Madden NFL 17 doesn't move the series forward in any significant ways, but it provides one of the most polished NFL football video game experiences to date.
Even though Madden NFL is one of EA's biggest franchises, Madden NFL 17 was glossed over at the company's E3 2016 press conference. Some took this as a sign that EA wasn't confident in the game, but after having spent time with all of its game modes, we're happy to report that Madden NFL fans shouldn't be concerned. In fact, Madden NFL 17 is perhaps the most polished entry in the series available on current-gen consoles.
EA Tiburon has accomplished this through years of iteration, which has helped the studio solidify what a current-gen football experience should be. Whether playing offense, defense, or as a coach, everything about the gameplay is as smooth as possible, with all facets of gameplay slightly tweaked for the better. Even so, Madden NFL 17 is lacking that one defining feature to really help it stand out from its predecessors.
Last year's Madden NFL 16 featured the Draft Champions mode, which was generally well-received by fans and critics alike. Madden NFL 17, on the other hand, is lacking in terms of new game modes, offering nothing flashy like FIFA 17's story mode. Its lack of any substantial new game modes is probably why EA didn't spend much time discussing Madden NFL 17 at E3, but that's not to say that the game is simply a repeat of last year's effort.
On the contrary, Madden NFL 17 boasts improved AI across the board, superior graphics, practice squads, and other additions that make it an overall better package than Madden NFL 16. It also has a couple of new features in Franchise mode that, while not as significant as Draft Champions, do add value to Madden NFL 17.
First off, there's Play the Moments. Play the Moments makes games go much faster, simulating to the most exciting parts, and then letting players take control from there. Hardcore Madden NFL enthusiasts may scoff at the idea of simulating most of the game, but those looking for quick, short bursts of entertainment will find Play the Moments preferable to Madden NFL 17's other modes that sometimes require significant time commitments.
Play the Moments is supplemented by another new feature, Big Decisions, which essentially boils down team management in Franchise mode to only the most important situations that players will need to deal with during their season. These features combined make for a much more fast-paced season that will help players get to the game's most thrilling and satisfying moments at a quicker rate. Of course, Madden purists can still play every second of every game and micromanage their team, but those looking to just get to the most exciting bits now have that option.
It's clear from new features like Play the Moments and Big Decisions that EA Tiburon is trying to provide a variety of experiences with Madden NFL 17 that will appeal to gamers of all tastes, and making the game appeal to more than just the series faithful is definitely a good thing. Madden NFL 17's quest to broaden its appeal doesn't end with Play the Moments and Big Decisions, however; it continues with the game's improved accessibility options, which are especially apparent on the field.
Madden NFL 17 is more welcoming to newcomers on the field thanks to its automatic skill moves for players on lower difficulties. It also adds a run path assist to help people better understand how to effectively execute run plays, with button prompts that appear so players can dodge incoming defensive linemen more easily. With all these accommodations, Madden NFL 17 is built so that a complete novice should be able to pick up the controller and still play fairly well, even in their first game.
Some may be worried that Madden NFL 17 is trying to appeal too much to the casual crowd, but it still offers the same level of challenge that veterans expect. All of Madden NFL 17's accessibility features can be turned off and ignored if the player so desires, so really it is as challenging or easy as players make it. Again, this is Madden NFL 17's attempt to appeal to as large of a player base as possible, and it succeeds on that front.
Even if most players probably won't be able to recognize the subtle tweaks made to Madden NFL 17 under the hood that help it to be a superior football game, they will be able to recognize its wealth of accessibility options, its improved visuals, and that it is the most feature-rich edition of the franchise available on current-gen consoles, even without a big standout new game mode. For those that help Madden consistently become one of the best-selling games of the year, Madden NFL 17 is a no-brainer, and for those that may have stopped playing the series, it marks the perfect time to jump back in.
Madden NFL 17 is available now for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.