Madden NFL 25 (or Madden NFL 14 if you want to keep it in numerical order) is the latest instalment in the ever popular EA Sports franchise. Commemorating the 25th year that Madden has hit the shelves, Madden NFL 25 provides a host of new features, game modes and improvements that hope to celebrate a quarter of a century of Madden football with the finest one to date.
In this year’s iteration, the award-winning Infinity Engine makes a return for its sophomore year and brings both a more polished physics simulation and introduces the all-new Force Impact System. Trucking defenders, making the big tackles and other power moves have been redesigned to give you more control over the outcome of a play than ever before.
One of the gameplay improvements is the running mechanics and blocking. Run Free is a whole new way to unlock the power and precision of a ball carrier with all new moves and the ability to put together some combos with the new precision modifier that, if mastered, could make Barry Sanders (one of the game’s most electrifying runners of all time) look like an average second-string running back and not the Hall of Famer that he is. Small cuts and quick angle changes are all performed with the left stick and they’re so smooth that it’s very easy to not even notice that you’re runner has made one. Bigger cuts, jukes and spins are all done with the right stick, but when you need a big play then that’s where the precision modifier really comes into its own. Pull LT/L2 just before making your move and it makes the ball carrier juke that little bit further, stiff arm a little stronger and spin a little faster, as well as opening up a repertoire of nearly thirty moves and combos. Run blocking has been vastly improved by the team at EA Tiburon and it is noticeable right from the off. Defenders no longer act like magnets to the running back when he’s breaking through a gap in the offensive line and the ball carrier will even adjust his body position to fit through a space that’s opened up a running lane. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I’m making it sound like running is dominant and unstoppable, it’s not. It’s just nice to be able to build a running game for once. You won’t post consistently big numbers with a 65 overall 3rd stringer, as the precision modifier can only be used by superstar athletes and attributes such as trucking, elusiveness, ball carrier vision and physical attributes still affect just how effective and efficient the moves are. If you’re lucky enough to pull off these tough moves and run with the likes of Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster, than you’re going to have a whale of a time. Automatic sprinting has been removed and replaced with your traditional RT/R2 turbo with a twist as players now have stamina bars that show around the player icon while they have possession of the ball. Constantly sprint and over a period time you’ll find your starters losing stamina and having to spend more time on the sidelines puffing air than on the field making moves for your team, but used at the right time and it can help get you past that last defender.
The all-new Skill Drills offers the perfect opportunity to learn how to precisely control players on offence and defence, and familiarise yourself with the new features. Two of these new features are Ball Hawk and Heat Seeker, both of which are designed to make everyone feel as capable as hardcore Madden players......except they aren’t actually working properly. Take part in a Play Now game or a Head-to-Head game and they work fine and are effective, but dive into Connected Franchise and although the option to have these features is there, they are automatically being turned off even when they’re set to be on. I’m sure it’ll be fixed in the first patch but it’s a shame that features which were some of the focal points in the tutorial, aren’t actually working when you delve into the deeper modes of Madden.
EA Tiburon has obviously been hard at work trying to improve on gameplay. Gone are Madden NFL 13’s freakishly athletic Linebackers who frequently managed to jump higher than is humanly possible to intercept a bullet pass. The inclusion of read option and triple option plays is a welcome one for someone like me, as they can be lethal with my Washington Redskins and RG3, if performed correctly.
The Audible calling system has also received a complete overhaul so now, not only is it easier to call an audible, but there are also more to choose from. You are no longer restricted to just 4 different plays to audible into, the game actually provides different formations based on the personnel you currently have on the field and offers a selection of plays within those formations. There are still some issues to contend with though; quite often computer AI defensive players can run through or get in the way of the route of a receiver and make contact with them before they’ve made contact with the ball, a move that would normally end up as a penalty flag for defensive pass interference but something that just isn’t picked up by Madden. I am wondering whether it’s just the game’s engine not recognising that the two players have made contact as even adjusting the penalty sliders doesn’t seem to stop this from happening.
