The idea to name this year’s Madden “Madden NFL 25” seems misguided. As EA decided to ditch the millennia part of the year with Madden 10, we’ve had four games now with double-digit numbers. Logically, that would mean that 2024’s Madden game would be named “Madden 25.” So not only does seeing the title take you aback (even still days before launch), but it’s also going to make the title of Madden really confusing in eleven years. Why not simply call it “Madden 14” and put “25th Anniversary” under it? It’s a confounding marketing blunder to be sure, but luckily, there’s a great game of football underneath the confusing title.
Coming near the end of this generation’s life cycle, there’s a surprising amount of gameplay tweaks to be found in Madden 25. The most important are the revamped running mechanics dubbed “Run Free.” There’s now an unprecedented amount of ball control, expanding the amount of moves from eight to over thirty thanks to the new precision modifier. New moves include spins, dives, hurdles, stumble recovery, stiff-arms and jukes. Hitting the circle button triggers a spin, but doing so when holding down the precision modifier covers up the ball from defenders. Holding the right stick forward before impact lowers the runners shoulder and creates an opportunity to knock over defenders, which assists strong running backs. There’s also the truck spin combo, which by holding the precision modifier and right stick forward and rotating it 90 degrees left or right allows you to spin off defensive backs. Pulling the right stick left and rolling it forward spins away from one defender and jukes another. Doing the exact opposite makes the runner cut to the right and then spin to the left, allowing him to go towards the middle of the field if pressed against a sideline.
Dives are executed by tapping Square, with the precision modifier making the player reach the ball out for more yards. Doing so by the goal line behind a offensive back hurls them over and into the end zone. Stumble Recovery allows players to regain their balance by moving the right stick down or diving for extra yardage by quickly moving it forward. Not all of the changes will be immediately noticeable (especially for the casual player), but taking the time to study and utilize them all will lead to a more strategic game of football.
Connected Franchise replaces Connected Careers and allows players to take control of a player, owner and coach and work their way to greatness. While choosing a player or coach is as rewarding as ever, Madden 25 allows you to become an owner. Yes, you too can now sit in a skybox with a ton of family members looking down on your team with champagne in one hand and a Ferrari manual in the other. Alright, maybe you can’t actually do that, but you can make all team decisions from stadium improvements to uniform colors. You can even relocate your team (but most likely the Jacksonville Jaguars) to one of sixteen cities and have the current city hate you forever. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the ability to hire staff, from head coaches to defensive coordinators, bearing the brunt of the responsibility for your team’s success. Better yet, you can even bring a player out of retirement if the price is right. Never taking a single snap, it’s a game of balancing finances, fan happiness and team success. Those into sports management games or looking for statistical depth will eat it up, while those who play Madden to hit people can pretend it doesn’t exist and keep playing games as the Raiders.
Graphically, the game is certainly starting to show its age. The Xbox One and PS4 versions will utilize the much-touted Ignite engine, which from what we’ve seen looks quite impressive, but the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions run off Infinity Engine 2. Infinity 2 is a fine engine and handles the action well, but it’s starting to show its age. To put it in perspective, the same exact game will be released in a brand new engine on brand new console in under three months. If it looks long in the tooth now, imagine how obsolete it will seem in mere weeks.
Another presentation flaw is the lack of licensed music. While I’ve complained about this in every Madden/NCAA review since EA decided to nix it, I’m going to keep complaining as it takes away much of the immediacy and smoothness of the presentation. At this point I don’t care if it’s straight Avenged Sevenfold, I want it back. There is music played inside the stadiums, which is a nice touch, but it mainly amounts to Seven Nation Army, Welcome to the Jungle and Thunderstruck. It would have been cool to visit/contact some of the stadiums during off-season and find out what the DJs tend to play during games. For instance, the Cardinals tend to play Benny Benassi’s “Bring the Noise” to pump up the crowd, yet Seven Nation Army is what’s used in the game — a song I haven’t heard played once in that stadium.
Once again, EA delivers another solid game of professional football with Madden NFL 25. The changes might not be as notable as last year’s offering, but it’s about as solid of an NFL game as one could want in this console generation and a great way to bid farewell to it. Statistically-minded individuals will enjoy delving into the surprising deep Owner portion of Connected Franchise, while older fans will love the opportunity to play as hall of fame players and the history tidbits of past Madden games shown during loading screens. Graphically, the game shows heavy signs of aging, so one might be advised to wait a few months and purchase the much superior looking Ignite-based version on Xbox One or PS4 (or take advantage of an upgrade program). Regardless of which console you choose to play it on, however, know that you’ll be getting a great game of football chock-full of exciting new features.
Version Reviewed: PS3