Unlike last year, Madden NFL 17 doesn’t add any new modes to the mix for this outing. Instead, two of the series’ biggest modes, Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team, have seen some improvements. In an effort to streamline Franchise mode, the developer created the new Play The Moment mode. As the name suggests, this mode lets players sim through the minor and unimportant moments of the game, and instead, only play through crucial moments. For example, instead of taking the reins of a team for an entire drive, you’ll only play if you get into the Red Zone, or during a critical third down play. You also now have the option to play through an entire game on offense or defense, with the other being simulated, too.
As an avid NFL Red Zone watcher, I can understand the appeal of Play The Moment. However, it seemed like I was better off jumping into the game and playing it myself if I wanted to win. I like having control over my team, no matter what the situation is. It doesn’t hurt that I can also use the extra play time in order to further develop my skills as a Madden player. And even as someone strapped for game playing time, I tend to have enough time to fit in a game or two each night. Again, I can understand the appeal from both an excitement and time saving perspective, but I’ll stick to the regular game.
Thankfully, Franchise mode has also been streamlined in ways that are more appealing. After years’ of fan requests, EA Tiburon finally introduced practice squad signings. It’s great to be able to sign and develop potential stars during a multi-year career, and it adds additional realism to the mode. The Big Decisions menu is also an excellent addition. Instead of having to navigate through several menus, you can now see what players are coming back from injury, what players need to be re-signed, and what positions need to be improved all in one screen. The quick contract negotiation is especially helpful, as the ability to see what certain players are asking for, and what they think of any previous offer you have sent them is great for someone who doesn’t want to get too drawn into contract negotiations.
Madden Ultimate Team doesn’t change the basics, so if you weren’t interested before, you’re probably still not going to be interested. However, for those that enjoy it, the improved Solo Challenge mode is worth pointing out. Instead of being fairly stagnant from challenge to challenge, the tasks for this year feature specific goals. For example, one of the early ones has you trying to score a rushing TD against the potent Panthers defense. It’s not that much different from the challenge of just scoring a goal, but I like the addition of some type of endgame for the challenge. The ability to quick restart is also welcome, even if it doesn’t entirely cut down on the amount of loading screens in the game.
To throw out a brief disclaimer, I was unable to play Madden NFL 17 online prior to this review going live. Unfortunately, this means that I was unable to address one of the few problems I had with last year’s release. Online play eventually got better as updates were released for 16, but if the same bugs that wreaked havoc on Connected Franchise last year return this year, that could be a big problem.
Moving on, the presentation in Madden NFL 17 remains top notch. The graphics are stellar, which isn’t too surprising considering the pedigree of the series. The character models are once again worth pointing out, as not only do they look like their real world counterparts, but they are also fluidly animated. Coaches get steamed on the sideline, and players jostle with each other even after a play is finished.
I did, however, notice a ton of clipping going on. I would say that at least once a game, I would see someone’s appendage phasing into another. One time, two players even shoved each other through the body of my coach. It’s very noticeable, and I’m a little surprised to see that so many graphical hiccups made it into the finished product.
That aside, the excellent presentation is further revamped due to the new commentary team of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. Maybe it’s because I was so used to dull, bored tones of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, but Gaudin and Davis are a significant improvement. The dialogue doesn’t feel as canned as it did in year’s past, and it just fits the flow of the action better. I’m interested to see how their commentary changes during the season, as EA Tiburon has promised frequent updates in that department.
After last year’s excellent release, there was no way Madden NFL 17 was going to feel as improved. In reality, though, it didn’t really need to improve that much. The gameplay on both sides of the ball is the best it has been in years, and the tweaks in this year’s release are a big part of that. And while Madden Ultimate Team still has some issues, the improvements made to Franchise mode have elevated it to new heights. It’s now a mode that fans of all ages can jump into and navigate with ease. I said last year that the series has never been better, but after playing this year’s version, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the title, which we were provided with.
While it may not provide the same seismic shifts as last year's iteration did, Madden NFL 17 continues to to evolve and innovate, even as the series approaches its 30th anniversary.