MADDEN NFL 17 [Review]: Mama Said Gronk You Out.
To prevent sounding like an annual broken Phil Simms, your “Monsignor” is going to try something a little different–and a little simple–for the GHG review of Madden NFL 17 this year: the Panthers (Great), the Rams (Good), and the Browns (Bad).
–NEW COMMENTARY – People who know me, know I put presentation in sports games almost above everything. I want to be entertained. Since these are video games per se, everything about it should be raised up a notch; otherwise–if said commentary is better, more fluid and fascinating on TV, then why the hell am I bothering playing this game? Thankfully, play-by-play man Brandon Gaudin and color guy Charles Davis have come to save the day.
While not up to the level of NBA 2K (nothing is), the new Madden booth offer more than just studio punch-ins. Expect a plethora of pertinent info–with vast knowledge of both situational and strategic play on the field, and, best of all, fluid comraderie (the IGN reviewer who referred to Gaudin and Davis as “wet blankets” has no idea what the fuck he’s talking about). One moment caught my ear when the two brought up the Baltimore Ravens’ support for their hometown homie Michael Phelps at the 2016 Summer Olympic; another pair of ear-tingling moments spoke on the current preseason and the rise of Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Madden 17 is also offering weekly commentary downloads so the two-man booth can stay right on top of all the happenings (roster changes, injuries, etc.) throughout the forthcoming NFL season.
–NEW RUNNING GAME – It seems every year EA Madden goes back and forth between a stellar and poor running game. I guess it depends on who is on the cover. But hey, even with my current favorite player this side of Giselle’s husband — GRONK! — finally making his way front and center (there’s no more “Madden curse” now, right?), Madden NFL 17 has finally made all those wildly frustrating running options completely viable. If you’re a “rookie” or just a “pro” to video game football, you can have the AI automatically choose which move (spin, hurdle, juke, etc.) fits the best situation. My new preference is the new run “Assist” option, which shows a new button prompt to highlight which move will get your back that extra yard.
Beyond making the running game an easier going and more immersive experience is the way contact now extends on the field. No longer are runs easy to stop on a drop of an X-pressing dime; there’s often a new strategic Tackle Mini-Game dogfight when it comes those extra yards. Strong backs like AP will drag a lot more linebacker biceps with their supersized trunks, and jukes have never looked or felt so timely crisp. While the new “gap assignments” will help players clog lanes with linebackers and creeping up safeties, the CPU actually has a chance now to make a difference on the ground.
–SPECIAL TEAMS – While returning kicks still isn’t as proficient as the NCAA Football video games of yesteryear, the new button prompt assists or automatic running choices will help your chances to bring one home. Better in Madden 17 though is the kicking game from the defensive end. I’ve already blocked two field goals in my limited time with the game, and while I’m worried that might wind up too commonplace, there’s no doubt that it adds a further dimension to a part of video game football that previously didn’t matter. You can punt to sky high extremes, and even put backspin on the rock. Hell, trick plays are actually a thing now! Players must pay attention to extra points more heavily this year, too. As we have seen in the current NFL, these little tigers are no longer easy “gimme’s”.
–VISUAL PRESENTATION – While the audio presentation is clearly better (all of the pregame and presnap shit-talk is wondrous; there’s an Aesop Rock cut on the soundtrack!), the visuals are clearly amped up as well. New Nike uniforms look great on coaches (you can finally create a guy who looks similar to the sleeveless hoody appearance of Bill Belichick); there are less abusive dramatic catches that can be easily swatted by the D; and crowds look great, even when they forget to root for their hometeam when scoring a TD (expect a patch for that).
While the phony between-quarter and turnover-on-downs commercials are gone, a new In-Game Ticker at the bottom will show “live” scores as they happen around your Franchise (along with being more statistically informative), and other on-screen graphics are stimulating to the eye. Instant replays are far more on-point too, other than the new Pylon Cam, which is useless for players jogging into the end zone all alone–and the menus for all of the games Modes (Franchise, Ultimate Team, Draft Champions) are fresh and easy to use.
–PLAY THE MOMENTS – I’m also a huge fan of Madden 17‘s newest way to play, which sims through, at your own leisurely speed, a typically long-ass football game right up to the moments you’d only catch on NFL Red Zone: a huge 3rd down on offense–perhaps even backed up in your own end; the famed 2-minute drill, and, of course, any offensive and defensive opportunities in the red zone. It’s truly fascinating to see how many players get hurt over the course of a football game; how many damn three-and-outs there are; and how many times a certain team will turn the ball over. Plus, playing just the finest Moments of a game (which winds up an estimated real time of 20-minutes) will help hardcore Franchise players get through hundreds of games and plenty of career-defining seasons. Maybe I’ll finally get to see what it’s like to see Tom Brady age and retire. Maybe.
–FRANCHISE MODE – While the majority of other video game critics have lauded the new additions to Madden‘s most popular mode, I’m going Johnny Manziel. WTF, EA? No offline full control of all 32 teams in Franchise? What about those who want to have a “season” with our girlfriend, roommate, best friend and fellow Ringside Apostle? Why must everything be online? Cue MJ’s “You Are Not Alone”. Yeah! But sometimes I feel it. There’s, again, no juicy seasonal narrative ala MyCareer Mode (hell, I’d even take a Spike Lee one at this point) that would add more to the sim aspects of being on the gridiron.
What happens off the field? A lot in the NFL that it likely wants to avoid. Isn’t that right, Roger?
Your base Franchise Mode is the usual assigning of line-ups, making some adjustments in practice? (“Not a game. Not a game. Not a game… We’re talking about PRACTICE!”), and playing of your seasonal games while pretend ESPN Twitter accounts rant on how much you suck and how much your coach blew it. Previous incarnatons of Madden and NFL 2K had highlights, podcasts, and far more intriguing ways to present news and happenings around the league. While I’m thankful for the new ticker, why not interrupt the game between quarters and stoppages in play to spotlight a crazy touchdown, career milestone, or wacky game-winning play that happened in another AI or Online-User played game. That would help separate the presentation boys (Madden) from the men (2K). Oh, and the “pre-game” and “halftime” shows — if you even want to call them that — feature, once again, nothing more than a brief and awfully vague voiceover from “Mr. Nobody” Larry Riddley. Le sigh.
–2-MINUTE DRILL – Despite my usual complaints about things I’ve been begging (what seems my whole life) for in EA and Tiburon’s Madden NFL game, this year’s offering is a winner with few issues. Draft Champions continues to be an excellent way to play and swiftly generate current and historical Fantasy Teams. The extra stale commentary from Jim Nance and Simms is now out of the picture. And most importantly, the series’ main gameplay flaws have been fixed and/or upgraded with more captivating run game and special teams scenarios. There’s a lot to love about Madden NFL 17; just don’t expect to accomplish too much with your friends sitting next to you on the couch.
EA Sports’ Madden NFL 17 is available everywhere good video games are sold at midnight.