Madden NFL 25 may be the most complete launch title that the series has offered to date, but is that saying much?
What Is It?
If you go back to 2005 when Madden NFL 06 kicked off the last generation, you might recall that EA decided to focus on shiny new graphics over offering a feature complete experience for those lucky enough to get an Xbox 360 on launch day. It was certainly a controversial move and they’ve certainly taken those criticisms to heart when it came time to get Madden NFL 25 ready for the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. This is the exact same game that millions have been playing since August on their PS3s and Xbox 360s, so every mode is still intact and as good or bad as it was before. The flipside of that point is that the game does not in any way look like a next-gen game of football as the game maybe looks a little better and a little sharper, but that’s about it for the next-gen showcase that you expect from a launch title.
Why Should I Care?
Madden NFL 25 is a decent game of football. It’s not offensively bad nor is it impressively good, which may be more of a damning accusation than any qualitative criticism could offer. I’ve played Madden for many years now and it’s clear that this is still a series that cannot figure out what it really wants to do with itself. The combined career/franchise/owner mode called Connected Careers is a really cool idea as a concept, but it’s been poorly executed since it debuted last year. As a franchise or owners mode, it’s a bit of a mess that is overly bloated with so many features, like scouting, experience and leveling up of players, and the entirety of the pre-season, that are only there to waste the time I want to spend playing the game. As a career mode, it actually does a fairly good job of letting you focus on your own journey through the season and your career since the XP mechanic makes much more sense when you’re just managing one player instead of 53. Just trying to play a traditional franchise of Madden is more of a hassle than it really should be.
Madden Ultimate Team is the other big mode here and it’s still about the same as it has been in previous years. You get a random assortment of players to fill out a team in a manner similar to collecting cards that resulted in a team of no-names in previous years, but now there are so many alternate lines of cards that you’ll start with a bunch of big names with worse stats that are labeled Training Camp cards or something similar. As for actually playing with your team, you have the option to play online multiplayer with more rewards and coins at stake in an interesting pseudo-season mode or you can play through one of hundreds of solo games with various themes and levels of difficulty that gives those not interested in multiplayer something to do. Alongside the games, there is a collection system where you can submit your excess cards in a variety of collections to get coins and work towards completing them for bonus rewards. This is definitely the most interesting mode in Madden NFL 25, but much like the other modes, there’s a ton of downtime just to manage the cards you’re dealt for the collections and your roster. The encouragement to spend actual money on this mode for packs of cards is the biggest downside and makes me wish there was some form of franchise mode built around the card collection idea that took it to a new level.
The presentation is another big issue that this game has because the extra few months of development time seemed to have no impact on this part of the game. As a Browns fan, the first thing I saw upon starting up the game after noting that on my profile, I saw a big image of Trent Richardson in a Browns uniform. You may recall that he was traded nearly two months ago. A similar issue occurred with the commentary as I started Brian Hoyer over Brandon Weeden and heard in the next game about how Norv Turner’s system would do wonders for Brandon Weeden’s game for the 2013 season. I’m not asking for tons of new commentary, but these are just some examples of how much some teams have changed in the past three months to make this brand new game feel ancient at launch. Some tweaks to how the commentary was handled and how to handle main menu images in the wake of roster changes could’ve made a huge difference in these sorts of cases. I do have to give props to the next-gen physics engine that debuts here that feels like a good evolution of what the Infinity Engine offered before as players now move and collide better than ever.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
There’s certainly plenty of content here to make Madden NFL 25 worth the money if you’re fine with the way things are in this year’s game. Unfortunately, the bullshot trailers and the way that 2K Sports handled their next-gen iterations of NBA 2K14 shows that EA’s overly safe approach to bringing Madden to the PS4 and Xbox One just makes this feel like a lazy port that doesn’t justify the extra investment into the platforms they’re on. You’re not getting $400 to $500 worth of improvements to any part of this game, which is what any launch owners expect to see out of these cross-generation games.
Only the hardcore should apply for this game, as EA should hopefully be focused on making Madden NFL 15 the true next-gen football game that they intend to make. Luckily, there’s a whole bunch of people that worked on NCAA Football 14 that have plenty of time now to help make the next Madden as good as it needs to be.