Home
OS Scores Explained Madden NFL 17 Overview (Xbox One)
Pros
The game simply feels right, special teams are much improved, actual flow to presentation this year, franchise mode improved.
Cons
Some unfortunate side effects of new running styles, QBs not differentiated enough, player negotiations have no rhyme or reason.
Bottom Line
Madden 17 meets expectations and is poised to break out as one of video game’s most elite (sup, Joe Flacco?) simulation titles.
8
out of 10
Madden NFL 17 REVIEW

Madden NFL 17 Review (Xbox One)

 
Madden 17 begins with an authoritative stamp: You’re thrown in Memorial Stadium, right in the thick of a NFC playoff game against the Washington Redskins. The crowd is ferocious, the commentary is well timed and filled with chemistry, and everything that is happening on the field has a manic pace to it. Before you know it, your heart is beating in the same way every sports fan has felt as the clock winds down.

Fortunately, just about everything that makes Madden 17’s intro so great carries itself over to the base game. All at once, Madden boasts improved presentation, feel and gameplay. From the moment the game kicks into gear, a sense of overwhelming confidence on the part of EA Tiburon sets in. Madden 17 may be the best football game put out by the studio this generation.
 
 
Gameplay

Perhaps most importantly, Madden finally manages to feel right. For a series that has persistently lugged around awkward ball physics and a locomotion engine that could never find a proper rhythm, this is a huge step forward. No longer will you have to essentially ignore entire aspects of the game (such as special teams) just because of how bad they look and play. There’s very little that will actually take you out of the experience, and that might just be Madden 17’s greatest strength. It's confident and well balanced, finally allowing for a football game to be played in its entirety without having to turn your head.

So let’s kick things off with special teams. An often ignored part of the game, special teams is given the full treatment this year; kick-offs have several different options automatically plugged in, including both a sky and a squib kick; field goals can not only be missed (due to an often difficult three-press mechanic) but blocked; and punts spin off the bounce instead of always lunging forward into the end zone.

Past that, kick coverage and returns are more dynamic as well. The CPU often threatens to return kicks and punts, especially if it has a top-tier returner. All of this plays into the fact that special teams both look and feel important now. Games are often won or lost based on how well the special teams battle goes, especially if you don’t take that facet of the game seriously.

As previously mentioned, the game feels more weighted than before. This is easily noticed in the running game where players don’t scoot around so much as they actually plant from step to step. There’s still some occasional sliding, especially when a player immediately turns east or west, but it’s infrequent. The new weight gives room to much more organic animation than before. You’ll see ball carriers throw a stiff arm only to be clipped at the knees, but unlike before, the stiff arm doesn’t magically vanish from existence. The two manage to coexist in a single, smooth tackle animation.
 
 
Runners in particular feel vastly different from one another. McCoy’s stiff arm doesn’t look nor feel nearly as effective, as say, Eddie Lacy’s. However, the lack of power is traded for the useful ability to dodge tackle attempts in the form of some brand new juke animations.

But this isn’t always a good thing. Slower, more powerful runners have juke moves that look like they should come from a defensive tackle. It may just be an unfortunate side effect of a rapidly changing locomotion system, but some of the new running animations and cuts are just near useless with heavier backs. All the same, these same backs manage to find a home in destroying opposing defenders and breaking tackles. The results are fine, it’s just the manner in which they achieve them that’s a bit shaky. Running backs will also occasionally run right into their offensive linemen and fall over, as if they hit an oncoming truck. It looks funny and can be immensely frustrating if it happens at the wrong time.

Unfortunately, quarterbacks seem to have the opposite problem. Outside of pocket passers versus scramblers, Madden 17 doesn’t do nearly enough to differentiate between quarterbacks. Throwing animations have very little variation, and it’s still unclear on how much ratings actually play a role in the success of your passing game. On All-Pro (with default sliders), quarterbacks will hit their targets with regularity -- no matter their skill level. Knock the “QB Accuracy” slider down a few notches and you start to see noticeable skill gaps, but for those who prefer staying close to default, be ready for some slightly higher than normal passing percentages.
 
 
With respect to that, there isn’t a whole lot of other things to complain about in terms of gameplay. The ball physics are an absolute marvel -- you’ll see everything from fumbles being realistically knocked around on the field to passes hitting a wide receiver's shoulder pad and bouncing into the hands of a waiting defender. It can’t be stated enough: The ball moves more realistically than it ever has by a very large margin.

Perhaps most importantly, defense feels fun. There is a constant battle for yards, both in the run game (which is simultaneously more effective for the CPU and less effective for the player) and the passing game, where zone finally feels viable. Linebackers finally hit their gaps in a realistic manner instead of stumbling upon one another like a group of kids playing a soccer match. Cornerbacks willfully go up against wide receivers on jump-ball situations, which really plays up the all-important matchups like Odell Beckham Jr. versus Josh Norman. Trying to survive in Madden 17 without a stud cornerback is like, well, trying to survive a real football game without one.

