The 25th anniversary of the acclaimed Madden series is upon us and the game is in sort of a rough spot currently. Madden 25 hits stores on the 27th of August for current generation consoles PS3 and Xbox 360, and this version of the game is running on Infinity Engine 2.0 (an improvement over last year’s great new engine). However, there is also the looming reality that the next generation is almost here and Madden 25 will be making the jump to PS4 and Xbox One as a launch title when both systems launch in November (15th for PS4, assumed November for Xbox One). It will make that jump not with Infinity Engine 2.0, but with an entirely new engine called Ignite. So how do you make fans care about the current gen version when there is a perceived superior version coming out in just a matter of months?
I suppose the answer to that is really just taking solace in the fact that the majority of current gen gamers won’t make the transition to the next gen this year and will thus buy Madden 25 without a thought being given towards the PS4/Xbox One version. There’s also the hardcore Madden fans, and there’s a ton of them, who will buy the game every single year and just have to have it. These fans who make the transition will have no problem buying the game twice just because. This review isn’t really for the every year guys because they’ll buy the game whether it’s declared the best version ever or the worst version ever; it’s more for those who like the franchise but don’t “upgrade” every year.
I really liked last year’s Madden game; it played smooth, had great presentation, and the Infinity engine was a great new addition. The good news is that this year’s version is basically an improvement over last year’s game. The biggest improvements of course relate to the physics of the Infinity engine 2.0. Yes, players will still be contorted in ways that look like every bone in a player’s body should have broken, and players will still occasionally get hung up on one another and stumble around, but it is nowhere near as laughable as it was last year.
The other big improvement is in the running game, thanks to the new precision control modifier and animations that make using spin, truck, hurdle, stiff arm, and the new acceleration boost better than ever. Learn to read to read defenses and take control of beastly running back, and you can juke and make hard cuts with relative ease. In short, the running game feels really good, but only if you can read the defense and know how and when to use the modifiers and new combo moves.
Like last year, the presentation in Madden 25 is top notch; it’s easily the most realistic looking and sounding NFL game to date. Fields look great, player models are the best they’ve ever been, the commentary is as good as it has ever been too (not fantastic, but certainly world’s better than it used to be and much better than EA Sport’s other football franchise, NCAA Football), and the animations are great. Tackling both looks and sounds absolutely brutal. If you get a really good hit stick tackle on a poor rusher or receiver, it’s going to look and sound like they should be taking a trip to the hospital (and thanks to the physics engine, they’re probably going to land in a way that looks like some bones should be broken).
That leads me to one of my biggest complaints with Madden 25 as it currently is. I’m playing on default everything for the purposes of this review because that is what I assume the average player will play on. And the complain is that there are simply way too many injuries and fumbles in this game. It’s pretty jarring going from a game like NCAA 14 where there are almost no fumbles and few injuries to Madden 25 where you can expect to see two plus fumbles per game and on average four or five injuries (sometimes more). You may not mind having an injured player during a meaningless exhibition game, but injuries can become a frustrating part of Connected Franchise (I’m doing owner’s franchise) and Ultimate Team.
After three weeks in Connected Franchise, I checked the injury list for all teams and sure enough just about every team had over six players injured. Some were just going to miss a week, but a good many were going to miss four or more weeks (a couple out for basically the season). The thing is though, the injuries weren’t really mounting for my team (I took control of the Chargers), just every other team in the league.
I’d have a player get injured on average three times a game, but it has thus far always been a light injury where they were able to return to the game. It’s a different story for the other teams though. My 76 overall defense is racking up injuries to other teams averaging over four a game thus far. And when there’s an injury timeout to the CPU team on offense, they’ll huddle, pick their play, and then wait over ten seconds before snapping the ball. It’s frustrating.
In addition to the injuries, guys are fumbling the ball way too often… on the other team. Neither Trent Richardson, Tim Tebow, or any other receivers or other running backs on my team (I did a fantasy draft getting all the recent Alabama, Florida, and other SEC team players that I could) have fumbled the ball. But the other team is turning the ball over at least two times a game via fumble (a couple of more times by interception by using ball hawk) and usually fumbling but recovering another time or two.
The problem even persist when you punt to the CPU. I like to do a line drive kick towards the sideline, and so far I have roughly an 80% success rate of having the returner bobble the ball (sometimes even bouncing off their helmets). Granted I haven’t been able to recover one of these bobbled punts yet, but regardless NFL players shouldn’t be bobbling a punt 80% of the time.
Other complaints with the game are sluggish menus (although the design itself is top notch) and the secondary on defense has an uncanny ability to get to a bullet pass to make a diving deflection when there was plenty of separation between the back and the receiver. Still though, it is a pretty sound football game and for the most part is an even more polished and refined version of last year’s game; the review guide that came with the copy of the game list dozens and dozens of additions, improvements, and fixes. Many are noticeable, but a lot aren’t.
If you care about Ultimate Team, which I’ve grown less fond of over the years since it has started to become the norm in every sports game, they’ve reintroduced team chemistry to add an extra wrinkle when trying to create your ultimate team.
There are four different styles to choose from for both offense and defense, and the more players you have on the team who match the styles you choose the better your chemistry will be. The better your chemistry, the better bonuses you can unlock to make your team even better in their chosen style of play. If Ultimate Team is something you care about, then Madden 25 definitely won’t disappoint.
Last year’s Madden combined a few modes to create Connected Careers and ended up getting rid of the franchise mode where you become the owner. Madden 25 builds upon Connected Careers by renaming it Connected Franchise, where you can now choose to be a player, a coach, or an owner. As in previous year’s when you could be the owner, you get to set ticket and merchandise prices, market your best players, answer media questions, upgrade your stadium, and even relocate your team.
I chose to relocate the San Diego Chargers to London, England, where they are now known as the Black Knights. There are 17 cities to choose to relocate too, and each has three names to choose from, three uniform types to choose from, and 16 stadium types (although half of those are simply deluxe versions).
Loading screens in Madden 25 celebrate the franchises history by showing a screenshot from a past version and a quick statement about that year’s version. It’s fun to look back at one of the first games in the series and then look at it today… really helps one appreciate just how far video games have come, graphically, in 25 or less years. It’s a small thing, but since you’re going to see quite a bit of loading screens, it’s a cool addition nonetheless.
The skills trainer, which is just a series of tutorial drills that will award you Ultimate Team cards when you get gold medals and was also in NCAA Football 14, is another nice new addition.
This year both Madden 25 and NCAA 14 are running on the Infinity Engine 2.0 so it’s easier to compare the two games. Madden by far looks better has the presentation really nailed down. Madden also has the better running game. The gameplay between the two are almost identical, but I’ve found NCAA 14 to be the better playing game.
Madden looks and sounds better, but NCAA simply “feels” better. With once again being able to import your NCAA draft class to Madden though, it’s good to have both games.
We’ll have to wait a few more months to find out what advantages the Ignite engine and the new consoles offer Madden NFL 25, but the PS3 (and presumably the 360 as well) version is a mostly smooth game.
If you enjoyed last year’s Madden, then you should definitely like this one as well even if it does still contain the trappings of feeling like an updated roster and a few tweaks under the hood with an old mode making a return in a new way. If you’re looking to get invested in a career/franchise or even Ultimate Team season, you may become frustrated by the abundance of injuries.
I’m sure that is something that can be addressed in a future patch or tuning update, but I can only review the game based on what is here and playable now. For me, the injuries aren’t quite “game breaking,” but they have impacted the amount of fun that I’ve had with my franchise thus far.
Madden NFL 25 gets a three out of five: GOOD.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.