If there’s a lesson to be learned from the multiple recent successes in Foxborough, Massachusetts – in addition to confirmation that, unlike in Star Wars, the evil empire always wins – it’s that a single good season is never good enough. Now for the New England Patriots, read John Madden Football.
Madden NFL 17 injected freshness into the series after years of malaise, earning a deserved four-star rating from GR+. But with Super Bowl 51 committed to the history books, fans are already looking towards next season, and ways in which the wily veteran can once more be made to feel young again. Here, then, are 11 improvements which would take Madden 18 to the next level, curated from the best fan suggestions across forums and social media.
1. Unlimited relocation choices
The mid-‘10s have seen significant upheaval – in a very literal sense – throughout the NFL, with the Rams, Raiders and Chargers all finding new homes: the former in Las Vegas, the latter pair in LA. Yet while relocation features in Madden 17, it does so with severe restrictions. (For instance, there are only 18 possible places to move your team to, and Vegas doesn’t make the list.)
Toupal from Operation Sports suggests some very simple ways the option can be upgraded: "[More options for] the city, name and colours, stadium and uniforms; expansion teams; and the ability to upload and download logo designs’. The latter element is especially important for anyone who uses Jaguars in franchise mode, in order to presciently transform them into the London Big Bens come 2021.
2. True home-field advantage
The Chiefs’ Arrowhead stadium holds the world record for crowd noise at 142.2 dbA; little wonder Kansas City has only lost six regular season home games in three years. Seattle's CenturyLink Field is similarly intimidating. Home-field advantage has more bearing in the NFL than any other sport, with away sides often unable to hear audibles and snap counts beneath the din of the crowd. Yet in Madden: nothing.
“Make home field advantage actually mean something,” writes Operation Sports poster servo75. “For example: high crowd noise reduces or removes your ability to audible and go no-huddle, or causes more false starts.” This worked brilliantly in the old NCAA games, also made by EA, where the lines showing receiver routes were obfuscated when you played as the away team in a raucous stadium. If the worry is influencing online matches, then also provide the option to turn home advantage off; but at least make it a thing in offline, and franchise, play.
3. Improved clock management
This year’s Super Bowl was won and lost on clock management, with Atlanta repeatedly – and stupidly – gifting New England more time by snapping the ball with :20 still on the play clock. And towards the end of games, Madden’s AI teams are just as unfathomable in this area as the fallen Falcons.
“I was up by 10 points late in the 4th quarter vs the CPU,” writes blogger texashomeboy1. “With about three minutes left, the CPU started the drive with a quick pass over the middle, casually entered the huddle and took their sweet time to get up to the line to snap the ball. Before you knew it, only two plays had been run, the two-minute warning had hit, and the CPU was still only at its own 40. This simply doesn’t happen in the actual NFL. Teams recognize that, when down multiple scores with a just few minutes left, that they have to go as quickly as possible. If they were to take their time and wait until after the two-minute warning to pick up the pace, then they probably aren’t going to have the opportunity to get the ball back.”
This has been an issue for years, and it’s about time – forgive the pun – it was rectified. Just maybe without the aid of Kyle Shanahan and Matt Ryan.
4. Off-the-ball injuries
Often the worst possible kind of injuries in the NFL – such as knee ligament tears, or ruptured achilles tendons – are caused off the ball (and therefore, to the fan at home, off camera), but such knacks are seldom seen in Madden. That might add to the sense of fairness online, yet it detracts from the authenticity of franchise mode, where even the occasional accidental career-ender should rear its ugly, straight-to-the-CAT-scanner head.
“We need more off the ball injuries, and animations that represent them,” says Art871 on the EA Forums. “For instance, players being carted off the field, walking off under own power, or being helped off by players/medical staff.” No gamer wants to see their star wide receiver knocked out for the season by something out of their control; but equally, no gamer wants to go 1-15, like Cleveland did last season. It happens in real life, so should feature in the game.
5. Steal the best bits of Split Second: Velocity (really)
@BenjiWilson Time slowdown when the ball is in the air so I can finally learn how to play SS on defense. On easier settings only, like.February 11, 2017
@BenjiWilson And a Split/Second rewind mechanic I can use three times a game to wind back shit passes.February 11, 2017
6. A whole new ball game via Frostbite
I haven’t credited any single poster for this one because it’s something suggested by everyone, everywhere. The switch to Battlefield's Frostbite engine, mirroring a move FIFA made last year and confirmed during EA’s January conference call to investors, is unlikely to transform the game on a genetic level. Yet from a visual standpoint it has the potential to comprehensively enhance the just-like-being-there experience.
Madden’s running animations have never quite looked natural, which is an immersion killer: that should change with the switch to an engine built on authentic cosmetics. Improved weather effects, more life in players and coaches on the sideline, and better material dynamics – in MLB The Show numbers truly look like they’ve been printed onto jerseys, and that’s the benchmark EA should be striving for – are all tantalising possibilities with the switch to Frostbite.