The Madden NFL 17 fan wishlist
Super Bowl 50 is in the books, sparking six months of partying in Colorado, and a lot of waiting around for the 2016 season for everyone else. Unless you're a Madden NFL 16 (opens in new tab) player, in which case you can fill the void with evenings of pretend-o-Gridiron, and set right all the 2015 wrongs made by every team not called the Denver Broncos.
Included in that team list is EA Tiburon. The developer's latest edition has come in for as much flak as Eddie Lacy fairly standard, for an annual sports release in the social media age and there are many fan suggestions for how it can avoid another Dolphins-like transitional season. Across the following slides, we analyse the best.
Make kickers matter
New England's Stephen Gostkowski hadn't missed an extra point kick in ten years before slicing one wide in the AFC Championship game. As a direct result, the Patriots later had to attempt a two-point conversion to level with Denver and their failure to convert it sent them home, and the Broncos to the Super Bowl. One kick. Endless repercussions and theories on what might have been. Such events don't occur in Madden, because the right-stick kicking game is semi-automatic.
A late-game field goal for the win is one of the most exciting and stressful moments in football, and Madden has made it routine, explains blogger (opens in new tab) TexasHomeBoy1. As long as you have a high kick power, you will be one of the best kickers in the game. In Madden 17, kickers have to feel more authentic and challenging. I'd love to see a QTE-style mini-game for field goals and extra point attempts, where kicks close to goal require a simple sequence of button presses X to snap, X to hold, X to kick but those further away get more complex dependent on a kicker's accuracy and clutch ratings. Heavy Rain-style finger-breaking in order to nail a last minute 53-yarder? Ouchee, but good.
GR+ verdict: Kicking has become one of the most tedious, routine elements of Madden, and is in desperate need of an overhaul. This has to happen.
Fix coaches' challenges
In real life, coaches can challenge and demand an instant replay of nigh-on any aspect of every play, twice per match. In ESPN NFL 2K5, coaches could challenge and demand an instant replay of nigh-on any aspect of every play, twice per match. In Madden NFL 16 sometimes theres an option to challenge the spot of the ball, or an incomplete pass. Often, theres no way of knowing exactly what youre even challenging. Brilliant.
At the very least, the challenge option should specify what element(s) of the play will be reviewed, assesses blogger Mega Bears Fan (opens in new tab) . So the option shouldn't just say 'Challenge play', but 'Challenge the spot of the ball', or "Challenge the fumble. Elements that can be challenged should include spot of the ball, stepped out of bounds, down by contact/fumble, catch/no catch, catch in/out of bounds, incomplete pass/fumble, illegal forward pass, and hit while the arm was moving.
GR verdict: A salient reminder that an 11-year old PS2 game still does some things better than modern Madden. Detail is everything, and this is a critical series addition.
Improve physics and momentum
To its credit, Tiburon has tried many different methods of introducing lifelike physics to Madden over the years, even bringing aboard former NFL offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg full-time in January 2012. It's improved year-on-year, but still doesnt feel quite right, and EA forum (opens in new tab) user Spookyweezel pinpoints one of the reasons why: the momentum of two players with differing weights smashing into each other isnt correctly replicated.
A back like Adrian Peterson going head up against Brent Grimes [should] have a different outcome than Darren Sproles hitting Ndamukong Suh. ESPN NFL 2K5 [which handled these collisions realistically] shouldnt be the go-to game for this anymore. His analysis of line play is similarly accurate: The fight in the trenches needs to be just that: a fight til the end of the play. There is no rip, move, struggle. Madden linemen look like they are dancing with one another its pointless to even play as a defensive lineman.
GR+ verdict: Improvements have been made with each year since Oldenburgs appointment, and are likely coming again in 17. Nailing the heft of a huge defensive tackle like Suh would be a satisfying step forwards if it happens.
True home field advantage
Home advantage is a big deal in the NFL. Seattle's CenturyLink Field was designed so that 70% of its seats are covered by parabola-shaped canopies, meaning almost all sound produced (often 130+ decibels, i.e. bloody loud) is amplified back towards the field of play. In this environment, opposition quarterbacks are notorious for turning toilet. Kansas City and Denver are also known for mercilessly noisy followings. Yet Madden has never tried to replicate these despite having done so, very successfully, in its now-defunct college football series.
