Madden has always been that game that heralds a few things. The Madden series marks the end of summer, the start of a new NFL season, and the onslaught of new games coming within the next 2 months. I haven’t bought a Madden game in nearly 5 years. However, with EA Early Access, it’s hard to not pass up the opportunity to see if one would really want to purchase this game. Let’s be honest, die-hard fans already know that, come release day, they will be playing the game. EA Sports already has them on lock. It’s finding those last few on the fence gamers to which Madden has to appeal. Please be mindful that the majority of what you will see here involves the basic single player experience.
You can see some of the gameplay here.
While it may sound crazy, the Madden series still has yet to reach the bar set by NFL 2K5. It’s still come a long way, but in the 12 years since that game’s release, Madden still misses a few things – but more on that in a moment. Presentation-wise, Madden 17 still gives gamers a feel of actually tuning into an NFL broadcast. What is most impressive, is the game commentary as delivered by Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. The commentary feels a lot more fluid than it has in years past, and even after playing five games over the weekend, rarely have I heard anything repeat. The duo has good chemistry, and I even like the banter they have with each other and which is something that has been missing for a long time in these games. What’s most important, is that they get into the nitty-gritty of explaining what happened on the play in a manner that NFL fans truly get. They talk about why a play was or wasn’t successful, who was involved and what that means for the team. Even if the game is played at a different time or weather condition, their commentary takes that into account as well.
Oddly enough, product advertising has made it into the game. Yes, you see Nike, Bose, and a few others in the game, but at the opening of the 2nd quarter, there is a Head and Shoulders clip that plays and it feels tacked on as it cuts out at an odd time. Worse, it’s the SAME clip every game.
Another portion I have liked is that now, during a season, you finally get a ticker at the bottom. It’s been a small irritation for me over the years that this was never included, but I always felt like how is one supposed to keep up with everything else happening in my division or around the league if I can’t see it until my game is over? The halftime show is also a nice touch (although somewhat forgettable), but I thank EA Sports for finally giving it a thought to add it in. I do wish that they would take time to add even a scoreboard to show what else is happening around the league.
All in all, I feel like EA Sports has finally taken steps forward in this aspect of the game. Taking care of this issue alone is enough to make lapsed players take a 2nd look at this game.
In many ways, Madden has been one of those games that, if you have played one in the past 5 to 10 years, you have played them all. The basics are still mostly the same. A few other differences I have noticed is that there are new button pushes that you can do after the snap. On offense, there are buttons you can use to spin, juke, and buttons that determine how you handle receiving passes. On defense, some of those same buttons determine how you tackle and play the ball. It took some time to get used to them, but realistically speaking, Madden has been about finding ways to do the same thing on different buttons and this year, it’s no different. If you have been a passing fan of the game, you can still play it once you have re-acclimated yourself. Hardcore gamers of course will undoubtedly spend tons of time uncovering every special move tucked away in this game.
As always EA Sport touts that Madden games will give you the deepest football game ever. Well, when they are the only one on the market, we don’t have too much of a choice right? You do get a lot, as you can use Ultimate Teams (a mode made popular in EA Sports’ FIFA games) where you can build a team based on packs of cards you can buy. You can earn credits to buy cards by playing and winning games or you can purchase directly. You also can try out the Draft Mode in which you can draft and build your fantasy team. You have various online modes and you have Franchise Mode as well. In Franchise Mode, you can play either as a player, coach, or owner based on how deeply you want to be involved. I tried it out as a coach, and was amazed at how much one could try to get done prior to the game of the week. Gamers also have modes in which they can develop their own plays or try out certain plays to add to their playbook.
Graphics and Gameplay
Madden 17 is really stunning to look at. I love the fact that as this series progresses, the details look more realistic. It’s amazing that finally after so many years, the crowd doesn’t look like 2D cutouts like they did on past gen systems. I will say that the 2K series still had a leg up on this back then and even now on the Basketball series. For the most part, many of the facial likenesses look a lot better than they previously have, and many of the stadiums looks to be better represented. I even like the fact that you can finally see some change of the natural light as the game progresses. I mean if a game starts at 4:15, it shouldn’t look the same as the game ends.
Another plus is the fact that you can control the way the game plays. If you want to play each down, you can. If you want to play only key moments, you can do that as well or you can just sim the entire thing. The idea to keep in mind is that they less of the actual game you play, the greater your chances of not getting the result that you want. Also, keep in mind that during the course of franchise mode, your players make or lose XP based on everything that they do. That, in itself is another plus. As your game (and season) progresses, your players overall rating goes up or down based on their performance. This means that you don’t have to wait for a season to end to see how they developed.
And…some of the minuses
With Madden, trying to rate this game has come down to some of the smallest of issues. Most of my issues are technical. Again, this is what happens when a 10+ year old game sets the bar for what you would like to see in a sports game. While I do like every aspect of what you can do in the Franchise mode, at the end of games I still don’t get that immersive-ness of knowing what’s going on around the league. While I am happy for the tickers and the priority alerts that you can get, it’s still a shame that I have to dig through menus just to get final scores from around the league. The 2K series, even now, has always done a good job at recapping recent events during the course of the game day so you feel more determined to push forward. While I do like the gameplay presentation, I think there are way too many cut scenes that focus on the coach. In many cases, almost every down the game cuts to the coach and he is doing the same things which are waking around and scowling. You could be winning, and he scowls.
You could recover a fumble and…he scowls. Can we dial that back please? Staying on the subject of immersion, another minor hiccup is that I had a player break his tibia. So, can someone explain why there is a cut scene of him sitting on the sidelines, sipping from his cup? Anybody remember, way back in the day when Madden had ambulances?
One of my colleagues also pointed out that although Madden claims that there are newer and more realistic tackles every year, he has spotted some of the ‘same’ tackle animations during the course of gameplay. Also, when playcalling, at times the screen does still feel a bit cluttered when trying to find playbooks, or make calls based on whatever is popular at the time. I wish EA would just go back to having cleaner screens. As far as the AI is concerned, there are also still a few times when the AI will not manage the clock. I was playing against the AI and was up by 6 and the half was closing and the AI had the ball. Instead of calling time outs or using plays that would get them down the field quickly, it just played ball like it was the opening minutes of the game. Finally, I still at times see the AI do boneheaded things like try to run on 3rd and long. Hopefully, these can be cleared up with patches, but they still should not be happening in games this advanced.
If I was still a big NFL fan, I would really be counting down the hours to this game’s imminent release. I would probably be among the few that would probably have taken the day off to thoroughly break this game in. Such as it is, Madden 17 is the game I was hoping for at least 5 years ago. There is a lot to like about this game, such as the presentation which really draws you into the game. It’s shocking that EA Sports has taken this long to get this up to par for something that the 2K basketball series has been doing for years, which started with the NFL 2K5 game. The gameplay feels like an old friend. If you haven’t played in years, it’s easy enough to get back in it and play. There are a few things that detract from the overall experience, but the game modes have more than enough features to keep gamers playing for a long time. Some of the features that I am seeing in this game (such as better commentary, lighting effects and upgraded Ultimate Teams mode) makes me wonder what I will see in EA Sport’s other upcoming juggernaut: FIFA 17. Even though Madden 17 has stepped up in a big way, I will still always wonder how much this series would excel if they had competition.
3.5 Play Action Passes out of 5