During the fifty or so hours I’ve already put into Madden NFL 25, it’s fair to say that I’m getting a bit bored of the same cut scenes that appear before and during the games. There are a couple of new shots such as pre game stadium shots (they don’t happen if you relocate a team in Connected Franchise), player introduction/run-ons and touchdown celebrations (some of which are the real life player’s actual celebrations), but much of the rest are the same rehashed ones from Madden NFL 13. The same can be said for the commentary provided by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. It starts off well and initially, it does a good job to make it feel like a true Sunday game day atmosphere, but by the end of the regular season it would be very easy to lose count of how many times they’ve repeated the same lines, facts and titbits. Boring and repetitive is probably an understatement.
Madden NFL 25 features some additions and changes to the game modes on offer, with the biggest changes coming in Connected Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team.
Resurrecting itself from the dead and returning to Connected Franchise (known as Connected Careers in Madden NFL 13) after a few years of absence is one of the best modes to appear in the Madden franchise; Owner Mode. Owner Mode brings with it the same processes and functionalities as being a coach, but with the added layer of running the team’s back room activities as well. Merchandise, team and player popularity, coach hiring and firing, concession prices and finances are just some of the things you’ll have to deal with as an owner of a NFL franchise. Relocating teams to new cities and new stadium building/upgrading makes a triumphant return this year. Should your team fall within the requirements then as the owner you can either choose to build a brand new stadium from a choice of 10 pre-set designs or opt to relocate your franchise to one of seventeen US and international cities, including London, Dublin, Toronto, Los Angeles and New Mexico. Each city offers their own pros and cons for relocation and once decided, players can choose whether to retain their current team name, logo and uniforms or choose from three different pre-set team name/logo options that change for each city and three different pre-set uniform options that change for each team name/logo. Relocation also allows owners to reboot historic NFL teams such as the London Monarchs from NFL Europe and, my favourite, the Houston Oilers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Madden NFL 15 brings back the ability to design your own logos/uniforms/stadiums and EA Sports market them as “new” features even though they were available to us a few years ago. There are still a few teething issues with Connected Franchise such as duplicated draft classes, frequent crashing, repetitive background music and the lack of difference that changing your team’s offensive and defensive schemes actually has, ultimately making the option of changing it completely pointless but like last year, I’m sure that these will be patched in the coming months.
New to Madden Ultimate Team this year is Online Head-to-Head Seasons, where the goal is to get through ten games and a four-round playoff to eventually win the Superbowl, and the return of team chemistry where picking your first team captain decides your team’s chemistry, whether that be a short pass game or a bull rushing game, it’s up to you. MUT certainly provides a more robust showing this time around, with more legends and the All-Time Greats cards that include the best players from the last 25 years of Madden and is sure to attract many players with its blend of games, card trading and fantasy football, but unfortunately it’s still let down by the one thing that has plagued Madden for years......online LAG. When it occurs, it is downright crippling to gameplay and makes it almost unplayable.
Other features have been included this year to help round off Madden NFL 25. Madden Share is the ultimate place to find downloadable rosters, sliders, custom playbooks and more, all created by the Madden NFL community. Like NBA 2K’s share facility, you’re sure to find some amazing projects on there as well as some rather pointless ones, but it has been wanted by fans for years so it’s nice to see that EA are listening. The menus have had a freshen up but EA haven’t worked on speeding them up as they’re still as slow and sloppy as ever, not just in connected franchise, but throughout the whole game. It’s a shame really but I would be surprised if this was still prevalent in the next-gen release on the Xbox One and PS4.
With Madden NFL 25 being a celebration of 25 years of Madden football, I’m really surprised that there isn’t more behind it. The inclusion of loading screen screenshots and facts from the previous versions are a nice touch, as well as the All-Time Greats team and cards in Ultimate Team, but that’s all there really is. If you’re going to change the name from Madden NFL 14 to Madden NFL 25 then at least follow suit from the likes of NHL 14 and include some sort of throwback anniversary mode in there, surely?
Madden NFL 25 provides the deepest and most pleasant football offering to date. It’s a good sign for where the franchise is heading and it’ll be interesting to see how the current-gen version stacks up against the next-gen version when it releases with the Xbox One and PS4. But for now, EA Tiburon can be pretty happy with what they’re produced.
Words By James Grantham.
(Version Tested: Xbox 360)
- Owner Mode is back!?
- Better running game than ever before.?
- More authentic NFL gameplay and experience.
- Online LAG is still an issue.?
- Presentation is repetitive.