• Courtesy photo

    A scene from the new "Madden NFL 17."

  • Courtesy photo

    Madden NFL 17.



Madden NFL 17

From: EA Sports

Rated: A

Who’s it for: Madden fans and newbies wanting to “Get into the game!”

Console: Xbox One, PS4

Grade: A

One of the nice things about your favorite team going to the Super Bowl is that the next season gets here faster.

One of the nice things about your favorite team winning the Super Bowl is that you’re actually psyched for the season to start.

For me, football pre-season means one thing: The latest version of “Madden NFL” lands on my doorstep.

An annual tradition for more than 20 years, I’ve been through the best and worst iterations of the franchise, and I’m pleased to say that “Madden NFL 17” stands among the first group. It doesn’t hurt that last year’s “Madden” was an excellent game overall, finally rising to the level of current-gen consoles.

This year features few major changes, but rather small tweaks to further capitalize on the improved running and passing mechanics from the last few iterations.

The trend has been to give players more control once plays have started. For example, once the QB throws the ball, the receiver can decide how to catch it and what to do after.

Similar controls have been given to both running and defending the ball, making the game action feel more robust. Once your runner has the ball, you can spin, juke, truck and hurdle in order to squeeze a few extra yards (or perhaps even break away) out of your run.

On the other side of the ball, push a button at the right moment and your defender can slide off his block and make a spectacular tackle or sack, making that part of the game more dynamic and fun to play. It will take a bit of practice to take these new moves from button-mashing wish fulfillment to deliberate plays, but with enough practice, you will see results.

All of the same play modes return in “Madden 17,” most of them reasonably unchanged. Draft Kings, despite being only a year old, hasn’t been worked on. Fortunately, it works fine as it is.

The Madden Ultimate Team collectible card mode sees only one minor tweak — players now have varying degrees of Chemistry with each other, allowing for further refinement of your team.

However, these modes — while fun — take a back seat to actually playing football.

The game still supports up to four players either locally or online, allowing you to play a quick game or a full season, however you’d like. But it’s the robust franchise mode that puts center stage where it belongs.

Choose your favorite team and run it as you will. Engage in day-to-day activities such as training, practice, contract negotiations, scouting and more, all leading up to game day.

Taking the reins of the Super Bowl champion Broncos, I made my impact immediately felt, winning the first two games against the Panthers and Colts. My practices went smoothly, and scouting was going swimmingly.

I turned down quite a few trade requests for Shaquil Barrett. It seems everyone needs an up-and-coming linebacker, but I really like Barrett and he’s not going anywhere.

I made a couple of minor personnel moves and started contract negotiations with Von Miller, Emmanuel Sanders and Bernie Fowler. Just for grins, I offered Miller $1 million less than the recommended price, left the Sanders suggestion alone and upped Fowler’s offer by a few hundred thousand per year on the signing bonus.

Predictably, Miller wasn’t happy with the money, Sanders wasn’t happy with the length and Fowler jumped all over the offer and told the media what a great team he works for.

Am I a good GM or what?

The one major change to the Franchise Mode is the new “Play the Moments” feature that speeds you through the game and stops for you to take control only during game-changing moments.

The one game I tried this with — the first away game against the Bengals — was a disaster. I didn’t like the way everything flowed (or didn’t flow), and I ended up losing 16 to 13 thanks to a last-minute field goal. Plus, my chosen QB, Paxton Lynch, tore a hamstring and went out for five weeks. Glad I didn’t trade Mark Sanchez, as I was tempted to.

Finally, you will hear one big change: There is a new team in the booth this year. Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis bring a freshness to the game, even though some of the sound bites still play too often.

“Madden NFL 17” still needs a bit of polish here and there, but it’s one of the best versions of the game yet and a welcome addition to the season.

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