No, it’s not the year 2025 (but it would be interesting to see what happens when the Madden series eventually gets to that year). Madden NFL 25 marks EA Sports’ 25th anniversary in this long-running series, and the game does a great job at paying homage to itself and its great history. Unfortunately, aside from an even more solid franchise mode that ever before, Madden NFL 25 falls short of covering the spread that its predecessors have made so high.
What Is It?
This popular EA Sports-operated franchise is gaming’s lone title with NFL licensing, making it the only football sim branded by all facets of the NFL–short of a few stadium and ownership endorsements as well as the likenesses of New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints head coaches Bill Belichick and Sean Payton.
Because of this, fans, haters, and critics alike have criticized the game for a lack of creativity and new features year after year. The release of Madden NFL 13 last year was sort of a re-tooling of the series thanks to its “Infinity Engine,” a new gameplay scheme that ensures that “no two plays are alike” as well as the Connected Careers mode, which really re-defined what a franchise mode could be in commercial sports games.
This year’s game adds slight improvements to those features while celebrating what has set this football series apart for the last quarter century on top of being the best football sim available.
Why Should I Care?
Not only does Madden NFL 25 mark the series’ 25th anniversary, it’s also more than likely to be the last relevant Madden release this generation as players all over the world are gearing up for the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in a couple months. While inevitable next-generation versions of this same game are in the pipeline, it’s also worth noting that the first iteration of Madden (NFL 06) on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 wasn’t that great, and part of what made this generation’s Madden game pale in comparison to last generation’s (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube) was its lack of unique innovation and inconsistencies at emulating a real broadcast presentation–especially in comparison to the NBA 2K games, where every aspect of the presentation is as close to authentic as it gets.
Despite the game’s shortcomings and inconsistencies, Madden NFL 25 does offer the best gameplay in a football game to date. Coming off the heels of last year’s re-tooling with the Infinity Engine, this year’s game adds a little more to the mix, creating more depth and enjoyment to the gameplay. Hot routes and audibles are more detailed than ever, while the “ball hawk” interceptions and “heat seeker tackling” punish offenses for throwing questionable passes and dancing around the field instead of running north and south.
New features in-game include the “precision modifier”, “run free”, and an authentic take on the read-option. The precision modifier adds more emphasis to ball carrying moves done with the right analog stick. While holding on the left trigger, the player can use the face buttons or the right analog stick to perform football moves that make it easier for the ball carrier to break or avoid oncoming tackles. At the same time, holding the left trigger slows the player down considerably, preventing the urge to use it every down. On top of that, the developers also limited the amount of sprinting players can do. Some won’t like the change, but in all honesty, nobody can sprint every time they run, and it really highlights the new “run free” feature in the game.
In combination with the precision modifier, “run free” makes it even easier to run the ball in the game. Players can re-assign blocking responsibilities with the various hot routes and audibles in the game and now also have more control of the running back when it comes to hitting the hole and avoiding defensive players.
Speaking of trickery and running free, like NCAA Football 14 before it, Madden NFL 25 also has an increased emphasis on the read-option. This is perhaps the best nuance in gameplay, since quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and others are considered to be the “new breed” of quarterback. Successful use of the play requires the player to really read the linebackers and defensive ends that are sealing the edge. Have a pass rusher at the edge? Hand the ball off with A or X. Are the rushers overpursuing? Take off with the quarterback and get an easy 15 yards or more. Is the inside clogged and the outside sealed? Fake to the back, pretend like you’re running, and pitch it to the H-back with the same action button. The read-option and other option plays have been featured in the game before, but before this year — it hasn’t been this detailed, definitely making it a welcome addition to the game.
The game has always been competitive, with Madden Tournaments taking place virtually everywhere. Now, to assist in that area, the developers have added Madden Share, which allows players to create and mix their own playbooks and make them downloadable to anybody playing the game. It’s a new fun way to connect, while also hopefully getting the upper hand on the competition.
