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There are tons of opinions about Madden NFL, each with it's own merits, but we at would like to offer a historical, philosophical, and metaphysical critique of why Madden NFL 17 is the best and worst Madden yet to be developed. 

Since the debut of online play developers have attempted to design Madden in such a way to limit the learning curve to attract new customers, provide an aesthetically pleasing approximation of what we see in the NFL to woo existing customers, and the tactical freedom and control required to maintain die-hard customers.  Oddly, EA's attempts to please each of these groups simultaneously often tend to fall short of the mark. 

In creating less of a learning curve for new players, EA denies long time players the control they desire.  In creating an aesthetically pleasing approximation, EA handicaps the progress of the new players and ties the hands of long time players.  Lastly, in providing tactical freedom and control for longtime players, EA steepens the learning curve for new players and hampers the ability of Madden to approach the aesthetically pleasing approximation.  As a result of being unable to make all three groups happy, developers have often included compromises that are well intended, but poorly executed. 

Case in point, in Madden NFL 16, EA unveiled three new catch buttons to replace the mechanic that used one button for years.  The goal was to provide more control to players in the way they caught the ball depending on what they planned to do once the catch was made.  Players could either aggressively attack the ball, attempt to catch and run, or catch and fall to maintain possession.  The idea is a sound one, in that it is easy to teach new players the use of the new buttons, it provides a method to approximate more types of catches for players looking to mimic NFL techniques, and it gave long time players more control over the way they went for the ball. 

Not too long ago, catching was a matter of timing.  To catch the ball, players needed to maneuver to the catch point and tap the catch button when the ball arrived.  The recent addition of the "Ball Hawk" function merely required players to hold the button down while the CPU directed the receiver to the catch point and made the grab.  Releasing the button too early potentially results in dropping a pass that would have been caught. 

The problem with the new catch buttons is their location on the controller with respect to those button functions during other aspects of the game and how they are supposed to function during a catch. When the developers at EA designed the catch system with the "hold down" mechanic they inadvertently combined the functions for the catch buttons while the ball is in the air and while the ball is being carried.  When players hold down the Square/X button to perform a run after catch, the ball carrier function for that same button is to dive on the ground.  Failure to release the button at the proper time after the catch is completed causes players to fall down, defeating a user's intention to run after the catch in the most fundamentally flawed way. 

Furthermore, other buttons hold multiple unrelated functions throughout various modes of control.  On the defensive side of the ball, the primary functions for buttons flip flop almost randomly.  For instance, on the defensive side of the ball the Square/X button is primarily used to aggressively tackle the ball carrier.  But when the ball is in the air, the Square/X button morphs into the swat button even though the R1/RB button functions as the primary strip ball button except when the ball is in the air.  Indeed, the R1/RB button has long held the function of both strip and the swat. 

While frustrating, inconsistencies are not necessarily a sore spot. The early frustration stemming from seemingly erratic player actions is quickly replaced once the button functions are mentally mapped to muscle memory for the purposes of fast recall. The buttons actually function quite well at their designed purpose despite the initial adjustment period.  It helps that the Square/X Swat is adequately balanced against the Aggressive catch offensive button and the "play receiver" button, that allows defenders to hit receivers as they are catching the ball, transitions to a conservative tackle once the ball is caught.


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