EA Sports’ most authentic football experience ever
Madden NFL 17 invites you to step onto the gridiron for the most authentic and accessible Madden NFL experience in franchise history. EA Sports’ perennial football series has undergone significant improvements over last year’s edition, revamping and revitalizing everything from the Offensive/Defensive ground game, to the Broadcast Presentation, to the fan-favourite Franchise Mode. Time to crack open the party mixers and put your game face on—Madden NFL 17 has arrived.
A multi-year strategy that hits the sweet spot
EA Tiburon and EA Sports’ multi-year effort to better align the Madden NFL series with the play style shifts seen in today’s NFL seems to have finally reach its pinnacle with this year’s edition. Whereas Madden NFL 15 renewed interested in defensive on-field action, and Madden NFL 16 significantly updated the passing and receiving game, Madden NFL 17 prime focus is on owning the ground war—both offensively and defensively. Some of the exciting ground game innovations you can expect this year include expanded skill moves for ball carriers, improved defensive gap play, and an overhauled running game. All of these on-field updates—and more—come together to create the most playable, true-to-life Madden NFL game we’ve had in the past decade.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
While the juicier updates this time around are found in Madden NFL 17’s enhanced gameplay mechanics, I couldn’t help but immediately notice the game’s vastly improved Broadcast Presentation. Before you even hit the main menu, right off the top you’re thrown into a visually stunning cinematic sequence featuring the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins. This TV-quality interactive piece lets you control the Rams on a game-winning drive attempt to further their journey to the Super Bowl in their first year back in L.A. Mostly though, it serves to show off the huge leap in visual fidelity, including updated stadiums and refreshed player gear, as well as the new cameras that capture the thrill and intensity of a live NFL broadcast. In particular, I loved the new pylon cameras in each corner of the endzone that give you a field-level view of the game’s biggest moments, as these angles really capture the raw emotion of the sport and push the boundary of what live broadcast is capable of.
Another significant presentation change this year is the introduction of the series’ new Commentary team, Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. The duo recorded hundreds of hours of new commentary and do a superb job of calling out the moment-to-moment field plays, plus I thought their occasional insights into teams’ and players’ history was a nice touch. Their chemistry together is apparent right away, so that’s why I’m very intrigued by EA Sports’ commitment to go above and beyond the commentary included at launch by having the pair record continuous new commentary throughout the season. The extra recorded lines can be brought into your game via live content updates, virtually guaranteeing fresh commentary week-to-week throughout the entire season.
Improved gameplay – Offense and Defense
As mentioned, the bulk of the gameplay improvements in Madden NFL 17 pertains to the running game. A new ratings-based skill system is introduced where each on-field player will perform special moves based on their preferred style and skill level. Whereas in previous years running animations were fairly consistent between players, this year greatly deepens the range of animations depending on whether a player is say, a bruising back like Adrian Peterson who uses strong stiff-arms, or a player like LeSean McCoy who emphasizes jukes and spins. Lower rated ball carriers still get their own special moves, but are nowhere near as fast and efficient at pulling them off compared to more experienced players. It’s really crucial to monitor your players’ stamina levels too, since fatigue can result in highly skilled players performing slower and less explosive moves.
Madden NFL 17‘s defensive game has been beefed up quite a bit as well. Defenders now have specific responsibilities on each play, including designated gap assignments and defensive zone coverage to hold the line more effectively and give up fewer completions in their zones. Combined, these enhancements result in more strategic play-calling and better aware players who can quickly identify who’s open vs. who’s covered. Furthermore, when defending the pass, not only do you have the two options introduced last year—play the ball or play the receiver—but your defensive cornerbacks can now swat a pass with a higher success rate than an attempted interception. Overall, these defensive improvements make plays look and feel more realistic, resulting in the most dynamic and balanced defensive gameplay in years.
The Franchise Mode we’ve been waiting for
This year’s Madden NFL features the most robust Franchise Mode to date, and has been designed from the ground-up to give you choice over how streamlined of an experienced you’d like. New this year is “Play the Moments,” a feature that enables you to take control only during the most important points during each game. These key moments include the opening offensive drive, important 3rd Down opportunities (both Offense and Defense), pivotal Red Zone scoring chances, and game-winning kicks. With Play the Moments enabled (you can also control the whole game, if you’d like), full games can be played in about one-third of the time or less, letting your breeze through entire seasons at a much fast pace than in previous years. For players who want a faster, more streamlined Madden experience, Play the Moments offers just that.
Another welcome addition to Franchise Mode is the all-new Big Decisions screen that centralizes a wide number of crucial management choices on a single screen. Here you can opt to bring back a star player once their medically cleared, renegotiate contracts with free agents, view your overall team skill in every position at a glance, and much more. Much like Play the Moments, Big Decisions quickens the pace and lets you focus more attention on the macro aspects of managing your team.
As far as other modes go, it’s clear that the bulk of the attention this year has gone towards enhancing Franchise Mode. Both Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) and Draft Champions return in Madden NFL 17, with the only change of significance being the introduction of “Chemistry” in MUT. Much like how Chemistry works in NHL 17, by collecting players possessing the same chemistry attribute you can boost your players’ stats. With this change, you can now be much more strategic when picking your lines, as you may want to forego a high-rated player in favour of a lesser skilled one, if they contain the right chemistry attribute to boost the rest of your team.
Madden NFL 17 is the most complete and balanced game in the series yet. After last year’s superb passing refinements, the running game has come into focus in Madden NFL 17, with big improvements on both Offense and Defense. The new features introduced in Franchise mode, Play the Moment and Big Decisions, ensures that Madden NFL 17 players can customize how short (or long) they want games to be. It’s too bad that Draft Champions and Madden Ultimate Team remain largely unchanged year-over-year, but sacrifices must be made when we’re talking about a franchise that iterates every year. Few minor points aside, EA Sports’ Madden NFL 17 is unquestionably the most polished game in series history.
+ Pristine presentation
+ Vastly improved running game
+ Play the Moment and Big Decisions are great addition to Franchise Mode
+ Tight and responsive Offensive/Defensive controls
+ Most balanced Madden NFL game ever
– Very little updates to Draft Champions and Madden Ultimate Team
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating 4.25/5 (85%)