As it stands, there doesn’t appear to be any blatantly unfair plays a user would have to sidestep in order to give the CPU a fair challenge (though, of course, that doesn't mean I'm saying they don't exist as I'm sure they do somewhere). The AI, both in play calling and on-field antics, seems to have been given a significant boost. There is little doubt many will need to tweak their slider sets in order to get the competition they’re looking for, but default play is better than it’s ever been. There is still the occasional Hail Mary play from the red zone, but head-scratching play calls are largely avoided.
 
 
Line play is significantly improved, with most of the pressure coming off the edge. Offensive lines do a nice job forming pockets, though, it was difficult to tell just how much ratings seemed to influence offensive line play. On the defensive end, elite pass rushers would have their way and either force a bad pass, sack the QB or do everything in their power to smack the ball out of the QB’s hands. One of the most subtle features in Madden 17 is how every player attacks the ball as if it wronged them in some way.

All in all, this is the best Madden’s gameplay been this generation. All three facets of the game are fun to play and balanced. More so than ever, Madden feels like the real thing on top of looking like it.
 
 
Presentation

Finally, we have life. Madden 17 introduces a brand new commentary system with Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. Even with the obvious side note that it’s still far from perfect, there is an actual flow to this year’s presentation. The booth has an incredible chemistry that has the makings of something really great, especially if lines are continuously added in (as EA says they will be). There is the occasional repeat and an infrequent mistake (for instance, sometimes they will talk about a receiver dropping the ball when it was tipped or the quarterback being at fault for a dropped pass), but it flows well enough that some of the slip-ups are easy to forget. There is some contextual commentary, but if there is one area for improvement, it would be more dynamic commentary based on prior events in both franchise mode and in-game.

Past the commentary, the game looks fantastic. Lighting and shadows have been marginally improved and player animations are vastly superior to what they used to be. Even pre-play, players move around with a little more realism than before. Unfortunately, running styles look almost universally similar. Whether that be in the form of a 160-pound corner or a 300-pound lineman, players look nearly identical when running side by side.
 
 
Another unique feature to Madden 17 is the introduction of each team’s starting roster, filled with 3-D figures and some talking points. It isn’t a huge addition, but it’s very much appreciated. It’s an early reminder of who, and what, you’ll be facing for the game to come.

There is still little in the way of a pre or post-game show. The halftime presentation is still just a good excuse to get up and go get a snack (though it's good for what it is), unless you just want to watch some highlights from the game you were just playing. It would be nice for Madden to add a halftime show that provided some context for games outside of just yours, but as it stands, the only way to receive updates is through a newly added score crawl.

That being said, the score crawl really is a neat little feature. Fresh with in-game stats, the score, how much time is left and even a flashing red “Upset Alert,” it may be Madden’s best tool at keeping players connected with the rest of their franchise mode -- which is nice, because there is so little else in the way of league-wide updates.
 
 
Game Modes

Franchise mode wasn’t given a ton of attention this year, but it received a large number of smaller changes that benefit it a lot. The XP system has been revamped to have more of a direct effect on upcoming games. A new “weekly training” segment asks you to focus your practices on a specific kind of play or defense to help exploit some of your opponent's favorite schemes. For instance, if a team loves to chuck it down field (say, Green Bay), you may be inclined to practice some Cover 2 Man. In doing so, you gain a small ratings boost every time you select Cover 2 Man in the upcoming game. It isn’t anything that will drastically change the outcome of the game, but it is noticeable and gives weekly practices some meaning -- even if you prefer to simulate them.

Menu navigation in general feels a lot smoother, even if finding some specific things (like signable free agents) is still too difficult. It is frustrating to have to scroll two or three tabs to the right just to get any kind of real news on what is happening across the league. Without an update show of any kind, you’re relying on generic headlines and tweets to tell you what’s happening across the NFL. Even with the score crawl in-game, it’s easy to feel isolated in franchise mode. Things would feel a lot more immersive if something as simple as a power ranking was available on the front page of the menu.

The NFL Draft, paired with a new, simplified version of scouting is still waves ahead of any other major sports video game. The scouting has been rolled into a much quicker version of its former self, allowing players to see some of a player’s top skills as well as their project draft value once they are fully scouted. There are plenty of gems and busts to go along with it all, so leaving stones unturned comes at the peril of your franchise. On top of the wonderful commentary from Adam Schefter during the draft, Madden 17 also gives you immediate reinforcement on whether you reached (or got a steal on) a specific pick. It is both incredibly gratifying to pick up a gem, and disheartening to have reached for a bust.
 
