Madden NFL 25
It’s been a great generation of sports games. We’ve been able to experience so many fantastic innovations in the way of visual improvements, game features, and online capabilities. It’s also been very interesting to observe how different publishers have cornered the markets of different sports. 2K Sports, for example, has taken a firm stranglehold in the basketball arena (although EA looks to bounce back with the NBA Live series returning for a next-gen debut). Sony has had the upper hand in the baseball realm as well, with The Show being the most-talked-about game. EA continues to dominate the soccer field with the ever-popular FIFA series. All that said, there is no sport that has been under such a monopoly as football, with EA’s exclusive licensing deal with the NFL. And we must give them credit – they have continued to innovate and improve the series, even with a lack of direct competition.
One of the realities of coming to the end of a console generation, especially in the case of annual sports releases, is that the capabilities of the consoles have been relatively maxed out. There is no longer room for much improvement in the areas of graphics, features, or other items that will blow anyone’s socks off. It becomes much more about tweaking, adding game modes, improving presentation, and implementing fresh features to keep the experience from being stale. I’m happy to report that Madden 25 successfully accomplishes this feat.
One of the primary focuses in the last 2-3 years has been the game’s presentation. From its stadiums to its broadcasts to its cut-scenes, Madden has felt more and more like we are immersed in a real football experience. The excellent in-game broadcast and presentation is back, but the biggest change this year is the game’s menu format. A traditional menu setup is set aside in favor of a tiled, Xbox Live style format. You can move from left to right through various tabs, each representing various game modes and options. On the surface, the setup looks very sleek and classy, but when I started to use it, I found it to be rather cumbersome. Much of the time, it was rather sluggish, with each movement taking a split-second to react. It’s not much, but when moving about through the franchise menu looking at stats, stories, awards, and the like, it can be frustrating. I should note now that this is really my ONLY notable complaint about this game.
On the positive side, the in-game presentation, visuals, and sound are stronger than ever. Pre-game featurettes about each team and blimp shots of the stadium set the stage, and warm-up and coin toss cut-scenes simply look awesome. Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are back in the commentary booth, and the chatter has improved since last year. There is less repetition, and their conversations and banter are much more natural, even tossing in player anecdotes and comparisons of players who may be opposing each other in that particular game. Graphically, the biggest change is that there are numerous new animations. Modeling and environments are largely unchanged, but again, we wouldn’t expect any drastic differences there given that we’re ending a generation.
The most important factor in a football game is how it actually feels to play it, and Madden 25 takes its already-great formula and improves on it with the new Infinity Engine. We’ve reached the pinnacle of realism in terms of how players interact with each other and how they handle contact, at least until we experience the PS4 or Xbox One. Running backs can now cut and move with a level of control and precision we haven’t seen before. Defenders can choose how to approach a tackle based on a size matchup of positioning. It creates a level of connection with the players you are controlling that makes the experience as rewarding as it’s ever been. As a ball carrier, not only can you juke or spin, but there is now a precision feature that allows you to time these moves perfectly and enhance their effectiveness. When performed correctly, using the precision button to truck a defender or hurdle a dive tackle is just a blast. But the NFL is still a passing league, and guess what – it’s still fun to do. Peyton Manning is better than anyone when he has time in the pocket, but if he has to roll out or scramble, forget about it. A guy like Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, is able to tuck and run, and even throw on the run. Nowhere do players feel more like their real-life counterparts than at the quarterback position, and as it should, it really makes a difference in your strategy.
The Franchise mode continues to be Madden’s calling card, and Madden 25 is no exception. Owner mode, Career mode, Coach mode – they are all now rolled into a franchise mode in which you choose to control the owner, the entire team as the coach, or a single player whom you can create or control. All of these can be done online or offline, by yourself or with friends. It effectively brings the whole experience together. Playing as the owner is expectedly detailed. You’ll have to manage stadium moves, ticket prices, concessions, personnel, and much, much more. If you’re playing as a coach, you might start as an offensive coordinator working toward your first head coaching job. There are many nice touches in Franchise mode, such as a Twitter feed that includes thoughts about your player/coach/team from NFL personalities such as Adam Scheffter. You’ll spend all of your time in the game in Franchise mode, and you’ll have fun doing it.
Madden 25 is a fantastic culmination of a generation. There is plenty to do, and the game feels as good or better in all aspects. If you’re a fan of football and the series, you owe it to yourself to pick it up.
Reviewed By: Dan Nielson
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a retail copy of Madden NFL 25 for the PlayStation 3 provided by Electronic Arts.