Madden 25 Review

 
I’ve played and owned every single Madden game since Madden 93. It’s as much a part of football season as lazy Sundays are, watching a whole day’s worth of games on TV. With that being said, I tend to be somewhat more forgiving about the annual offerings of Madden, not really being too bothered by the “yearly roster update and nothing else” criticisms that many have levied against the series.
 
I try to go into each new Madden game with realistic expectations. I understand I’m probably not going to be seeing a huge jump in graphical quality, and I understand the changes from year to year are going to be minimal. As an annual sports title, there’s only so much I can realistically expect, and that’s fine. I’m not looking for a revolution in football gaming each year, but there are certain things I do expect to see.
 
One, I dislike it when previous features are taken out, even with something as horrible as the QB Vision Cone from 2006. The kicking mechanic has also been swapped around for a few years, going from the right analog stick kicking, to the three-button-press clicking, back to the analog stick. Madden 2009 introduced an improved weather system that was amazing, then it all but disappeared for the next few years. Even if a feature was not well received, I still would like to see it return the next year, with an option to use it or not. I mean, last year you couldn’t even import your NCAA draft class (this feature is back with Madden 25).
 
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The second thing that bugs me is the passing of past features as “new” features. The return to three-button-kicking a few years ago was passed off as a new mechanic. A little while back, the “X” button on defense (for Xbox; Square for PS3) was passed off as a “new tackle button.” Those of us who have played Madden for decades remember these features, and presenting them as “new” might get an eyebrow raise or two.
 
As long as these two things do not impact the game too badly, I can usually enjoy each new Madden with a smile on my face. So how does this affect Madden 25? For the most part, Madden 25 brings some new things to the table, and expands on certain previous offerings. A number of features from the past are still somewhat questionable (we’ll get to this in a bit), but by and large, Madden 25 feels fresh enough…yet familiar. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.
 
The first thing I want to touch on is the fact that this is the 25th anniversary of the Madden franchise, hence “Madden 25” instead of Madden 14. For the silver anniversary of such a major video game franchise, I would have expected more. Madden 25 is a solid game, but other than the name itself and some graphical indicators in-game, you wouldn’t have known that this was the 25th anniversary if it were presented to you simply as Madden 14. There’s a surprising lack of special features celebrating the anniversary. There’s nothing like player interviews, historical games, etc. It’s just a normal evolution of the franchise from last year. Ultimate Team sees some love as you get a bevy of historical players, but that’s really about it. It seems like a wasted opportunity to me.
 
The next thing that had me scratching me head is the concept of precision modifiers. With precision modifiers, normal evasion moves like jukes, spins, stiff arms, etc. can be given an extra bit of “oomph!” by holding down the left trigger, then performing the move. To be blunt, why this feature was necessary is beyond me. In all my years of playing video game football, I have never been in a situation where I performed a spin move, then thought to myself “Man, I wish I could spin just a little bit more.” This isn’t NFL Blitz; I am perfectly satisfied with performing all of these moves within the parameters of normal human restrictions and more importantly, I am more than happy to perform these moves, for better or worse, according to the parameters of the in-game skill ratings.
 
The problem with precision modifiers, however, is not simply their existence; it’s that performing them really doesn’t net you that much better of an outcome. The difference between trucking a defender and Precision trucking a defender is minimal at best. The physics still play into the results, so Darren Sproles is probably not going to be trucking through Ndamukong Suh, precision modifier or not. It’s a feature that is getting a ton of press, yet it’s a completely unnecessary feature.
 
It’s not all bad, though. The game itself plays nice and smooth, and Infinity Engine 2 makes Madden 25 a wonderfully realistic game. Now granted, the difference between Infinity Engine 1 and Infinity Engine 2 wasn’t something I was able to notice, but seeing as how I love the first iteration of IE, I’m more than happy to report that the game plays just as well as Madden 13, if not better.
 

 
IE isn’t perfect, though…not by a long shot. I’m impressed by what the engine brings to the table, and if faced with a choice, I’d rather have Infinity Engine powering Madden than not, but various quirks that have plagued Madden for years are still present. While the running game has seen a lot of improvement throughout the years and run blocking is miles better than what it was when this generation first started, it still leaves me yelling at my TV more often than not. It’s still hard find open running lanes, but every now and then, the AI gods will work the way they’re supposed to and a glorious hole will appear.
 