 
The new contract negotiations prove to be an interesting addition, even if there is not a ton of rhyme or reason as to why a player will make a specific decision. There is the fun game of cat and mouse that entails both trying to balance your budget while also doing everything you can to make sure the player doesn’t slip away. Sometimes offering lowball offers to players can result in them spurring you from contract talks, while giving them too much money might leave you with too little in terms of cap space. The concept hasn’t been fully realized just yet, but it’s a promising addition to what was formerly a stale aspect of franchise mode.

The new “Play the Moments” feature is nice for those wanting to speed things along. It allows you to cut the time it takes to complete a game by more than half. It sticks the player in key situations (such as an important third-down stop or a goal-line opportunity) and puts them in a pass/fail scenario. Once you succeed or fail, the game continues its simulation until the next time you’re needed. The “slow” mode allows you to observe the game from the broadcast camera angle and then jump in at key moments. This may be a game changer for those who like to watch games but are easily frustrated with decisions made in important situations.

After simulating through a few seasons, there doesn’t appear to be any abnormalities that stick out like in prior iterations of Madden. Every now and again, you’ll see a powerhouse absolutely tank a season, but without knowing exactly what situation the team was in (whether it be some injuries or just a lot of tough losses), it’s difficult to call it unrealistic. Player regression and progression seems to have been played safe, with little variation in the way of the former. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given the issues regression can often pose, but not every player regresses the same way because of age and it shouldn’t be represented as such. Though, it is nice to finally have regression explained in-game, whether it be because of old age or due to performance.
 
 
Various smaller things have been changed as well. Confidence doesn’t have the significant impact that it used to. Free agency is a bit more organized, allowing you to easily sort through potential signees. You also get to see which free agents signed where, instead of them disappearing from the list and the game never giving it a second thought. Perhaps more importantly, the game doesn’t seem to have any glaring issues (though, again, I'm not saying folks won't find something), which should allow players to enjoy their franchise without having to tweak dozens of things as it goes on.

Madden Ultimate Team also builds on what it already has, instead of wiping the slate clean. In place of the previous play style mechanic, it now boasts “chemistry,” which holds a direct correlation to how well all of your players (and their skill sets) mesh together. The process in which Ultimate Team players meet challenge conditions has been changed, as it now ends the challenge immediately after the goal has been met instead of requiring the player to finish the game. This is a huge time saver, especially for those who like to grind the challenges out for better cards.

Unfortunately, there was very little opportunity to play the game online to this point. In my short time in online head-to-heads, everything seemed up to par. Look for further impressions on the game’s various online features once the game has been released to the public.
 
 
Final Thoughts

Madden has a lot of pressure on it. Football is the most popular sport in the United States, and is arguably the most complicated sport to emulate. Madden 17 meets expectations handedly and is poised to break out as one of video game’s most elite (sup, Joe Flacco?) simulation titles. While a few legacy issues persist, no new ones have really popped up. If not for a lack of several desired features -- such as a weekly update show -- and a few disappointing gameplay mechanics, Madden 17 would have little holding it back. For the first time in a long time, Madden is starting to play and look like the real thing.

Score: 8.0 (Great)
 
Editor's Note: Formation subs weren't available at the time of review nor was a robust online component to the game due to lack of players currently online with the game. Both will be touched upon in future articles here on Operation Sports.

Member Comments
# 1 jpdavis82 @ 08/17/16 11:44 AM
Great review, this is my favorite one so far!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
# 2 ThatMichiganFan @ 08/17/16 11:49 AM
Great review Ben. Thought everything you said was spot on. Really excited about the commentary this season, it sounds incredible in the videos I've been watching.
 
# 3 BleedGreen710 @ 08/17/16 11:51 AM
this is an exceptional review. and i dont just say that cause it put the game in a positive light. just a well written/edited piece. thanks for the great read

august 23rd can't get here soon enough
 
# 4 michaelhawj @ 08/17/16 11:51 AM
8 is not bad. nice score. can't wait to play this next week on Monday night 11pm
 
# 5 bcruise @ 08/17/16 11:51 AM
Interesting to hear the AI return game has gotten better, that's kind of the opposite of the things I've been reading from the early impressions.

Thanks for the review.
 
# 6 Gorilla Glass @ 08/17/16 11:59 AM
*Happy Dance.
 
# 7 scottyp180 @ 08/17/16 12:04 PM
"Madden 17 doesn’t do nearly enough to differentiate between quarterbacks"

Ehh this is something that has irked me about madden for years. It's not a deal breaker but I feel like it should have been touched on by now. I'm pretty sure all pro 2k8 had variation in throwing styles, an 8 year old game. Its a feature that adds to players looking and feeling different.

