Madden NFL 25
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Sports Sim/Football
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360. PS4, Xbox One (coming
Basically: It's Madden Season.
Tale of the Tape: Slight improvements, nothing stunning over '13 (though the Precision Modifier is a solid improvement). Still the best thing going in video game football, but you gotta wonder when the Next Big Thing In Madden will arrive.
Reason To Cop It: You buy Madden every year. You haven't owned a Madden game since '11 and you're gettin tired of it, for some reason.
Reason to Not Cop It: You're getting a PS4 or Xbox One. Hold out, buy it on a next-gen.
Is Madden NFL 25 the best football game that will be released this year? Yes.
But: Is Madden 25 the most crucial installment of a Madden game ever? No.
Does Madden 25 make improvements representing a massive shift in the franchise and revolutionizing of video game football gameplay dynamics or presentations? Nope.
But is Madden 25 a bad game? Hell no.
It's still the leader of the pack when it comes to what it does. And whether or not you buy Madden games every year, or you're buying your first one in a while, Madden 25 will not, on the whole, disappoint you. It is a solid football game, and a solid Madden game.
But it isn't a mindblowing Madden game. That doesn't mean it's not the best football game that will be released this year—it definitely is. And there are new features.
Connected Franchise (i.e. Career Mode) now has an owners mode inside of it—there are some fun touches (like press conferences, and the ability to move your team to, uh, London) and they've sped the mode up, so it's not a slog before you're actually seeing decent action on the field. There are new animations, new commentary, that kind of thing.
Most impressive, though, is the new 'Precision Modifier' shoulder button, which slows down your ball carrier. This sounds like a bad thing—it's not. Used in conjuction with your move-buttons, it gives your man on the field extra jukes, spins, stiff-arms, and trucking abilities. It works well, and is a pretty brilliant refinement of the Dual Stick Control: Instead of making it faster and slicker, they gave you the ability to slow it down and actually see what you're doing with the ball carrier, and manage these crucial moves. Mastery of the Precision Modifier is going to make some players straight-up invincible. Get to know it well.
Often, though, it feels like the most important thing about this year's entry in the seminal football game series is the '25' marketing behind it, as if that should be enough to hold off fans until those PS4s and Xbox One's arrive. And about that: It feels, visually, like a game just a tad too ambitious for the power of your current system. It can be a choppy game in menus, and ocassionally, flow awkwardly.
The total devotion towards TV-style presentations is nice, but after a while, the "we'll be right back" nonsense between quarters becomes more grating than ever, and the sideline visuals that '13 threw in the mix aren't all that improved (and still aren't all that necessary). And given that they're releasing the exact same game on next-gen systems with the technology that's supposed to be the most important new innovation up EA's sleeve—the Ignite physics engine—this one feels like a little bit of a stiff-arm on third-gen systems (side-note: please don't fall for this buy-the-game-twice nonsense—if you're getting a fourth-gen, hold off).
It's part of why, often times, the game feels like one giant, missed opportunity. After all, the "theme" of this Madden game is that this a legacy franchise with 25 years in the can (and the fun loading screens, with screenshots of sometimes fifteen or twenty year old iterations of Madden, are great about reminding you of that). So why not package the game with some tricked out fun, like fans' favorite old-school version of Madden? Or at least—as EA's done with NHL '14's awesome new NHL '94 mode—some kind of tribute? None of that's here.
25 is basically a slicker version of Madden '13, a game that didn't improved on the missteps taken when EA switched gears with Madden NFL '12. That was the year they changed the field action to a more arcade-style visual scheme, and dialed back the controversial Gameflow system by leaving the worst part (a barely-Blitz three button playcalling system) and leaving out the best part (the excellent inner-helmet coaching commentary from '11).
Even more, they took the worst "improvement" from '13—commentary from the nasal, downer-double team of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, but even worse, digitized versions of the duo—and kept them around. Nothing will remind you that you're playing a video game of football as opposed to watching one like watching a fake Phil Simms and Jim Nantz buddy up.
And all of this goes without saying: This isn't really the 25th iteration of a Madden game, but who's counting? Even so: There's something about the number 25—and the idea of Madden games having a quarterlife crisis—that we can't get past with this one. While the need to put out even a marginally different copy of Madden in order to move units is the perogative of the people making it, too many of the bad ideas that were part of these marginal changes (like the fake animations of broadcasters, and the general over-committment to feeling like a Broadcast Football Game Video Game, rather than a Football Video Game) have stayed with the games. And we get that—at 25, or 26, whatever the actual number is—Madden is always wanting to grow up. But growing up doesn't mean pandering to the idea of a great football game (like one that plays easily, and that mimics the experience of watching a football game as much as it can). It should be refining it.
LAST CALL: The excellent precision modifier feature saves 25 from being a bust. And by 'bust' we mean 'amazing football game you shouldn't buy.' Quite simply, there isn't a better football game out on the market right now. And in gameplay—which is what really matters, the core of any sports game—it puts in a fundamentally sound showing, and is handily the best of the three post-Madden NFL '11 games.