There’s no better way to get a sense of your team’s fortunes than to grab a copy of the latest Madden, take a look at new skill ratings for veterans, free agent additions and rookies, then simulate a season. The crew at EA Tiburon has long since evolved past mirroring the game and moved into dissecting it and reconstructing every movement, hit and ball bounce on its own terms. There’s a reason pregame studio analysts call up footage of the game to demonstrate concepts and possibilities of what’s in store on the field. The game is less a replication than a crystal ball. Madden NFL 17 exalts in that position, taking care to inch closer to the unattainable goal line that separates it from reality.
Game: Madden NFL 17
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: August 23
The annual quest to build a better Madden is thankless and often fruitless, devolving into an OCD-driven effort to guilt the lily by adding animations, grass stains, shadowing, defensive assignment awareness and ball physics tweaks. It’s stuff most players will ignore as they send Cam Newton to weave past flailing defensive ends as he scampers 35 yards behind the line of scrimmage to sling a Hail Mary on third-and-three. In a gimmicky ploy to make it seem like all the behind-the-scenes tweaks came to some sort of focused head, there’s usually a new back-of-the-box bullet point that poses as a revolutionary addition. There’s nothing like that this year, though, and that underlines EA Sports’ confidence in the general product. This is Madden, the monolithic publisher is saying. We know it’s damn good and you know you’ll dig it this year and next.
That’s not to say there are no changes. The differences from this year’s edition abound, including from the voices in your head at every turn. The most impressive change for the sake of change was to ditch celebrity broadcasters and round up the hungry, no-name crew of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. They know they’re lucky to have the gig and could easily get tossed aside for Madden NFL 18, so they do their best to earn their keep with insightful, passionate commentary that highlights the action and seems to come from a place of authenticity rather than a teleprompter. The crew recorded infectiously geeky commentary throughout the development cycle, and will continue to do so throughout the season for live update injections intent on adding relevant references and ridding the Madden experience of hearing the same few lines of dialogue over and over again.
There are also no-brainer additions that EA Tiburon shouldn’t so much get credit for adding, but instead questioned as to why they were never there before. Franchise mode gets a live ticker with updates from around your league, kicks and punts become more possible to swat away and secondary defenders start playing the ball rather than stop in their tracks to jump in the air like idiots as a Aaron Rodgers missile sails over their fingertips. Purists will whine about the optional “Play the Moment” game-streamlining feature, meant to speed games along and simulate watching and controlling only what would show up on NFL Red Zone. You don’t have to bastardize your games by interceding only at the “important” plays, nor do you have to play the game on the pandering lower difficulties, which choose running lanes for you and institute jukes and stiff-arms without your prompting. You can do away with any of it by playing on a manly difficulty level and ignoring the super-sim options. Sure, they suck and are annoying, but you can ignore them just as easily as you do a Chip Kelly-coached hurry-up team.
Madden NFL 17 operates with the calm, assured precision of a Bill Belichick offense. It will never be as exuberant or spirited as Tecmo Bowl or NFL Blitz. The fun and excitement comes in using your cunning and boldness, manipulating the impartial laws of grim reality to exert your will on the AI or human opponent. You cling to the fleeting fantasy that the Detroit Lions could shake off the devastating loss of Megatron and crack a spot in the wildcard race, or that you could pull a Blaine Gabbert card in fantasy-ish Madden Ultimate Team mode and still cobble together enough points to buy a premium pack and live to fight another day. Once your team is mathematically eliminated in real life, you’ll spend way too many hours taking out your frustrations with your PS4 controller, dreaming of next year, when you’ll look forward to getting the next Madden and start the process all over again.
Madden NFL 17 Reviews Around The Web:
“Football is back, and it’s only a yard or two short of becoming an all-time great.” –IGN
“Everything they’ve tried to accomplish over the past couple years is on display, from the revamped blocking to the smarter franchise mode.” –USgamer
“Unlike last year, not a whole lot is radically different for better or for worse.” –Twinfinite
Madden NFL 17 Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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