Madden NFL 25 released without any truly defined expectations. With an anniversary year being heavily promoted it stood to reason that EA Sports would pour resources into the game – releasing at the tail end of the current generation where it peaked in the last – and realize the benefits of having rebuilt eight years ago and overcoming some of those struggles as of late.
At the same time launching on the Xbox One and PS4 in November the next-gen version of the game was sure to siphon off some of the resources that otherwise would have been invested in current-gen as the company attempts to avoid those missteps and launch in strong fashion.
Continue on for a look at the areas where Madden NFL 25 excelled and where it fell short in this ‘Hits and Misses’ review.
Many will invest the most time with Madden NFL 25 in Connected Franchise mode. Whether playing as an Owner, Coach, or Player, it’s a rich and enjoyable experience that mostly delivers on what is promised especially when friends are involved online. Make sure to check out the extensive write-up on Connected Franchise from earlier if it was missed.
Owner mode is the big addition for this year and handling the executive functions – attempting to generate revenue, being able to move a team or build a new stadium, hiring and firing of the head coach/scout/trainer, and dealing with the fans – are tacked on to everything else that is done as a “Coach” in the mode. Owners still get to play the games, sign free agents, make trades, and so on. Draft Classes can be imported from NCAA Football 14 whether the Franchise is “offline” or “online”. Unfortunately it appears everyone who’ll be picking up the next-gen version later will have to start Franchises from scratch rather than being able to transfer progress over.
Where Franchise falls apart is with the in-game presentation and commentary. There is almost nothing linking back to current or past events taking place in the Franchise universe. This was the biggest disappointment with the debut of Connected Careers in Madden NFL 13 and inexplicably was not improved upon. The developments in Franchise are handled well in the menus but it’s a very detached feeling when actually playing a game.
Value and Fun Factor
Even with all its flaws this year Madden still offers exceptional value and EA has a proven track record of supporting the game post-launch. Significant improvements will surely be made within the next couple months and additional content will be provided.
Feature wise Madden 25 offers a strong package. Franchise mode and its incorporation of playing it several different ways is exceptional in concept and almost there in execution, the Skills Trainer can be very helpful to those seeking out practice and refinement of abilities or others who may just be learning how to play, Online has been consistent in terms of performance (though games tend to be all offense), Ultimate Team could practically be its own game for those who invest time in it, significant roster updates are released weekly, and there are even other features like the “Never Say Never Moments” which will be updated weekly throughout the year.
Madden is still a fun game and that should never be discounted. Those who plan to move from Xbox 360 to Xbox One can essentially consider one of the versions free by buying the 360 version through Amazon (which includes $10 promo credit) then trading it in through the online retailer for $50 in credit towards the One version. Unfortunately there are still no promos that will apply to Madden for consumers looking to pick it up on the PS4. Those who took advantage of the Anniversary Edition basically get NFL Sunday Ticket on PC/tablets/phones for $40. While these things don’t make the actual game any better they do help to justify the purchase if on the fence.
The addition of Online Seasons adds purpose, intrigue, and reason to continue playing Ultimate Team beyond just rewards from having one-off games. Bringing back Chemistry makes for more strategy in forming a team that plays well together and reaping some benefits from that.
Unfortunately not every new feature is a winner. The “Best Lineup” option, which is supposed to go through a user’s entire collection and put together the ideal lineups on offense and defense, is flat out broken. Forming a second lineup will also cause problems.
While Ultimate Team is certainly not for everyone Madden’s version continues to improve the experience and make the competition and the process of team-building more compelling. They just need to follow through and fix that “Best Lineup” feature. Keep in mind that consumers going from Xbox 360 to Xbox One and PS3 to PS4 will be able to make a one-time transfer of content when they move to the next-gen version of the game.
It may be an overdue addition but should be welcomed due to the flexibility it provides. Madden Share allows for users to upload their own edited rosters, slider sets, and playbooks – and for those to be downloaded by others. Even more importantly they can be used in Franchise mode. Start up a new Franchise and import a custom roster and use your custom playbook in Franchise games. It’s still a bit of a crapshoot in determining which files to download but having a community-based ranking system (can sort by number of likes, dislikes, or downloads) and an area for descriptions on each file do help in making those choices.
Long an area of weakness very little was done to bring presentation up to an acceptable level with Madden 25. Outside of the special video lead-ins for primetime and playoff games there isn’t much to praise. There are only two or three game openings (which they try and trick into seeming like there are more by using different camera perspectives), there is still nothing that can reasonably be called a Halftime Show, commentary has barely been improved, the new sideline reporter has very little specific to add to the conversation, celebration cut scenes are better but take place out of context, and the “moment of the game” highlight is usually something mundane like a random field goal. The lack of tying back into Franchise mode through commentary or on-screen graphics also kills the immersion when playing games there.
Atmosphere lags behind severely as well. Outside of a few crowd chants the crowd and stadium sounds are all the same. Over a third of fans won’t even show up to games if it’s snowing or raining apparently. It’s sad when a real-life Seahawks preseason game has a far hotter atmosphere than a playoff game in Madden. What should be automatic challenges don’t always trigger when they should particularly on turnovers. Hell, EA didn’t even bother to get the wind indicator pointing the right direction.
It would have been difficult to imagine gameplay landing in the “misses” section prior to the demo’s release but there is just too much chaos taking place on the field, and too many legacy issues, to overlook them and rest on the fun factor to elevate it. Make sure to check out the extensive write-up of initial impressions from earlier if it was missed.
Staring with the Infinity Engine 2.0 which might be better described as 0.2 because player interactions are a mess and gameplay looks and feels worse much of the time because of it. When an area is clogged it seems players just run into and bounce off one another. In one-on-one situations most hits are better described as collisions than tackles.
The Precision Modifier is another big whiff. While it does help somewhat in differentiating highly skilled individuals from others there is little to no reason not to just hold down the trigger all the time and try for the super moves which – with the right player and right timing – can practically be unstoppable. The rate of fumbles did not prove to have any correlation to whether the modifier was being utilized or not. Momentum and player types did not always portray realism as far as the results went. When Darren Sproles is stiff-arming a linebacker to the ground that tends to stand out. That stiff-arm animation too is troublesome as it tends to stick for a long time (dragging a player 10+ yards with it further downfield) or even being effective when other players are in between the two locked into the animation.
CPU QBs are far too composed and accurate. More often than not they’ll complete 80% or higher of passes each game. A lack of pass rush from the front four and the fact that QBs just don’t miss on throws creates the problem which is also present in head-to-head games. Sideline catches far too often don’t have the receivers trying to get their feet down. It’s almost as though the receivers have NCAA’s sideline logic.
The read-option on the other hand is represented quite well. There is much more risk/reward involved in Madden since QBs are prone to injuries, the defense can play it better due to the talent on field and a coaching option to choose to attack the RB or QB, and fumbles are more prevalent than in NCAA.
Isolate Madden NFL 25 from every other sports game on the market and its own history and it could be considered a really good game. That isn’t how things are judged however nor should they be. Madden had started to gain momentum with the past two releases – and really three out of the last four were quite good for their respective years – but it has taken a step back here by disappointing in gameplay and presentation. Consumers should expect much more out of Madden after 25 years. The question now becomes whether the transition to next-gen in November will represent a resurgence for the series by getting off on the right foot and displaying great potential or if it will simply wallow in the footsteps of the current generation letdown.