There was nothing better than playing in the Swamp [Florida] or the Big House [Michigan] on NCAA Football, writes RoDogz17 on Operation Sports (opens in new tab). QBs and WRs struggled to make audibles and snap the ball, the routes were jagged when you pulled up the play art, and the screen shook frantically. This was an amazing feature that took me from the couch in my living room to Death Valley in Baton Rouge. It truly was, and its continuing Madden absence is befuddling.
GR+ verdict: Essential. If the worry is it offending online players, make the feature specific to franchise mode. There's no such thing as 'overly realistic'.
Bring back the ambulance
Casual gamers who owned Mega Drive-era Madden remember it for two reasons: throwing a Hail Mary on every passing down, and its comedy ambulance. Blaring sirens, the latter would drive onto the field after an injury, steam through any player in its path, and then hare off again, usually leaving behind the guy who was first crocked. In retrospect, it probably wasnt the most tasteful thing to celebrate a major injury," a producer told Sports Illustrated (opens in new tab) after its 2001 removal. "And this was in the era before concussion awareness that we have today.
Given that its loss was specifically requested by the NFL, the chances of its return are nil. That doesnt mean realistic injuries should be ignored in world of virtual pigskin. Bring back career ending injuries, requests EA forumite (opens in new tab) Mfjayhimself, but give the player a choice [of having them switched on or off]. Injuries, especially for linemen, need to happen away from the ball, elaborates Mike Lowe on Operation Sports (opens in new tab). This is a fantastic point: non-contact injuries are among the most dangerous in the real sport, yet rarely if ever seen in Madden.
GR verdict: My favourite Madden 06 memory is winning the Super Bowl with DJ Shockley after Mike Vick was lost for a year. Without proper injuries in Madden, that kind of achievement isnt possible. Any kind of change would be welcome.
Customisable draft classes
Happy personal memory from the mid-2000s: importing NCAA Football from the States in order to play through seasons with talented college players, then export the draft class to Madden to see how said stars fared in the NFL. That feature, like NCAA, is long gone, and not for the better. Instead, the pool of new players each season in franchise mode is fictional, dampening realism with each passing year.
While the lack of an NCAA license prevents EA supplying correct player names in a draft class, even a basic in-game editor (name, height, weight, college, position) would get around this. On Operation Sports (opens in new tab), JO122194 makes a conclusive case: Creating a feature that allows you to edit a random generated roster in the same game in no way, shape or form effects the NCAA or anyones likeness in it. NBA 2K has had this EXACT feature for over five years now. If any of you are familiar with the Simworld (opens in new tab)guys from 2K, imagine that with Madden, says Richard 2001. The lack of variety would be solved if we could create and upload draft classes.
GR+ verdict: How do you not invest in the one thing asked for above everything else? writes Michael Hall Jr (opens in new tab). Our view matches his.
Start over with franchise mode
No room for my input here. Too many essential fan ideas. Allow the resigning of players mid-season like in Madden 12, requests Yazan Gable on Operation Sports (opens in new tab). And allow the editing of players mid-season like in Madden 12. A real career mode like 07 on Xbox PS2, with drills and the combine, is the wish of iruleall15 on EA's official forum (opens in new tab). Fix Head Coach contracts. Holdouts. Suspensions. Proper progression and regression. Bring back co-ordinators!
More: Playable Pro Bowl, from super.fly on Operation Sports (opens in new tab). More realistic contracts, says KickassJohnson on the same site. Allow for restructuring so QBs arent half the payroll Doug Martin staying in Tampa [for a home-town discount (opens in new tab)] would never happen in Madden. In the game, if you dont hit the magic dollar amount, a player is gone. Or just copy a template everyone loved: If they input the [engine] from Head Coach 09 into Madden it would (instantly) be much better, opines bdman on Gamezone (opens in new tab). He isnt wrong.
GR+ verdict: Taking these suggestions in order: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. God yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.
