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.
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...