in that your team draft takes place over 15 rounds in which you choose one of three cards. Once assembled, your team is put through different challenges and games against similarly built teams. Ultimate Team, on the other hand, is quickly becoming the flagship mode of Madden 17. Like Draft Champions, Ultimate Team builds your team through cards, but isn’t limited to only 15 rounds. In fact, the crux of Ultimate Team is unlocking new card packs through completing challenges or spending real money. The constant unlockables can be very addicting if you are into that sort of thing, especially if you get the better players and coaches. Plus, it’s pretty fun to see Aaron Rodgers throw touchdown passes to Dez Bryant and Jamaal Charles while wearing a Vikings uniform.

The last mode in Madden 17, Franchise, has been around for years. This is the mode that gives you control of a team as a coach or owner, controlling player contracts, stadium names, and random details like hot dog prices. Franchise had been a fairly straightforward mode, but EA found some ways to mix up the standard formula. One such way is the myriad options for playing a game. In previous games, you could go through each week of a season by either playing the game or watching a simulation. Now, you can choose to play the game or focus only on offense or defense, if you are bad at one particular unit. Additionally, Franchise now offers the option of playing only the important moments of the game, such as goal line situations or key third downs. This version of Franchise actually plays out like the “Madden Moments” from years past that force you to play out a specific drive or sequence of plays.

Another addition to Franchise is the implementation of game plans. At the onset of each week, the coaches prepare a unique situation for both offense and defense that is tailored toward your upcoming opponent. For example, the Vikings play the Panthers in week three, so the game plan was tailored toward running a cover two scheme on defense and a deep post route on offense. Being able to practice these two schemes over a series of twelve plays was actually more beneficial than you would expect heading into another match.

Practicing in Franchise Mode

Practicing in Franchise Mode

The additions to classic modes make Madden more interesting, but they don’t fix some of the stranger quirks that exist in every iteration. Scenes between plays are still a little janky as players will randomly fall over and do a headstand while walking back to the huddle, certain defenders will literally fly to the ball with superhuman skills, and coaches will challenge the most inane things. I have seen coaches challenge a play where their team gained a first down. It makes no sense.

Sadly, these quirks also extend to new gameplay features. In Madden 17, EA implemented a new system where you can hit a specific “Power Button,” a quicktime event, and complete a superstar move. Using these moves, Adrian Peterson can run over every player on a defense, Rob Gronkowski can hurdle would-be tacklers, and Lamar Miller can juke linebackers out of position. When executed correctly, you feel like the ultimate badass. However, these special moves have a very severe drawback. If you don’t hit the button quickly, the CPU will take over and do the move automatically. This is well and good when it helps you gain an extra yard, but it’s extremely annoying when the move causes you to fail at a specific play. The perfect example of this was a run with Adrian Peterson to the right side of the line. Peterson had wide open field ahead of him and a certain touchdown, but the CPU decided that it was the correct time to make him juke to the left. Peterson stopped running and sidestepped right into a defender. What would have been an 80-yard touchdown run turned into a 15-yard gain.

Thankfully, you do have the option to disable the automatic power moves, which makes Madden infinitely more playable.

Obviously, Madden 17 is yet another Madden game, and it understandably plays like most other versions. EA Sports changed the kicking game again for seemingly the 45th time, and it’s more frustrating than other games: It’s gotten to the point where you can’t make jokes about changes to kicking because it literally happens every year.

Kicking is Different Once Again

Kicking is Different Once Again

Thankfully, there are additions to the presentation that take care of some weird glitches from years past. The players are presented at the beginning of each game in a unique way that actually focuses on the individuals. More importantly, the less-than-enjoyable Phil Simms has been removed from commentating duties, and he has been replaced by the voice of college football analyst, Charles Davis. Football nerds will recognize Davis as the voice of Tennessee Volunteer games, among others, and as an analyst for the NFL Network leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine and Draft. Davis is a personable fellow with a phenomenal sense of humor and an even better knowledge of the game. He is so good at announcing that I didn’t automatically mute the voices once starting Madden. Oh, and it should be mentioned that EA Sports is periodically recording new audio packs that will be added to the game so the announcers aren’t constantly repeating the exact same line of dialogue.

New Player Introductions

New Player Introductions

Madden 17 is a weird beast. The presentation changes make Madden a more enjoyable audio/visual experience, and most of the new gameplay features are for the better. It does help that the less enjoyable features can be turned off. Strangely, the camera settings have been disabled, so if you don’t like a particular view you are out of luck.

Look, there are many frustrating aspects of Madden 17, but the newer features still make it worth playing. Just remember to breathe deep while playing.


About the Author

John Newby

A random dude obsessed with coffee, blue heelers, and most nerdy things. Big fan of Star Wars, Borderlands, Arrow/Flash, and a whole lotta video games. The Saboteur is underrated, and Silverado is the best movie ever made.