It's Madden season again and while we'll have a full review for you on the latest iteration of the NFL video game, I'm here to bring you some first impressions of the things that have truly stood out to me in my first ten hours of playtime, both good and not-so-good.
There have been some promises made in regards to what will be different and exciting in Madden 17, such as a new gameplay system that allows for better control of runners and some new additions in franchise, career, and online play. While the franchise itself continues to churn out the sales numbers year in and year out, sometimes the tried and tested formula needs changes to keep it fresh. It's just a matter of whether those changes actually hit or miss. I'll talk about this more in my full review, but here's a five point preview of what I'll be focusing on in the upcoming review.
1) The gameplay is definitely improved
Every year, I hope for little tweaks here and there in order to improve the in-game experience while taking my team down the field or trying to keep another out of the endzone. The changes to the skill stick and button control are about as close to a "FIFA Skill" feel that one can hope for on the gridiron. It still isn't perfect, but the moves come off as far more natural instead of these awkward grunts, pushes, and lunges if they aren't times absolutely perfect.
2) Catch-up AI is definitely still here
Let's pretend for a moment that EA Sports is right and that catch-up AI doesn't exist in the game, even though we know it does. If that's the case, then I have no explanation over the number of dropped passes I've experienced in multiple fourth quarters when up by at least two touchdowns. On a few occasions, I've found myself up big in the fourth. It's best to just run the ball because any pass that is remotely covered seems to be dropped or batted away at the last second, even if my receiver seems to grab it and goes to ground. There's this long pause and then the ball just rolls away.
3) Franchise mode: Still kind of fun, but changes are needed
There's some new stuff in franchise mode, mainly the ability to fully edit players and set an actual game plan in practice (kind of) prior to each weekly matchup, but franchise mode has become more than stale. I still enjoy the simulation portion of it, but there's some massive overhaul that's needed and not just a little tidbit here and there to make it seem like it's been revamped. This was extremely disappointing.
4) Pulling from the old does not make it "new"
One of the key features that is being pushed for this year were changes to special teams. However, these changes are not a new concept. For a few years now, the right analog stick has functioned as the way to kickoff, kick field goals, and punt. It worked, it had some element of difficulty to it, and if you didn't like, you could always go back into the settings and switch to three-click mode.
Well, now you've just got three click mode. Yeah, that's the big change. The directional meter and such is slightly different, but now we're back to hitting the "A" button three times instead of just pulling back to snap the ball and flinging the stick forward to kick. Not exactly innovative.
5) There needs to be more customization
This is a blanket thought I had when going through career mode. People love to make their franchises and team more their own. They love being able to create new ideas and options, such as new jerseys or modify stadiums. The customization on that level is practically non-existent, and whether or not it's because Nike won't sign off on it or just sheer laziness, I'm still left grasping for more options. Heck, I can't even change the uniforms when relocating a franchise. It's three options and that's it. It's been that way now for four years.
Look for the full review in the coming days of Madden 17 to see whether or not this game is Super Bowl bound or headed for the top pick in the draft.