Quick Look: Madden NFL 25

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Madden NFL 25 Review

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  • PS3

Madden's silver anniversary offers little notable forward progress for the series.

Madden NFL is now a 25-year-old franchise. Since the late '80s, Electronic Arts has been pumping these games out at a yearly clip, bowling over numerous competitors to become the only major football franchise left standing since the last console generation. Throughout those 25 years, Madden has seen its share of lofty ups and depressing downs, but there are enough highlights among those moments to make the concept of something like Madden NFL 25, an intended celebration of the franchise's history and acclaim, basically palatable.

If you like running back moves, EA has given you more running back moves. Well, actually, they're the same moves you already had. But now they're stronger sometimes.

The problem is, Madden NFL 25 isn't anywhere near the best or most memorable edition of the game released. Hell, it's barely much better than last year's flawed, but generally playable game. This likely being the last meaningful installment of the franchise on this generation of hardware, it's not altogether surprising that the developers at EA Sports wouldn't completely revamp the game yet again as resources begin drifting toward new consoles. But for a game that aims to celebrate Madden's storied history and its various innovations over the years, 25 feels oddly sterile, slapdash, and generally unremarkable.

The noteworthy changes to the gameplay this year are few and far between. When running the ball, an additional modifier has been added that lets you do more powerful versions of the jukes, trucks, and spin moves inherent to the ball carrier. They aren't exactly different moves so much as just more effective versions of the same moves you already have. All you have to do is hold down a trigger button and use the same stick movements/button presses you normally would, and now that stiff arm is stiffer, that juke jukier, and so on.

Maybe this is a meaningful addition to players who aren't good at pulling off the existing ball carrier maneuvers, but if you've been playing Madden at all in the last few years, the trigger pull is just one more step to add to the typical array of moves you're already accustomed to. The running game as it is already skews heavily in favor of the offense. Even with middling backs from pass-crazy teams, I was pretty regularly able to rip off large chunks of yardage in any situation outside of an obvious stacking of the line by the defense. The passing game is pretty breezy as well, with receivers regularly creating crazy amounts of separation and blowing past corners on deep routes in ways I don't recall being quite as prevalent last year. Granted, interceptions tended to pop up a lot more than they do this year, so that might be part of it.

The Infinity Engine, introduced last year for physics-based tackles and hits, has seen some improvement this year. Still, you'll find more than your share of odd-looking animations.

Madden's defensive AI has had its share of problems over the years, certainly, and I'm not saying Madden NFL 25 is that much worse than any of the last few entries. Still, in this year's game, it often feels like defensive plays are more often the result of shoddy blocking than any actual useful defensive strategy. Receivers and tight ends have gotten arguably lousier about taking down linebackers and DBs on run plays, and the offensive line has a real bad tendency to bunch up in idiotic ways that leave delayed blitzers wide open to obliterate the QB if you're not insanely quick on your feet. A little of this stuff certainly makes sense in the context of the real life game, but here I kept running into these mistakes and miscues with almost absurd regularity.

As with all major simulation sports games, there are numerous settings and sliders one can adjust to fix some of these problems. And in the one single, solitary great new addition to Madden NFL 25, now you can download other people's settings too. Community creations, including slider settings, playbooks, and roster updates, can be easily downloaded from a menu within the game. Though the day-of-release group of content isn't necessarily easy to sift through, a ratings system included should help the best stuff float to the top eventually.

There's not much difference in how the game is presented on the field, compared with last year. Player models are as bulbous and stiffly animated as ever, though at least the physics-based tackling animations--introduced last year with the addition of the Infinity Engine--result in a few less insane looking non-injuries on the field, and a lot less random pratfalls by players who, last year, couldn't help tripping over any nearby downed player on the field. Commentary from Jim Nantz and Phil Simms returns, though repeated lines, inconsistent dialogue (Simms chiding a team for throwing a short pass that yielded a first down, then complimenting another short pass that only gained two yards a play later, for example), and occasional straight-up miscalls are frequent and annoying.

