Can you feel it in the air? Madden season is back again for another year. And every year Madden faces the same criticisms: It’s just a roster update, NFL 2k5 needs to comeback, or Madden is only geared towards the casual fans. Are those complaints warranted? What does Madden 17 offer that no Madden has ever been able to offer before?
The passing game has remained relatively untouched this year. It’s the running game that’s been overhauled. More specifically, the open field moves have been improved. Running the ball now feels more realistic than it ever has in the past. The moves you pull off in Madden 17 feel earned and each ball carrier feels different from one another. Also, when you collide with a defender a button prompt will trigger above both players’ heads and whoever hits it faster determines the outcome of the play. This is just another way to make running more dynamic and decide more outcomes based on skill and timing, rather than a random roll of the coding dice. It’s also definitely worth mentioning that if you are a less experienced player, playing on the rookie or pro difficulty, the ball carriers will automatically try to avoid the tackles. The animation used is based on defender positioning, and player ratings.
Another new feature to highlight is the improved zone logic and new types of coverages. You will now have the ability to convert your zone defender to a man and carry a receiver up the seam to stop someone’s rampant use of 4 Verticals. Which is beautiful. Also how many of us have yelled at the TV when, despite playing Cover 2, the flat corner didn’t quite play the flat hard enough? Well your prayers have been answered.
Also, man defenders aren’t stuck to the hip of the receiver as they were in 16’, and will give way to sharp in or out breaking routes more often. Especially if the cornerback’s man coverage rating isn’t up to scratch.
Pass rushers will get after the quarterback frequently and cause the Quarterback to fumble far more often while he’s standing in the pocket and when he’s about to throw the ball. You won’t be able to wait until the last second and throw an incomplete pass, because the game is much stricter on QB sacks. This is something game has needed for a long time.
Regarding Aggressive Catching, the upper echelon of receivers will still catch more than their fair share of them, that’s just the reality we live in. But, the user now has a lot more control over how to defend the deep ball this year, with improved swat mechanics. Although a welcome addition, it still doesn’t put enough risk on the guy throwing the deep ball. Sure you could throw an interception, because the game decided before you even threw the ball you were going to throw one. If the user defender wants any input into how the play is going to unfold, the only way to avoid getting mossed repeatedly is to hit the swat button. Going for interceptions just isn’t as effective as it should be yet.
The ball itself is “live” this year. Using real ball physics, the ball is its own entity now, making tipped passes more random and dangerous. Kickers can include backspin, and the ball reacts more realistically from fumbles and with loose balls.
The last major gameplay improvement to note is Special Teams. The kick meter has been changed to a three-click meter. You can choose to favor power, or give up a bit of distance for improved accuracy. Coupled with an expanded option for fakes on kicks and punts, and giving the defense the ability to rush in a block the kick, you can no longer say Special Teams is boring.
Franchise Mode has received the biggest improvements. Formation Subs (oh how I’ve missed you) lets you get truly creative with your lineup and formation. Got a 60 overall red zone threat wide receiver? Well, you can sub him into all your favorite red zone plays so you won’t have to in the middle of the game. This is something the community have been asking for, and it’s pleasing to see it finally return.
Game planning is another great feature. You get to see what your upcoming opponents tendencies are, and train your squad accordingly for some in-game boosts and extra XP. This is a great way to prepare for tougher opponents but also encourage you to try out different game styles. Honestly, the more stats the better, and having detailed scouting reports on your upcoming opponent is really useful.
How the game deals with free agency in season and in the offseason is a nice step in the right direction. In season you now have the option to sort by the Top 100 rated players, and the subdivisions (Top 100 Practice Squad Eligible Players, Top 100 Non Practice Squad Eligible, Top 100 Practice Squad Players signed with teams etc…). In the offseason, when you bid on free agents, you will now see the players’ interest in your team via a point system. This system is broken up into different categories and you earn more points by making yourself more attractive in categories he finds most important. If all he cares about is money, and you’ve got heaps of it, well you’re in luck.
This is all incorporated into the “Big Decisions” mantra from EA this year. Forcing players to make more decisions, as well as offering them more informed ways of doing so.
Lastly, when you scout, each category’s unlock price goes in decreasing order now, so the first rating cost the most. In effect, nuking the strategy of buying the first categories of every player and letting that tell you where to go from there. However this change definitely makes you think more carefully about who you give your first 15 points to. As a result, a few guys will potentially slide down in the draft.
The new pre-game intros, pylon cam, and updated stats on the fly during replays make it feel like you’re watching a real NFL game. As for the commentary, they do drop some funny likes from time to time. However, like most video game commentary teams, they drop the ball on the moments you want to jump out of your seat. There’s not much worse than scoring an amazing, game-winning touchdown, and the commentators half-heartedly regard it. While Davis and Gaudin are a nice change from what we’ve been use to, they don’t really stand out and become background noise after a few games. The best part by far about the announce team is the fact they add lines throughout the season. It’s actually kind of creepy. I was playing a game earlier and they were discussing Wentz and Goff’s first preseason games. Apparently the duo have been recording every week throughout development and will continue to record every week, so as to have completely up-to-date commentary. Also, the added ticker at the bottom of franchise games is something beloved in NCAA and you’ll find yourself looking down to catch a specific guy’s league score, which means it serves its purpose.
In the end Madden moves towards being a player in the eSports scene. They’ve already spoken about their “holy war against nano blitzes,” using a nano detection system to stop people from taking advantage of glitches. This means that competitive Madden will be determined even more by skill than it used to. This is only good news for the franchise. Madden 17 may have a couple of minor issues, but it is well on the right path.