Madden titles of late have been remarkably well-built. The improvements to the animations, control response, visuals, and features have made a significant jump in this generation compared with the last. Madden 17’s enhancements to the game are less significant but result in a title that feels familiar and wonderfully tweaked. Indeed this is the most accessible, realistic and impressive Madden so far.

This year’s Skill Trainer is superbly comprehensive, teaching precisely what you want to know about the complicated sport. Whether you’re a new comer or veteran, here you can learn as little or as much as you need. Basic controls to advanced tactics are thoroughly covered as so to prepare you for the savvy AI and players you’ll meet online. It’s a terrific jumping off point to start your Madden 17 experience.

Meanwhile, on lower difficulties you can activate a number of assists – ala Forza – to make your learning curve less steep. Skill moves can be set to automatically be performed depending on the situation, furthermore, a run path assist shows you which direction you’re heading. Additionally, the new Concept Counter reveals which play the offence is making, allowing you to counter more effectively. And of course, as your skills develop these assists can be turned off.

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Franchise mode remains the go-to single player component – although Ultimate Team is arguably just as big a draw now. Whether you’re a player or owner, Franchise mode is more accessible than ever. The roster UI has been improved and now features recommendations on who to trade, cut, and sign, making it easier and faster to manage your team. Additionally, helping elevate the slog of Franchise mode is the new Play the Moments feature. Here, instead of having to play matches in their entirety, you only have to play the most crucial moments. Touchdown opportunities, field goals, third downs, etc. are played as normal, otherwise the jumbotron and a chart shows you how the rest of the game is coming along, allowing you to jump in and take control if you feel the AI is misrepresenting your team. It proves a handy time-saver if you’re looking to advance through the Franchise mode with more haste.

Player stats now play a bigger part in the ability to perform advanced maneuverers and use certain skills. Juking is a great example, with players with less the 80 in that skill struggling to perform them elegantly. It add the incentive to look at players’ stats more closely and use their power moves, adding deeper elements to the game overall. Meanwhile, defensive zone coverage has been improved and the ability to swat the ball has now been added, this is alongside improved ball physics makes fumbles, tips and turnovers more of a threat therefore injecting further realism into the game.

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Madden 17 isn’t entirely without fault however. Long load times occur now and again, especially in the Ultimate Team solo challenges. Meanwhile, the old three click system is back for kicking the ball, which may feel like a step back, although it does eliminate any frustration the analogue stick flicking may have caused.

However, the tweaks to the game overshadow the aforementioned minor faults. Finally being able to skip cinematics and camera cutaways is a welcome addition that once again aids in the speed of the game. There’s great chemistry with the new Madden commentators, Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis, with the expected generalised comments and player histories accompanying some great play-by-play analysis that feels natural and realistic.

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Indeed, Madden 17 takes the strengths of the last two iterations and enhances them with smart tweaks. The game feels more balanced than it ever has, thanks to a focus on realism and vast tactical options. Meanwhile, the handful of new animations are easy to appreciate as you dash up the field and suffer bone crunching tackles with splendid visual fidelity.

Thanks to Xbox and EA for supporting TiX