The return of owner mode would be a lot more exciting if the process of managing your team didn't feel like such a slog.

While all these issues don't necessarily conspire to ruin the game of digital football, they're disappointing, and emblematic of the larger problem this game suffers from. Namely, a total lack of a single, standout feature to point to in order to say, "Yes, this game deserves to be purchased if you already own last year's game."

Not even the new version of the connected careers mode, Madden 13's big revamp of franchise and superstar mode into one glob of simulated NFL management, makes such a case. Yes, a few things have been improved or added here and there. For one thing, owner mode returns, allowing you to create your own megalomaniacal billionaire to head up any of the league's 32 teams. The usual owner junk, like setting merchandise and ticket prices, is joined by the ability to move your team to one of several different cities, and rebrand them using preset logos and names. Elsewhere, players taking control of coaches and superstars can run through the usual paces, albeit with the returned inclusion of fantasy draft, for those who bemoaned its exclusion last year (myself included).

The problem is, the bigger issues with the mode--namely, its ungainly user interface and sometimes busted logic when it comes to things like signing and drafting players--remain just as problematic this time around. The free agent menu is a bit better now, but players are still highly capricious when deciding whether to go with your team or pick another offer, and usable information on your team needs isn't as immediately available as it should be when you're in the signing period. This is one of those cases where a total overhaul of the mode's menu systems is likely needed, as the navigation systems are just too unwieldy for the number of things you're theoretically supposed to keep track of, and constantly delegating tasks to the CPU just because trying to get around the menus is a pain in the ass is no fun at all.

On a side note, it's worth mentioning that this is the first PS3 version I've played of the game in a while. Typically EA sends us Xbox 360 code for review, and in playing the PS3 version, I found the in-game menus to be extremely laggy, even when compared with last year's game on the 360. Is this something PS3 owners have been enduring for a while? Or a recent issue? Either way, the sheer sluggishness of the menu navigation in this PS3 version is pretty brutal. I also ran into my share of crashes and minor bugs, though I don't know if those are platform specific or not.

So it's definitely telling that the most exciting feature of Madden 25 is the ability to download community created files that aim to fix the game, right?

Other modes, like Ultimate Team and the skills challenges, are generally better served. Ultimate Team still runs on the card-trading system EA's been using for years, but now there's a more useful structure to the mode that lets you compete against both AI and online teams to both unlock new cards and improve your team's chemistry. Completing skills challenges also provides unlocks, while serving as a decent tutorial for some of the game's new control systems. Online play isn't really any different than what you'd expect. You can still do the online version of the connected careers mode with multiple friends, and online matches still vary pretty wildly in terms of lag and playability. For what it's worth, when I did get into a match against a nearby opponent, the game seemed to be perfectly responsive, outside of a few weird physics glitches now and again.

Presenting Madden NFL 25 as a big, celebratory anniversary makes a degree of sense, given the rarity of such significant anniversaries in video game franchises. But having this game serve as that celebration maybe wasn't the best move. It's clear that EA is already prepping itself to go full bore into the next generation of systems, and that Madden NFL 25 is little more than a stopgap solution to plop into that August spot where Madden games are predestined to go. This is most certainly a functional, fully-featured game of football. But if you already own Madden NFL 13, think long and hard about how badly you really want to set concession prices, and download user-made rosters and settings, because there's little else of note here to suggest that Madden NFL 25 warrants yet another $60 of your money.

Alex Navarro on Google+
53 Comments
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Edited by Crunchman

Duh?

Edited by MrGtD

This series went to hell the second EA locked up exclusivity and 2K had to slink away. They've given up on making these games accessible, and they continually have super bad textures and animations.

Posted by nomtank

I see Madden 25 as the free coaster that comes with my $100 Sunday Ticket. Yeah, I may play it a few times, but the game itself isn't the reason why I purchased it.

Edited by Dalerax

I enjoyed this review. Being someone that hasn't played Madden in years, I picked up this copy for the most recent rosters and gameplay. I completely understand the reasons not to get it if you own last year's version though.

