Fall has certainly arrived here in Michigan. Cool breezes, leaves are turning color and the NFL season is well underway now. While we did not get a Madden 17 review up this year like usual (no review copy = later acquisition), that does not mean I am skipping my yearly dose of video game pigskin. Fall generally means a couple more things for me as well. Crock-Pot foods is one, and autumn beers is the other. There are two different styles I look forward to in the fall, various forms of pumpkin ale and also Oktoberfest beers, and I would have to say that the Oktoberfest by Bell's Brewery has been my favorite this year by a considerable margin.
So first, a bit about this year's Madden. First and foremost, I am incredibly happy that they changed up the audio presentation. Is it perfect? No. The announcers still make verbal mistakes (in one of my Play Time videos - an upcoming article in and of itself - one of the announcers states that after a challenge in the endzone that my team scored a touchdown, when in fact they did not. There are still kinks to be worked out) and their dialog could certainly use even greater variety. That being said, the new duo do a far better job with their dialog overall and it is outright refreshing to hear the commentary talking about new things. That the commentary gets small bits of updating throughout the season helps the variety as well, but the prior two or three Madden titles had become so predictable that my son would often spout their lines with them - even though he never plays the game and just happens to be in that room playing on the PC instead most of the time.
The overall gameplay is smooth, and what you are seeing here in the videos are two games with pretty much across the board default settings. Usually when I am playing I am on one higher level of difficulty - but credit is due to the developers for making the game more challenging overall than it used to be last generation. I used to be able to play on Madden difficulty and still win by a few touchdowns or so without really breaking a sweat. This is no longer the case. For better or for worse, I think the biggest change is how much less effective I am running the football in the current game's engine than I used to be. I actually don't mind. I am using my local team, the Detroit Lions, and their offensive line is pretty terrible at blocking the run in real life, so it makes sense that it plays out that way in this title as well. When I do other modes that have better offensive lines (say one of the draft modes where I purposely bulk up my line from the get-go), I find running a lot more effective. I can appreciate that truer-to-life gameplay result, even if it is frustrating during my actual Lions franchise.
So with football season here, I tend to spend my Sundays watching the games, playing Fantasy Football (currently I'm 3-0 in both of my leagues. Mostly due to the sneaky effective picks I have had, including Marvin Jones from the Lions - though I likely just jinxed myself and if he tears his knee this weekend, I will delete the above sentence from this article on principle), eating a variety of foods (chili comes to mind) that I don't bother with in the summer, but as mentioned before - seasonal fall beers.
Now until recently, I just thought of Oktoberfest / Märzen beers as darker colored lagers, which is true - but I did not understand that it is due to them fermenting for several weeks through the summer months. I personally like the touches of spice and maltier flavors in them. My dad tried one recently for the first time and described it as 'rusty tasting', which I thought was interesting. This was a different brand (Atwater Brewery's Bloktoberfest), which admittedly was not as good in my mind as the Bell's version of the beer, which had a much cleaner, crisper flavor to it.
With a sort of bready, spicy flavor to compliment the slightly sweet and grainy scent, this beer poured a lovely copper / orange color with a slightly creamy head of foam that dissipated rather quickly. It was a little light in body and some understated flavors that made me think it was crafted with drink-ability in mind. I will say that this is a beer I could easily have a few of without any problem. Admittedly this is not the most flavorful of beers out there, with lots of really subtle notes that work well together without any single dominating trait that makes it stand out either. It is simply a really good, really drinkable beer that makes me think 'fall is here'.
So of course with fall comes football, and I am enjoying my time with Madden NFL 17 quite a bit thus far. I know there are a lot of detractors of the series - especially since it became the only NFL game. I do think that in general competition is good, but as much as I liked the 2K football series, I have never been able to get too upset over the whole 2K vs Madden debate that has gone on for the last decade or so. 2K football in its last year was a great game and it had an awesome price that earned it a lot of well-deserved love. The thing is, Madden was just as good if not better that year in my opinion. And the argument that competing sports games would bring out the best of the competition sounds good - but then you look at the other sporting games. There's only one really good baseball series (The Show). One really good hockey series (EA's NHL). One really good basketball series (NBA 2K). None of these games existed in a vacuum and yet for whatever reason over the last several years, that is just how it played out, and I kind of wonder if that isn't what would have happened with Madden and 2K football as well. I suppose we will never know, but I certainly enjoy the Madden series and can't come down on it just for this reason.
I have quite a history with the Madden series - it has always been exceedingly popular with my buddies back through college. Whether it was a quick one-off matchup or a handful of us working through a multi-season franchise together, I would wager that only World of Warcraft has gotten near the same number of hours out of me over the years. For me, it is a lot of fun trying out the different modes. In most sporting games, I tend to stick to a single mode. Franchise for The Show, career on NHL and NBA, but in Madden I am doing all of them. Online, offline Franchise, created player, Madden Ultimate Team and so on. I am definitely getting plenty of mileage out of the game while my virtual Detroit Lions continue to fare far better than the real thing.
As for the beers of fall? So far this year Bell's Octoberfest Beer has been my favorite of the style so far this season. Consistent, enjoyable and easy to drink, it has proven to be a great compliment to the young NFL season for me.
Article by Nick