Add historical seasons
With Legends such as Dan Marino now available in Madden Ultimate Team, EA has moved away from including classic teams like the 85 Bears. And given recent litigation (opens in new tab) taken out by a class action group of 6,000 retired players over unauthorised usage of their likenesses, that decision is unlikely to be reversed this year. But in an ideal world, EA forum user (opens in new tab) DOOMHAMMER152 has a diamond suggestion for reigniting franchise mode.
Start in the year 2000 with the correct roster [from] that time. When you finish the first season, the draft class is that of 2001, and so on until the present day, he explains. We would be able to play as Madden greats like Michael Vick, LaDanian Tomlinson, Ray Lewis, Shaun Alexander, and Brett Favre in their prime with updated graphics. What would have happened if Tim Couch was drafted by Pittsburgh? Or the Browns drafted Big Ben? Could you make JaMarcus Russell the best QB in the NFL or Andrew Luck a bust?
GR+ verdict: No chance for 17, or indeed the next 2-3 seasons, but theres the thread of a great idea here. How about being able to relive the 1988 season in its entirety when Maddens 30th anniversary rolls around in two years' time?
Restore Oakland's baseball diamond
Sports games can never have too much detail. In GR+'s recent piece on FIFA 17, I lauded a seemingly odd fan request for improved goal nets specifically because that kind of above-and-beyond commitment to the minutiae of real sport is exactly what makes MLB: The Show incredible. If Madden is to return to its mid-2000s heyday, its team needs to develop a similarly obsessive eye. Beginning with a 90-foot-square patch of Californian sand.
The home field of my favourite team, the Oakland Raiders, has a baseball diamond on it in August and September, writes NatureBoy2323 on EA's official forum (opens in new tab). The PS2 and Xbox versions on Madden had it, but it's been missing since the move to PS3 and Xbox 360. I would love to see its return. While on the subject, let's also bring back pitch conditions properly affecting play. In Madden 08, when you played in wind or snow by the end [players'] jerseys and pants would be muddy and [they] would be slipping all over the place, writes TD Barrett for Sports Gamers Online (opens in new tab).
GR+ verdict?: The more detail, the better. Always. And if it has an effect on the actual playing of matches too, perfect.
Better late-half intelligence
GR+ recently simmed Super Bowl 50, and got Denver winning 24-14 (opens in new tab) an almost identical score to the real one. But towards the end of this AI vs AI face-off, the dumbest thing imaginable happened. Carolina scored a touchdown with a minute to play, and rather than onside kick, booted possession back to Denver in essence gift-wrapping the Lombardi trophy. That event is symptomatic of the baffling design showcased regularly inside the final two minutes of Madden matches for nearly three decades.
It has to be changed, and naturally fans agree. [EA needs to] maintain the accelerated clock inside the two-minute drill, in order to prevent using the play-call screen to instantly telephort to the line of scrimmage, writes EA forumite (opens in new tab) Mega Bears Fan. Hes correct, as is blogger (opens in new tab) TexasHomeBoy1: You are down 3 with 15 seconds left and out of timeouts. You complete a pass over the middle, but as you hurry everyone to the line [for the tying field goal], time runs out because the players have to get into Maddens exact spike formation. In the NFL, teams dont go to a set formation, just get to the line as fast as they can.
GR+ verdict: Two of many examples where Madden goes loopy inside the final two minutes of each half. Sadly this stuff has happened for years, so expect little to change in 17.
Exhume Madden 05
You know how many Brit football fans still consider mid-2000s PES its best years? The same is true across the pond, for Johnboy's NFL series. It featured defensive assignments that worked correctly. Restricted free agents in career mode, which still haven't made PS3 or PS4. Historical teams. And instead of tuneless dirge a brilliant radio show between matches which analysed both your last game and events around the league.
On the EA forums (opens in new tab), Spookyweezel advocates taking this model and injecting a contemporary flavour. Something like ESPN NFL Primetime, or NFL Live. Coaches and players call in for interviews and talk about the game. And a weekly Twitter feed that discusses contracts expiring, and rumours and trades or releases. He then lifts one more strong idea from the retro well: A return to the [pre-match] positional breakdown from Madden 05, where it would tell you about each player's strengths and weaknesses for the upcoming game. That was great too, actually. What a game.
GR+ verdict: Yes to everything. If Madden 17 were little more than an HD reskin of Madden 05 with updated rosters, this would suffice.