Edited by Video_Game_King

You could've just posted this and called it a day.

Edited by JRock3x8

I have wanted to play a Madden game every year but every year I see these reviews that say "Yup. Roster Update = $60" and I go "sigh....." and walk away...

Edited by Thoseposers

Isn't the menu laggyness question something you should have figured out yourself before posting the review instead of asking it as a general question? Jeff generally tries to play each version before putting stuff up if i recall correctly.

edit: ok it just lists ps3 as the platform at the top, i'm just used to seeing most versions covered in some way i guess

Posted by jimmyfenix
Edited by BoneChompski

@crunchman said:

Duh?

Nope. That's the point of a review.

Posted by Alex

@thoseposers: When they only send one version, that's the version I review. I put it out there because this was my first experience with this platform in a while, and I figured it was worth noting on some level, at least.

Staff
Posted by yevinorion

@alex PS3 menus have been laggy for years now. I've been playing the PS3 version since Madden 11 and it was only last year I played 13 on my friend's 360 and I noticed the huge difference. I had thought all Madden games had sluggish menus.

Posted by Sergotron

Disneyland priced churros is finally a reality.

Posted by jiggajoe14
Edited by bkbroiler

For some reason Alex's sports reviews are always my favorite, even though I never play the games.

Edited by Unilad

Madden is a disgrace. Rechurning previous code with minor changes.

Before I get roasted, I used to love the series and stood up for it.

However, I was wasting my time. It's an absolute insult to its consumers and fans.

Edited by Chaser324

Maybe eventually they'll manage to make a game that trumps NFL 2K5, but it doesn't look like it's going to be this year.

Moderator Online
Edited by mropinion

@nomtank said:

I see Madden 25 as the free coaster that comes with my $100 Sunday Ticket. Yeah, I may play it a few times, but the game itself isn't the reason why I purchased it.

Yup.

Posted by mropinion

@nomtank said:

I see Madden 25 as the free coaster that comes with my $100 Sunday Ticket. Yeah, I may play it a few times, but the game itself isn't the reason why I purchased it.

Yup.

Posted by Battezu

@unilad: Isn't that every sports game series?

Also, for some context, the only football game I've ever liked is NFL Street.

Posted by theimmortalbum

@nomtank said:

I see Madden 25 as the free coaster that comes with my $100 Sunday Ticket. Yeah, I may play it a few times, but the game itself isn't the reason why I purchased it.

Yup.

Absolutely. Although I will be enjoying it tonight.

Edited by Sooty

NFL 25

25

25.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

I'm waiting to see what the PS4 version is like before making a purchase decision. good review though Alex.

Edited by csl316

I had some good times with Madden 2002. Shame I'll never get 10 people showing up by my house to do a custom league again.

Edited by jayc4life

@yevinorion: It's not just Madden, it's an EA Sports-wide issue on PS3. Both FIFA and NHL also suffer from the same menu lag.

Edited by artgarcrunkle

Madden is an unplayable, lazy, cynical piece of shit and I almost can't believe it isn't universally panned every year. "Games Journalism."

Edited by Benmo316

I'm playing on PS3, and yes, the UI is extremely laggy/unresponsive. I was so excited that Owner's Mode is back and after playing one season I don't want to play it anymore. Having to navigate those awful menus every week waiting for the awful menu system to load and respond to my controller inputs made my blood boil more than playing an actual game. The gameplay feels more fluid to me, and having less "cheap" defensive A.I. is a positive. I agree with mostly everything Alex wrote about this game. I'm curious how next-gen plays.

Edited by YukoAsho

And this is why exclusivity deals are a horrible idea. There's no real incentive to do anything but shit out the same code every year, because there's only one American football simulation on the market.

@nomtank You know, I wonder how many of the series' "sales" are this way... As @mrgtd mentions, there's no attempt at all to make the game accessible to people outside of the most ardent football fans. I can't imagine this game having much appeal outside of the hardest hardcore football fans.

Edited by YukoAsho

@battezu said:

@unilad: Isn't that every sports game series?

