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Madden 25 Review (PS4)

 
Ah, the launch of a new console generation. It seems like just yesterday that I was eagerly awaiting my Xbox 360, copies of Perfect Dark Zero and Madden 06 in hand. My goodness, did I make the wrong choices in launch games or what?
 
Madden 06 for Xbox 360 will forever leave a nasty taste in my mouth with a Madden launch title. Do you all remember that? The 360 version of Madden 06 was so bare bones it didn’t even come with a Franchise Mode. It was so rushed that all we got was a single season and exhibition games.
 
Thankfully for the launch of the PS4, Madden 25 does not suffer the same pitfalls. You get everything that Xbox 360/PS3 players get, all with an extra coat of polish that a “next-gen” title can offer. Madden 25 for PS4 is a great game, since it is essentially a prettier version of Madden 25 for 360/PS3.
 
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Since the gameplay is virtually unchanged (with the exception of the physics; more on that later), I’m not going to focus on that here. For details on Madden 25’s gameplay, you can refer to my review of the “last-gen” version. That will tell you everything you need to know about how the game plays. What we’ll look at here is what differences the PS4 version brings to the table.
 
I was also provided with an Xbox One version of the game, but unfortunately I am not getting a Xbox One at this time, so I won’t be able to do any comparisons or play around with any Smartglass functionality. Perhaps someday…
 
The two major features that Madden 25 next-gen can offer are improved visuals, and the Ignite Engine. Are these enough to provide a different experience from the same game that came out in August? Well, yes and no. The Ignite Engine does offer a lot more nuances to player movement that by virtue of the fact that they act more realistically, means the game needs to be played differently. But it doesn’t always work that way.
 
Let’s look at the visuals first. The screenshots you see here and most of the footage from the trailers are accurate representations of how the game looks…when you’re in an instant replay and zoomed in to look for fine details. Otherwise, as much as I hate to say this, the other 99% of the time you spend on the actual gridiron looks pretty similar to the 360/PS3 versions. Sure, everything looks sharper, and the coaches, sidelines, and crowds look better (even though seeing an entire section all do the same movements at the same time over and over is weird looking), but it’s mostly the same experience from a visual standpoint. You’re not going to be picking out the insane details while playing, not even if you sit with your nose pressed up against the TV.
 
The game certainly doesn’t look bad; that’s not what I’m getting at here. The 360/PS3 versions of the game were easily the best looking NFL games I have ever seen. All I’m saying is, close-up instant replays aside, you’re not getting anything that’s significantly different on a visual level than the 360/PS3 versions. And you know what? That’s ok; it IS a launch title. Things will get better a few years from now as developers figure out better ways to unlock the full potential of the PS4.
 

 
Strangely enough, the power of the PS4 is felt elsewhere: the responsiveness of the menu. I was literally just playing Madden 25 on my 360 not two nights ago, and when I was able to zoom through the snappy and fast menus on the PS4 version with almost no lag, it was like moving from a Camry into a Ferrari. It sounds like I’m joking, but any of you who have tried to navigate the menus in the current Madden games known how annoying the lag gets. It even completely freezes the game at times. Thankfully, that does not look like it will be a problem anymore.
 
Other than upgraded visuals, most of the press has gone into EA Sports’ new physics engine, Ignite. Under the banner of Ignite, a number improved features are added to the next-gen Madden, though to be honest, it’s not like current-gen versions were lacking in the physics department. Through the last couple of years, the Madden series has actually developed into a fairly decent football game. So what does Ignite add to the package?
 
True Step is a brand new player locomotion system that accounts for weight and momentum, using 4x the precision over current-gen versions of the game. The system will calculate every move a player makes and will select from hundreds of new animations on the fly depending on what the situation calls for. True Step is meant to represent a more realistic moving on-screen character.
 
The basis of True Step lies in the new foot planting and step animations. Players will step, plant, and shift their weight realistically, and any moves they pull off (spins, jukes,etc.) will theoretically be performed within the parameters of what’s possible in the real world. When running the ball, a player will stutter step to slow down, plant his foot, then shift his weight before making a cut or spin. If a player’s plant foot is not on the ground, then the player will not perform a move until the correct foot is touching the ground. The power of the PS4 will ensure that a player will not make a move until his momentum, weight, and foot position are taken into account.
 
That’s all great on paper and it sounds very impressive and techy, but how does that translate into actual gameplay? I’ve noticed two things regarding the Ignite Engine, 1) there have been some weird situations where my player suddenly sped up for no good reason, like the frame rate was catching up (which doesn’t seem to be the case). They just became turbocharged for a brief moment, for lack of a better description. 2) When True Step works the way it’s supposed to, it will fundamentally change the way you play the game.
 
You now have to re-learn the timing for all your evasive moves. You may have been able to string together a spin, juke, spin, stiff arm back in the day, but you’re not going to be able to anymore. Since you now have to take the player’s slowdown and weight shift into account, you’ll need to plan ahead and hope that when you do perform the move, you’ve bought yourself enough time before getting clocked by a trigger happy safety.
 
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The new Ignite features aren’t just limited to ball carriers. Perhaps even more importantly, your linemen are affected as well. This creates much more realistic running lanes and pockets for your QB. If you go into an instant replay and zoom in on the linemen, you’ll actually see moves/countermoves between the o-line and d-line. Your o-line is smarter and each one knows their assignment, and the d-line has a bevy of new pass rush animations as well, creating some pretty cool instances of the trench battle.
 
So should you get the next-gen Madden 25? If you already own a current-gen version, then probably not. You’re not getting anything significantly new that impacts the game to any revolutionary degree. The upgraded visuals and Ignite Engine enhancements are nice, but don’t add so much to the existing game that it warrants another $60 purchase.
 
If you don’t own a current-gen Madden and happen to own a PS4 (or later, a Xbox One), then Madden 25 should be a no brainer, especially if you are a football fan. Don’t expect it to wow you with any “THAT’S what next-gen is all about!” moments, but regardless, this is the best playing and best looking Madden you can get your hands on. The 360/PS3 Madden 25 was already an extremely solid game, and you’re getting all the features that those games included.