Monday, October 3, 2016

Madden 17

Rating: 8.8
Happy Price: 59.99


Building off of the previous iterations of the franchise, it's the same football simulator that allows for dealing with the off field dynamics as well as executing everything on the field. With a variety of game modes, there is something for everyone. Franchise is for the RPG oriented user, Madden Ultimate Team for the fantasy football player, and online games for the social player. 

New Features

The focus this year was on ball carrier moves and giving the player more control over the outcomes of one on one situations with defenders. Offensive lineman A.I was also improved so the running attack has taken a front seat in this iteration, something that hasn't been done in years. I haven't had such an experience since Madden 2001. Many things went into bringing this feature set to the forefront. They tightened the controls quite a bit so moving around didn't feel so loose. The previous ten years of Maddens did not have very precise controls which made it difficult to hit a hole correctly, usually you'd see where you want to go and then run into your own lineman when trying to run the ball. If the option is turned on, the game will tell you what to do in order to elude a defender or break the tackle. Above the player a button will appear that must be pressed at the correct time. They've also added a precise mode, which allows you to break multiple tackles or juke multiple defenders with the penalty of increased fumble rates if you mistime it. 

Franchise Mode

The approach this year was to make things more simple and to broaden the audience to a mode that is deep and has a heavy menu set that can be overwhelming. It appeals to both new and old players because you can follow the prompts they provide you and get everything done, or dig into the sub menus if you're very detailed. Depending on if you pick a coach or owner, the experience will be different. The owner has all the same features as a coach, but you can also change the prices of hot dogs, rebuild a stadium, move a team, and sign players. You have far more control over a franchise this way, and it's the preferred way I like to do it. I was very proud that I was able to take the 2-14 Titans to the Super Bowl my third year after drafting and trading players that make my team an absolute powerhouse.

The Titans start with a young quarterback, formidable defense, and a behemoth of a Running back named Derrick Henry sitting on the bench. They lack a receiver corp, have aging linebackers, and a below average secondary. I knew right away after playing eight games I absolutely needed a wide receiver with size and a shutdown cornerback. The deep scouting and combine system allowed me to select the receiver I needed, and he ended up being an all pro which is very fulfilling since a lot of time goes into scouting players and getting ready for the draft. Without this WR, I would have never won the Super Bowl. I could get into a bunch of these scenarios but it would take forever, but when you've wheeled and dealed for players or drafted them and they make plays in the super bowl and playoffs that get you over the hump, it's very fulfilling.


The first few times you fire the game up, its evident the AI has been improved on both the offense and defense. However there are still frustrating episodes where blockers will run right past the guy they were suppose to block, and you end up getting tackled since you followed the blocker and they didn't do their job. Also there is an issue on kick returns where blockers will be out of bounds looking for someone to block, so you can potentially lose two or more blockers during kick returns. The offensive AI is pretty smart though, they will adjust to your defensive looks if you repeatedly blitz, use man coverage, or use zone coverage. After about two seasons, I finally found a few defensive plays that turned me into the #1 defense in the league. I would run a nickel package where the two middle linebackers blitzed, while everyone else was in man coverage. This would handle both runs and passes since it was always a six man rush with five dbs covering everyone else. Screen plays and outside runs killed me though, and I found the AI would start calling those plays if I kept using the play over and over again. I thought it was very fun having to switch things up into zones, man zone combos, and blitzes to keep the offense at bay.


Each year EA does a good job at improving the character models and animations. The tackling has however taken a huge leap as they have greatly improved the responsiveness of the physics when someone is getting tackled. It's difficult to tell how they are doing it, but it seems that the player being tackled will contort their body from whichever direction is generating the most force. This applies to double and triple tackles which creates really cool tackle animations where players can be spun into the air, or be lunging forward off balance and a hit stick will jar the ball loose. The couple of times I've taken advantage of a situation like that, it looked just like a NFL fumble where players try to do too much and get blown up and lose the ball.

The commentary is repetitive and annoying, there isn't anything like the Madden Summerall days. I actually heard one of the commentators use a line during a real NFL game where he says "You know what my tall tight end used to tell us? Put the ball up on the top shelf where the kids can't get it". When you've heard this 100 times in a video game then hear it in real life, it makes things seem unoriginal and lazy. The commentators make a billion references to the "old days" where things were done a certain way and how the approach to football is so new and finesse. It just sounds like two old guys talking how their NFL was different than today's, however this doesn't contribute to what is happening on the field at all.  


If you're a football fan, you've probably bought each Madden since you've owned a video game console. Madden 17 is the best iteration in years, probably since Madden 2001 that debuted on the PS2. If you decided to skip a year due to repetitive gameplay and feeling EA steals your money each year, it's not the case with this game. 

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