Okay, let’s be honest for a second. We all know that Madden games have historically been some of the most challenging yet popular games to grace the illustrious roster of Electronic Arts, right? Well, it already seems as though this year’s entry, Madden NFL 17, looks to raise that bar just a little higher…
Right at the forefront of this new rise to action comes some rather welcome changes to both the defensive line and the running game; two major features that long-time players have been aching to see improved for some time now. Coupling those massive improvements with the already largely mastered passing game, it is safe to say that most players will feel as though this year’s iteration will have them feeling more confident in their on-field abilities than any other before it.
Of course, that confidence could only be boosted even further by the impressive new additions this year’s game has seen to its on-field animations for either side of the ball. Whether it be a strafe, a dive-tackle or the infamous spin-move, each one looks and feels more like it belongs on the front page of ESPN than it ever has in years prior. Then again, a big part of how highlight-reel ready those movements now are stems from how rewarding some of them can feel when placed in a rather difficult position in your game. Needless to say - the more adept each individual player is in regards to agility or their defensive prowess, the easier these moves will come, so don’t expect them all to come with any sort of real consistent level of ease.
Beyond these gorgeous new mechanics, however, is where Madden NFL 17 truly shines its brightest. For anyone even remotely familiar with the Madden titles, you’ll know right away that I’m referring to what can only be described as the two most popular game modes in the title’s nearly 30-year history; Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team. For rookies to the series, it may seem a bit confusing why a strictly sports-oriented game would have a mode almost entirely dedicated to the act of card collecting. Weird, right? Not as weird as you might think, actually, considering sports cards themselves are some of the most sought after memorabilia in the ‘collection’ world. Throw in the fact that true football fans have always gravitated to the idea of ‘fantasy’ teams, and you’ll quickly understand why EA found a winner in its continuously improved ‘MUT’ mode.
Of course, the biggest difference between the two will be the choices you make off the field. While ‘MUT’ will continue to make you rise to the challenge of earning coins and nabbing those newer/better cards, Franchise itself is a different animal entirely. Here you’ll make the truly difficult decisions that the real owners and general managers of your favourite teams do on an almost daily basis. Some of the best examples of that could be the price of admission your teams’ fans will pay for the concessions they buy or even the contracts for the players themselves. Thankfully, several new improvements to the game’s roster interface have made this mode much more streamlined and smooth in comparison to past years, allowing for a much faster weekly run through of each season.
Of course, one of the highlights of the Franchise mode is that each decision you make will have its own set of consequences - good or bad - which itself seems to be why fans of the series enjoy this particular mode so much. In fact, in some cases, your team’s entire season can hinge on one single decision; whether it be a contract dispute, how to deal with injuries or a financial issue. One bad move and you could find your fictional owner sacked, one good move could find you are the talk of the NFL town.
Nevertheless, if there is any one thing that we can somehow praise above all of the well-crafted new mechanics, it’s EA’s superb attention to graphical detail. It now seems as though not a year goes by that the EA team doesn’t completely blow us all away with the work they do to somehow strengthen the realism behind what was already an impressive looking graphical system from last year’s Madden iteration. Yet here they are, doing it all over again with not only some of the most realistic on-field characterisations of the sports’ gridiron warriors, but with their coaches and the fans as well. In fact, it’s safe to say that for the first time ever you’ll be struggling to find even one member of the ‘audience’ that looks the same, a feat that is really rather impressive in its own right.
Yet somehow, EA seems to take what makes this game so impressive and still find some way to push it that extra step further, hitting marks that no other sports games before this one have ever come close to hitting. This fact rings most true when it comes to Madden’s unique ability to update not only its rosters but its commentary as well, on what appears to be something of a weekly basis. Sure the online updates aren’t exactly a new function in EA’s latest batch of sports-oriented titles, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive when you really look at the detail they put into matching the rosters of each and every team week by week. If you do the math that would make close to 1700 individual players that they must go through to make sure each team is as pinpoint accurate as possible.
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that despite its clearly monumental list of positives, Madden NFL 17 still has yet to crack into the league of ‘perfect’ games. Thankfully for EA, the one real drawback from this year’s game is its commentary above all else. Regardless of how often updates occur, Madden NFL 17′s play-by-play commentary still continues to feel much like the ‘same old same old’ from prior iterations of the series; which while that isn’t entirely a ‘bad’ thing, it isn’t good either. If anything it’s just plain average, which again isn’t all that ‘bad’, but considering it’s said to be one of the most conversational versions of commentary players had yet seen, it just doesn’t seem to have hit the mark necessary to fill that bill to its maximum just yet.
BLOT’s Verdict on Madden NFL 17?
While the game’s play-by-play commentary doesn’t seem to hold up to what was originally promised prior to release, Madden NFL 17 pushes aside almost every drawback you could imagine and steamrolls forward with its head down, shoulder out at a full head of steam towards the finish line. Graphically immeasurable beyond words and mechanically impressive, this year’s annual delve into EA’s special world of the National Football League is one to behold for new and old fans alike.
This Review was based on play on the Xbox One, play may vary on different consoles.