In Madden NFL 13, it was all about passing the ball thanks to the highly touted Total Control Passing feature, but in the 25th iteration of the Madden series, EA Sports has decided to concentrate more on gameplay advances, running the ball and improving defense.

"Dives and tackles are far more accurate and artificial intelligence is vastly improved, so we will see less of players being caught out of position."

I had the opportunity to play a full game of a 75% complete build of Madden 25 at EA sports headquarters during their Season Opener event. There is no way I could possibly take in all of the new features in one game but I'll do my best to break down all of the newness in Madden NFL 25.

The newly introduced Run Free feature takes the exclusivity of running the ball from running backs. It applies to any player than runs the ball from running backs to quarter backs to wide receivers on offense. It also includes any player than intercepts the rock on defense. The purpose of the feature is to make the game closer to a simulation than a scaled down version of the sport.

In all, there are 30 new ball carrier moves that can be used individually or strung together in fighting game-like combos utilizing the left trigger and the traditional buttons for moves that Madden players have become accustomed to. There are additional new moves/combos that are accessed thru the right stick as well. In layman’s terms, the left trigger (or the precession modifier), a juke, spin or stiff-arm becomes more effective depending on the players rating in that area. Basically, the best players have the best moves, and if you're going for realism, that's how it should be.

You may be thinking that this sounds way more arcade than it does simulation, right? Well, EA has balanced that out by adding a stamina meter. Players will not just be able to string together incredible beast mode like runs. Once that meter runs low, the ball security and running becomes weaker and mistakes are more likely to happen.

 

In past Madden titles, the automatic turbo proved to be unrealistic, as most backs have a different gear they shift into when needed. Now, there are no more default runs at 100%. Holding down the left trigger produces an 80% speed run and the right trigger produces a boost to 100%. This took some getting used to for me, particularly on kick returns, where a speed burst at the right time is the difference between a touchdown and a nice 35-yard sprint.

Overall these improvements are official. They bring a far more believable dynamic to Madden for the first time.

Last year, the Infinity Engine changed Madden gameplay and presentation in a big way and this year it's been improved with the Infinity Engine 2 (which will also be used in NCAA Football 14). EA is also working on improved physics, running game and defense. The Force Impact system creates the feeling of taking a big hit in a tackle. Unlike the real NFL, Madden endorses the bone-jarring, de-cleating hits that we love about the sport. "This is the hardest hitting madden game we've ever made," says Rex Dickson, and he’s the Creative Director for Madden NFL 25, "It is the best year for the hit stick yet."

The complete locomotion style has been changed too, instead of the sliding and unrealistic animations. We finally have real hard cuts. Players can hurdle opponents in various situations, not just when they are lying on the turf. There is also a mini-game that's triggered when a stumble happens allowing the user to control whether the controlled player falls or keeps balance to continue the run. The Madden NFL 13 "man wall" has been fixed, so there will be no more running into lineman and getting stuck. You automatically slide off of them and continue a run.

EA hired journeyman NFL and CFL lineman Clint Oldenburg as a consultant on redoing the run blocking match-ups in the game. As most fans can attest to, the interaction between the offensive and defensive line has never been great in Madden so this is a welcomed touch. From the brief time I played I could definitely see less of the artificial pancakes and there is a lot more movement in the trenches.

Most people who play Madden are all about running up the score but there are a select few that also care about defense. For them, Infinity Engine 2 features a new tackling mechanic and pursuit angles. Dives and tackles are far more accurate and artificial intelligence is vastly improved, so we will see less of players being caught out of position.

One of the most important improvements relates to defensive player switches. Raise your hand if you've ever been controlling a blitzing player and the QB throws just as you are pursuing, and as you switch to the defensive back that is covering the receiver, your man moves out of the play. In Madden NFL 25, the move buffer is cleared when you switch defenders. This will no doubt prevent a lot of the bogus touchdowns that plagued Madden players for the longest.

EA didn't show any online features but they will be releasing info on the Connected Franchise, Madden Share and Madden Ultimate Team features over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, let us know if you think the new Madden features live up to the legacy that the game has set over the last 24 years. Will you be picking up NFL Madden 25?

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