Connected Careers in Madden NFL 13 really re-defined what a franchise mode could be, and this year, it’s better than ever. Not only does Connected Franchises allow more than one NFL franchise to be operated with (which was a buzzkill last year to players who wanted to use two franchises offline), players can now take the role of a franchise owner. Yes, good football is still the primary way to be successful with a franchise, but being the owner of a franchise puts a whole lot more on your plate. Owner mode is sort of an extension to both being a player and a coach. In fact, you gain all of the coach’s administrative responsibilities. But on top of that, you have all sorts of external things to worry about, like stadium management. Maybe you should sell hot dogs for more than anybody else. And you also have to deal with media interviews, where every answer you provide the media will change everybody’s expectations of your team.
Connected Franchise really gives players sort of an RPG, League of Legends-like feel to the NFL experience. It’s about as nerdy as you can get. If there are any problems with the features, it’s the fact that the menus are way too artsy for their own good. In fact, all the menus are like this, and it really makes it hard to do anything from drafting to even playing a pickup game.
That’s because at first glance, the game’s menus aren’t even menus. They’re all interactive JPEGs that make the screens look pretty. To really use a concrete comparison, think of the creative artistic resumés job seekers have been learning how to make. Yeah, they look interesting, but that’s about it. Unless you really take a good look at them, you really don’t know what that job candidate offers other than getting your attention. It’s the same thing in Madden. The menus are so simple, but because of that, it’s super complex and it makes it really hard to do what you want to do.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Definitely not the presentation.
The Madden series has really had a tough time catering to different audiences. The target audience, without a doubt, is the NFL fan, but EA Sports doesn’t yet realize that like gaming, there are different kinds of NFL fans. Some fans are so hardcore, they’ll watch every minute of the NFL Draft while keeping track of every player in the league for their fantasy football team. Some fans just wanna play a football video game, and they expect an authentic NFL broadcast experience. Madden NFL 25 looks like it appeals to the hardcore, especially with its robust Connected Franchise mode. But it also features a great game of football that any gamer can enjoy, yet at the same time the presentation leaves a lot to be desired.
CBS A-team Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are back in Madden NFL 25 to provide the game’s commentary, and that’s unfortunate because it wasn’t a bright spot last year, and it certainly isn’t a bright spot this year. Not only will you hear Phil Simms cry and moan about completions not getting a first down, he’ll also complain about running on first down being a horrible play. Jim Nantz’s play-by-play always sounds like he’s 10 seconds behind, and his overall reaction to big plays make his devotion to golf evident. To add insult to injury, sideline reporter Danielle Bellini constantly interviews players nowhere near noteworthy, and when it comes to her injury reports she always says that “the trainer said it has something to do with the upper body.”
On top of all this, the game has a pathetic excuse of a halftime show that only includes two real highlights, and the post-game show’s play of the game is always something random. In more than a few games, the play of the game included a kick that put a team up by 10 points. How is that worthy of GMC’s Never Say Never Moment of the Game? In-game, aside from the actual football game, the pre-game show is the best part. Rivalry games or marquee matchups feature a vignette for each team’s history, and while that’s cool, everything else goes downhill. There’s an overhead look at the stadium, but the environments around it look like something out of an HD version of Minecraft, and traffic on the roads literally look like Pong sticks moving about.
No effort was put into the game’s presentation at all, and it’s really a slap in the face to the game’s recent history.
It wasn’t too long ago when the game featured NFL Network-esque halftime and postgame shows. Even the fake Tony Bruno radio show in the past generation makes Madden NFL 25 look bad. Hopefully EA Sports, and other sports game developers and publishers for that matter, take the next step in really delivering an authentic presentation as we go into the next generation.
But presentation strongly aside, Madden NFL 25 features the best game of football you can get. The Franchise mode is awesome, Madden Ultimate Team is still a solid way to play, and the game just plays well. If you’re going to wait because you have Madden 13, it’s strongly suggested that you wait for a price drop, and don’t waste your time with the next-gen iteration. At least not right away.