‘Madden NFL 17’ Is The Best Version Of Madden In Franchise History

After a stressful game of back and forth, I finally had the upper hand. Although I was down 35-32 with a little less than two minutes to go, and starting on my own 35 yard line, I was confident I could at least move within field goal range. A good mix of Tyrod Taylor and Lesean McCoy got me inside the twenty yard line on the Arizona Cardinals side of the field with one timeout left. The field goal would’ve been a chip shot, but the new kicking meter had proved to be much more of a gamble. A botched extra point plus a missed field goal was how I’d gotten here in the first place.

I was going for the win…

It’s these types of moments which make Madden NFL 17 (Xbox One, PS4) one of the best renditions of virtual football in the franchise’s history. As with all the appropriate bells and whistles for upgrades, if there’s a single takeaway for the game it’d be that it has never been more enjoyable to play. Those gameplay improvements are far and wide, but for now, let’s talk about what’s changed on the field.

Madden 17 can be a bit unwieldy even if you’re an established veteran to the franchise. In this year’s iteration, offense, defense, and special teams have all gotten some tweaks to make sure the game in players’ hands feels like the one they watch on Sunday. On offense, there are new skill-based moves which individualize players. Running backs feel this upgrade the most, as there’s a distinct difference between running with Adrian Peterson than with LeSean McCoy.

What’s awesome about this change is that it lines up with the new blocking scheme, where a good offensive line actually pushes people around. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as watching the ball being handed off, patiently waiting a moment, and then bursting through at full speed leaving defenders and broken ankles in the wake.

Stiff-arms feel particularly brutal and satisfying. Trucking a defender who rolls around like a ragdoll will always feel awesome. Shifty running backs that do spin moves and jukes with a soft “ummph” are just as deadly. It’s never felt better to tote the rock than it does this year.

The defense has also seen a shift, with new gap assignments working almost too well. Most Madden players stick with either a defensive lineman or a safety. However, with the new gap assignments, it’s never been easier to play as a linebacker too. The right analog stick shows users what gaps defensive players are assigned to and if they can control the gap, it’ll help to make the defensive a formidable opponent. Also, zone coverage has been fixed so that not only do defenders guard their zone, if anything happens slightly outside their zone and they can make a play on it, they will. A small thing on paper but a very appreciated difference in gameplay.

Most hardcore fans are likely to find themselves spending the majority of their time in franchise mode which sports fantastic changes. There are big things like the new “Play the Moments” feature that enables users to only play the game they want to play. At the start of every game, users can choose whether to play certain situations like 3rd downs, 2-minute drives, red zone opportunities and more.

It’s a faster way to move to through a franchise where many prefer the off-the-field activities and managing the team as opposed to a full game of football. EA gave players more control and better feedback for gaining XP for players as well. Now they can focus their efforts on the players they want to excel.

“Draft Champions” and “Madden Ultimate Challenge” modes are present and accounted for with no major upgrades to report. I do fully recommend the skills trainer mode, for newcomers especially, as it’s the best way to learn the nuances of football in general and Madden 17 in particular. It’s one of the most comprehensive training modes I’ve ever experienced in any game I’ve played, period. Even a Madden vet like myself has spent more than a few hours walking myself through and picking up new tips along the way.

While I haven’t experienced any myself, a few bugs broke through the line during Q/A testing. Offensive linemen occasionally refuse to do their jobs and the game confuses which team has the ball. For instance, a “pick 6” might end up being points for the other team. Good sliders are still necessary as opposing CPU QBs can be unstoppable no matter what plays the defense calls. I get that it’s the NFL, but when Case Keenum went 14/14 for 296 yards and 3 TDs, I cursed more than three Samuel L. Jackson monologues combined.

With that said, all of these upgrades serve to make Madden 17 one of the best since the franchise originated. It’s never been so easy to do what you want, when you want, and how you want, than it has been this year. Which brings me to my earlier experience in my Bills game against the Cardinals.

As I lined up inside the ten yard line, I noticed there was single coverage on my receiver, but I wanted my running back to run the wheel route. I audibled the receiver to run a drag route, which, presumably, would’ve given McCoy a free trip to the end zone.

Once the play started, however, the linebacker made an an immediate beeline toward McCoy. With a defender bearing down on me, I floated the pass and looked on in horror as the defender jumped the route and intercepted the pass.

I lost the game 35-32.

Heartbreak never felt this good.