However I am happy to hear about the other improvements to gameplay. The feel of them game is something that has improved each game this gen and I am happy to hear that it has improved even further. Hopefully the improvement is noticeable enough to warrant a purchase. Can't wait for that EA Access trial to try this game out!
 
# 8 scottyp180 @ 08/17/16 12:09 PM
Might have missed it in the review but any noticeable improvements to penalties? My main issue has been with pass interference calls that are rarely called. I hate having a receiver run into a defender and being unable to make a play on the ball, because the defender essential become a barrier, and no flag being thrown.
 
# 9 JKSportsGamer1984 @ 08/17/16 12:11 PM
Good review.

"Running backs will also occasionally run right into their offensive linemen and fall over, as if they hit an oncoming truck." This problem has been happening ever since they introduced the Infinity engine SMH. Why are we still dealing with wonky physics 4 years later? Come on EA! Ugh
 
# 10 Armor and Sword @ 08/17/16 12:15 PM
Excellent review Ben.
 
# 11 BadAssHskr @ 08/17/16 12:19 PM
yeah this review has me more excited about the game. i'm looking to get some reading and watching in today, and your review was most pleasant from the previous 2 ive read.

i like the positive light. i don't play enough to always find glaring issues, and as a whole i'm always happy with the game.

this review is way encouraging.

thanks.
 
# 12 brza37 @ 08/17/16 12:24 PM
So the draft commentary from Schefter actually works this year? The past 2 years you would see him pop-up but 9 times out of 10 the audio wouldn't play.
 
# 13 BenGerman @ 08/17/16 12:38 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcruise
Interesting to hear the AI return game has gotten better, that's kind of the opposite of the things I've been reading from the early impressions.

Thanks for the review.
No problem.

AI is certainly subjective, but I looked at two things: 1) Did the playcalling make sense? 2) Did the CPU make the right move at the right time?

This is something that is going to need a sample size of more than any of us have played, as of right now. But so far, my experience with the CPU has been a lot better than in years past.
 
# 14 charter04 @ 08/17/16 12:40 PM
Nice review. Looking forward to playing tonight or tomorrow


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
# 15 drewst18 @ 08/17/16 12:40 PM
"Franchise mode wasn’t given a ton of attention this year, but it received a large number of smaller changes that benefit it a lot."

That stood out so much when you consider they branded it as a complete overhaul
 
# 16 BenGerman @ 08/17/16 12:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottyp180
Might have missed it in the review but any noticeable improvements to penalties? My main issue has been with pass interference calls that are rarely called. I hate having a receiver run into a defender and being unable to make a play on the ball, because the defender essential become a barrier, and no flag being thrown.
I did everything in my power to stick with default sliders for the review. I made a note of it (but ran out of space in the review), but I only saw one or two pass interferences on default settings. I'm sure this has a lot to do with it giving online players fits.

FWIW, every slider that I did tinker with seemed to be pretty effective.
 
# 17 Joshua1207 @ 08/17/16 12:47 PM
Great review. Game is sounding pretty promising, can't wait for it!
 
# 18 BezO @ 08/17/16 01:16 PM
I'll leave specifics out as not to disturb the thread, but there are some glaring legacy issues glossed over or flat out ignored. Everyone's opinion will be different, so an 8/great means whatever, but there are too many missing elements not mentioned for my taste.
 
# 19 BenGerman @ 08/17/16 01:29 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BezO
I'll leave specifics out as not to disturb the thread, but there are some glaring legacy issues glossed over or flat out ignored. Everyone's opinion will be different, so an 8/great means whatever, but there are too many missing elements not mentioned for my taste.
Hey Bez, I'm interested in hearing some of the legacy issues you're seeing. While not attributing them directly to "legacy issues", I definitely saw some problems that have existed in prior games (i.e. Running backs slamming into the O line and falling down).
 
# 20 bucky60 @ 08/17/16 01:37 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenGerman
Hey Bez, I'm interested in hearing some of the legacy issues you're seeing. While not attributing them directly to "legacy issues", I definitely saw some problems that have existed in prior games (i.e. Running backs slamming into the O line and falling down).
Ben, are you a reviewer only or do you have direct contact with Madden Devs? My biggest issue with madden is CFM and how all their abstractions are very arcade. Any chance they will give options in CFM to provide more (optional) realistic CFM abstractions?

You were asking Bez for examples so I'm just taking a chance that you may have a line to Madden developer/designers. The realism crowd really doesn't have a franchise path.

My question/comment is strictly CFM. I think gameplay has taken some steps toward realism.
 

« Previous12345Next »

Post A Comment
Only OS members can post comments
Please login or register to post a comment.