The 6 reasons you should pick up Madden 17 this year and embrace American football
This time of year is great if you love your sporting video games - football, American football, ice hockey and basketball are among those getting big releases.
Madden NFL 17 is one of those titles - the American football game is as anticipated and revered in the US as FIFA is in Europe. Though on this side of the Atlantic, interest has been exploding. It's a good time to be happening too because the game has come on leaps and bounds in recent instalments, all the while becoming arguably more self-aware in terms of the number of newbies to the sport who might pick it up.
The result in Madden 17 is a game high on authenticity and the finer points of NFL football, but also easy enough to grasp relatively quickly. Here's a run down on why this is the year to embrace the sport and the game.
1. The visuals
Given EA Sports' base in North America, it is the US sports games that tend to have their noses in front each year when it comes to visuals. This year is no different - the players and stadiums look fantastic - and that makes a huge difference when you're entering a new world for the first time.
Looking at the still here, not much more needs to be said.
2. The commentary
The problem in recent years for Madden and indeed many sports games, is creating enough variety in the commentary to ensure what you hear always sounds relevant and lifelike. A combination of millions of potential scenarios and the limited time commentators for the game can spend in recording booth means it's hard to get those two to match up.
However, in Madden 17, EA Sports has taken a very good swipe at it. The designers made a bold move in introducing not only a new commentary team, but one comprised of two relative unknowns - Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis. Davis has just one year of NFL commentary under his belt, while Gaudin has never done it for TV, until now working for Georgia Tech's radio network covering college football.
The result, however, is refreshingly good. Just a few moments into playing the game for the first time, the flow of commentary sounded more natural and conversational - while always sounding relevant to the changing game. That's a hard thing to do, despite being a huge peeve for many sports gamers, but Madden 17 has nailed it.
3. Running plays
If you don't know the NFL playbook inside out (don't worry, neither do we), the arrow overlays that can be previewed before a play have long been a good way of planning what you want to do.
This year, this system has been extended on running plays - that's where you opt to run with the ball rather than throw it - with a constant guideline hinting at where the space between defenders is and therefore where you should be running. It's very novice-friendly, but Madden veterans will get a kick out of it too when you turn that '3rd & 5´ into a 25-yard run.
4. Breaking tackles
Never an exact science in Madden - trying to hand off tacklers has seemed to either work brilliantly or fail miserably without any indication as to why on either front. However, that's also been overhaul this year with more visible triggers for side-stepping oncoming defenders, as well as prompts to try and break tackles.
It's a regular occurrence in real life and it feels better reflected in the game now too.
5. Special teams
Until now, you could almost score a field goal, complete an extra point conversion or punt the ball with your eyes closed, such was the straightforward nature of the kicking system. That's changed this year with a new system that requires three button presses at different trigger points to complete a kick.
It's not in fact more complicated, but feels a little more like an extra mini-game, keeping you engaged a little longer.
The NFL now makes an annual pilgrimage to London for at least three games in the autumn, taking over and filling Wembley in the process. Embrace the NFL now and there's a chance you could be closer to seeing a game live than you realise.
The International Series is back in London on October 2 for starters.
Madden NFL 17 is out now and available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.