It’s tough to believe that the Madden series has been around for 25 years. More than that, it’s tough to believe how far the series has come in that time. While non-sports gamers constantly rant about how similar yearly sports franchises like Madden are, this year’s installment is a testament to how much changes between games and how far this series has actually come. But is Madden NFL 25 a great anniversary gift or one that will be relegated to the back of the closet with the Rudolph Christmas sweater? The answer falls somewhere in the middle.
The most improved aspect of Madden NFL 25 is the increased control you have over the players as you progress through games. The Infinity Engine introduced in Madden NFL 11, while a vast improvement over the previous physics engine, suffered from frequent collision issues and strange rag-dolling with the slightest contact. The Infinity Engine 2.0 in Madden 25 polishes up most of those gaffs, and gives a better sense of weight and center of gravity to each player. There still are some rough patches but I found that most of them had to do with the inhuman Adrian Peterson and the magical force field that seems to surround him even in real life.
Madden NFL 25 also adds a precision modifier a la NBA games that adds a little extra, “Did you see that?!” to your standard spins, jukes, and stiff arms. The improved physics engine makes all the additional shakes and bakes you’ll be pulling off possible. The defense, likewise, gets a few improvements in allowing for shoestring tackles and safer full wrap-up tackles. Secondary players get the assistance of the Ball Hawk button which should cut down on those easy drops that have been a defensive legacy issue for years.
Another addition of note is the unveiling of the Option offense. This play style has become the latest fad in the NFL, following the likes of the Wildcat and Spread offenses, and the way it shredded defenses last year in the NFL is how it will infuriate Madden players this year. No matter how skilled the player, picking an Option play is guaranteed to get you at least a 1st down, if not a massive gain. The developers will have to do some tweaking to reduce the effectiveness of the plays if they want to have some sort of balance to the game.
The overall presentation received a spit-shine for Madden 25. Some places got more shine and are as streamlined as the series has ever been, mimicking Windows new obsessions with tiles and flipping between them which fixed a majority of the gripes with Madden 13‘s menu accessibility. A nice little touch that I enjoyed was little retrospective windows during load screens that pointed out what innovations were added to each entry in the series. As great as they are for nostalgia’s sake, it’s clear that they will get boring as soon as you see all 25 of them.
Other areas got more spit and it really stands out when compared with the better areas. Football has some of the most exciting play-by-play announcers, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz being among the top, but there hasn’t been a sense of analysis since the days of John Madden years ago. There are way too many instances of dead air from the booth that could be filled with some sort of banter between the award winning color commentators. It’s very frustrating to see the difference in quality between Madden games and the NBA 2K series which has the best in game commentary hands down. Another issue was the constant looking over to see the reactions of the coach and team. It wouldn’t be as big of a problem if it wasn’t recycled footage no matter what the team/stadium/score is. Live games cut to so many different angles; it’s tough to see why Tiburon can’t do the same.
The Owner mode in Connected Careers, while more streamlined and massively improved over last year’s version, is where the majority of the problems with the game pop up. EA finally brought back all the little owner mode decisions that gamers have been missing since the transition from last gen to current gen consoles, but the logic behind some of the moves the computer suggests is strange. Why wouldn’t I re-sign my young franchise quarterback? Why would I move my team to Tennessee if I’m 1st in ticket sales and fan popularity? Fan popularity and success is supposed to lead to more or less money to use during the off-season but my team ended up about halfway down the standings and I still had about $100 million to use for the team. If some of this logic could be cleaned up in an update, I’m sure that this could be an area that will be enjoyed for a long time.
Probably the feature that seems to have some of the most potential is the new Madden Share. 2K Sports has had a 2K Share feature for the past couple of years and it has greatly extended the shelf life of games. It’s a bit early to see how much EA will invest in their servers once the next iteration of Madden comes out, but for now the community can use it to showcase their rosters or make rosters full of fictional or legendary players. This customization aspect will keep gamers coming back even after the NFL season ends and the official roster updates end.
As a complete product, I would suggest at least trying Madden NFL 25. The pros (slightly) outweigh the cons and some of those are more of a personal preference. As a long-time Madden fan however, it’s just not the silver anniversary I was expecting. The last few iterations have felt like one step forward and one step back. The shift from last gen to current gen consoles seems to have hamstrung the ability of Madden to correct the stumble it finds itself in. I’m concerned the jump to next gen will hit stick it into oblivion.
[+Infinity Engine 2.0 fixes most of the physics problems from the first engine] [+New offensive and defensive moves add depth to gameplay] [+Streamlined menu system which makes finding things much easier] [+ Retrospective load screens] [+Madden Share] [+Addition of Option plays] [-Adrian Peterson] [-Addition of Option plays] [-Commentary while better than it has been in a long time is still horrible] [-Constantly repeating footage during games] [- Some of the logic behind Connected Careers moves]