Also, for some context, the only football game I've ever liked is NFL Street.

Not necessarily. NBA2K has basically shamed EA out of basketball the last 3+ years.

Posted by skrutop

You know how The Simpsons has been on TV forever and nobody gives a shit?

Edited by skelington_

Man, the grass looks... pretty good?

(Thanks for the review, @alex)

Also, I think you might be on to something with Vine reviews. Global stardom awaits!

Posted by courage_wolf

EA should spin off owner mode into its own downloadable game. Destroying beloved teams would be fun.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

@skrutop said:

You know how The Simpsons has been on TV forever and nobody gives a shit?

Well, people used to give a shit.

Edited by TechHits

@jrock3x8 said:

I have wanted to play a Madden game every year but every year I see these reviews that say "Yup. Roster Update = $60" and I go "sigh....." and walk away...

yeah... but if you don't buy the game every year then why not pick it up

Posted by Spongetwan

This is the first Madden that I have not purchased......I have finally had it with the copy and paste model of the series. The last time I was impressed was when it first moved to the PS3....I am hoping that when I play it on the XB1 it makes up for the trash it has become on this current gen consoles...Just an opinion.

Edited by amazinmace

PS3 question: Is the final game as JAGGY as the demo was? Needs AA so bad.

I turned the sharpness all the way down on my TV, and still awful.

Edited by oldenglishC

Maybe eventually they'll manage to make a game that trumps NFL 2K5, but it doesn't look like it's going to be this year.

Not only was it the second best football game ever made (Tecmo Super Bowl), but it was $19.99 brand new. Those were the the good old days.

Posted by Chaser324

@oldenglishc: Although talk from the NFL and NFLPA make it sound unlikely, maybe we'll get lucky and that exclusivity deal will expire in the near future. 2K has been killing it in recent years with their NBA 2K games, and I'd love to see them get a chance to make an NFL game again.

Moderator Online
Posted by Kaiserreich

Such a shame, I was considering upgrading from my copy of '12. Oh well I can always download roster updates online.

Posted by niftynichy

Why do you still have to review this shit?

Edited by Vrikk

Why people buy this shit year after year boggles my mind.

Posted by befo72

This...so much this. Also, 2K would likely be more open to a legitimate PC release too. Madden hasn't been available on that platform for a while now, and even when it was, it was generally a couple of years behind the console versions. Meanwhile, 2K has been very PC-friendly (full-featured ports and low retail price).

@oldenglishc: Although talk from the NFL and NFLPA make it sound unlikely, maybe we'll get lucky and that exclusivity deal will expire in the near future. 2K has been killing it in recent years with their NBA 2K games, and I'd love to see them get a chance to make an NFL game again.

Posted by WVUEers

@vrikk: It's really no different than fans of any sort. Fans of ______ series are more likely to buy games related to their interest regardless of how drastic the changes. I like football, I'm a different kind of nerd, I'm the type that does actually care about dumb shit like roster updates, uniform tweaks, and small things like bringing back the fantasy draft.

Look I like most fans know the game is shit, I'm aware, but I'm able to scrounge hours of enjoyment from it regardless. I'm not going to deprive myself of fun for some sort of boycott over video game principles, my life has enough shit to deal with without having to establish some sort of ideals system around my Xbox. I look at my shelves and their full of shitty games that I've pulled hours of fun out of, but I think for some it's easier comprehending why one can pull enjoyment out of something like Deadpool than something like football because they're all like "LOL dumb bros".

Basically I know I'm perpetuating shit, let me and my peoples wallow in our own filth in peace.

Posted by itsVASH

What a surprise

Posted by heyyjonny

I got Madden 25. The demo was pretty ok. I give it a 7.5/10... only because I haven't bought a Madden game in like 5 years. But, I didnt pay for Madden 25 - it was a gift. I would've bought it though.. only because its the 25th anniversary... and it's the closing Madden before this next gen system comes out. But I'm content with it... other people seem to hate Madden anymore... but since its my first football game in a while.. I'm enjoying it.

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