Some other annoyances include blockers getting in your way (something that was supposed to be fixed this year), magical linebackers and DBs that will suddenly warp to the ball (though to be fair, this happens much less than before), and d-linemen who suddenly found a magical burst of speed to chase down your speedy, bootlegging QB.
 
What I DO love about Madden 25’s gameplay is the addition of a ton of option plays. With the success of mobile QBs like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and the arrival of Chip Kelly’s offense in the NFL, the Read Option is the new Wildcat, and Madden 25 delivers oodles of option plays all using the same mechanic as the NCAA games. Also, the weird glitchiness that happened in last year’s game with post-play physics shenanigans (players tripping over each other, endless dogpiles, etc) don’t seem to happen anymore, so the game is no longer a sequence of hard hitting football followed by a few seconds of belly splitting laughter.
 
I tend to spend 99.99999% of my time with football games in franchise mode, so naturally I was thrilled to see my favorite mode expanded upon so much, though the most notable addition is the return of Owner Mode. While it’s great to see Owner Mode back to its rightful place, there are some strange occurrences that I ran into (more on that in a second), but they certainly aren’t gamechangers. If you’re the OCD type and need to control every aspect of running a team, even down to the hot dog prices, then Owner Mode is for you. I won’t touch too much on Owner Mode since anyone who played last gen Madden games would probably be more than familiar with it, but as the owner, you’re in charge of all the on-field and coaching decisions like you would in a normal franchise, but with the addition of things like setting ticket prices, keeping fans happy, relocating your team, keeping up with the stadium, etc.
 
Because the features of Owner Mode exist whether you choose to play as an owner, coach, or player, some weird things can happen. The strangest for me was when I was playing through my second year as the coach of my beloved Buffalo Bills, and I suddenly noticed that my next game was against the Los Angeles All-Stars. ????? Did my game suddenly turn into All Pro Football 2K8 or something? It turns out that the Raiders and Rams (both computer controlled) decided they would relocate, hence the absence of those two teams and the addition of the All-Stars and Dreadnoughts. I wasn’t too happy to see that. Interesting how the only two teams that relocated were the two former Los Angeles teams.
 
For the most part, Connected Franchise hasn’t changed much from last year…which is a good thing considering how great last year’s Connected Careers was. Everything is laid out in a much more attractive format (which resembles the Xbox Live Dashboard with its heavy use of tiles), and the overall experience seems less sluggish than before. You can choose to play through your franchise as either a player, coach, or owner, and each of these three paths will offer multiple choices as well, giving you the opportunity to create a character, use an existing one, or play as a former legend. Again, I should point out that regardless of whichever path you choose to take (created character, existing character, legend), legends will still be a part of your experience. I chose to create a player, coach, and owner all from scratch, yet here I am in year two of my Owner Mode franchise, wondering if I should drop Doug Marrone as my HC and pick up Jimmy Johnson instead. I really wish there was a way to “turn off” legends if you don’t want to use them; maybe there is and I just haven’t found it yet. But trying to play as realistic a game as possible sort of doesn’t work when you’re faced with a bunch of long retired coaches, owners, and players from the ghosts of NFL past.
 
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Community is a big focal point of Madden this year, which is great to see considering the NCAA franchise has always placed a lot of importance on having great community features. Most of these make their way over to Madden 25, and now users can use Madden Share, which allows players to create and upload/download rosters, playbooks, sliders and more. Put that alongside all the wonderful online features (online Connected Franchise and the traditional head to head modes) and you’ve got yourself quite a meaty multiplayer game.
 
It sounds like I have a lot to complain about with this years offering, but in the end, one thing stands true; by next August, I’ll probably still be playing this game regularly. It’s not perfect by any means; very few games are. The 25th anniversary content is pretty light, and with the exception of some under the hood improvements and the continued evolution of Connected Franchise, the game should feel immediately familiar to any fan of the series. It’s still a solid football game, and something that football fans should not hesitate to pick up.