Madden 17 is out again worldwide and despite being warned it will sell out in Europe, it always sits on the shelf of game stores tempting you to buy it during the summer lull. It is a process I have gone through for many years only sampling Madden every three or four turns. This year it is time again and Madden 17 is a refreshing edition.
Being a very casual fan of American football, I learnt how to play the game from Joe Montana on my old Game Gear. Once you have the basics down the nuances of the game are there for you to explore or ignore. Usually, in Madden, I ignore these, and so only have a brief understanding of the game, leading to failure and trading the game in after the honeymoon period is over. It is akin to how some people in America treat FIFA or other soccer games. They know how to play it but the feel of the game is lost on them. In FIFA a simple cross into the box is the desired outcome, someone who treats it like I treat Madden, will run down to the crossing area and fire the ball in. Because I am more in tune with the game itself, I will go down the wing, hold my run to wait and see if my strikers are in the box and maybe cut inside before delivering a cross. Such is Madden, I get the snap and look up to throw the ball to one of three receivers. In my mind, I only have a passing opinion of which is the better option, so it usually comes down to which one has least defenders around him. This Madden may be the first that inspires me to learn some nuance about the game. It is perfect for the casual audience.
The big change for me is the introduction of ‘Play The Moment’. This is where you only play selected moments in a game in Franchise mode. This has been trialled to a lesser extent in Rory Mcilroy Golf . Unfortunately, in that game, it detracted from the experience, as putting together a round of golf was the whole experience of that game. In Madden, it allows a game which would normally take 60 min to be done in 20 min. For a casual fan like me, this changes the game completely. Before my honeymoon period with the game would only allow me to get a few games into a franchise mode with my chosen team, before my lack of knowledge led to defeats and the shelving of the game. Now I have been able to get through three games in one sitting. I forsee me getting through at least a few seasons before my time is pulled away.
There is, of course, a downside to this. If the same were introduced into FIFA, I would be the first to complain. I would say that every moment in a game of soccer matters. The truth is a bit more scientific. Soccer is a fluid game,which can be shortened accordingly. There are two halves so the solution is to have the clock run faster and the game itself turns out more exciting. In American Football, the way possession works means that if the clock is shortened the game could be played out in possession of one team per half. You could hold on to the ball, by use of your drives to run the clock down and ruin the game from a spectacle point of view. As such Madden is best played as a full game in real time. Here is where ‘play the moment’ works perfectly. You get realistic scores you get realistic moments and you get that feeling of helplessness when something happens in a game that you are not controlling It gives you purpose to put it right next time you get near the controller. You really have to learn all the tricks of the trade to get results in this mode as it is at the sharp end of each game and everything you do matters.
Luckily for people like me Madden 17 has an extensive tutorial section as well as a specific training mode in Franchise mode before each game. You get two training scenarios before each Franchise game that specifically target two of your opponents strengths, one offence one defence. This really helps and gives you an XP boost in the game when you come up against one of these scenarios. So playing franchise mode teaches you the game as you play. More experienced Madden players will no doubt scoff at this, but for once I actually want to play more of the game. I had a moment where I was one score down to the Cowboys, with the last play of the game. After a mini-Hail Mary, I made it from my own 20 Yard line into their territory. By running out of bounds and using touchdowns I got myself into scoring range with seconds left to go. I had time for one play. Picking the pass, with 3rd and goal, I tried a bullet pass into my wide receiver, of course, he dropped it because it should have been a lofted pass with a possession catch. Next time I will know. In previous Maddens these situations simply wouldn’t have arisen. I would either have been completely outclassed by the opposition or else been dominating them because I played at the wrong level. It may be a bit false but the drama and knife-edge moments are recreated for me here in a meaningful way.
There are many other aspects of the game and many modes which more in-depth reviewers will pick apart. Unfortunately, to review this game in more detail, you need to have played American Football at some level or at least be a more die-hard fan. For me, a casual fan, this game has hooked me in a way that only Joe Montana’s did on the Game Gear. Hopefully by the time Madden 18 comes I will be ready to play full games and not just defining moments.
You can buy it here