Out of all of the next-gen launch ports of current-gen (or should we say “last-gen”) titles, Madden NFL 25 perhaps had it the hardest. While many fans could easily wait to pick up games like Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty: Ghosts, and other sports games were predominately released within the past month, Madden 25 came out back in August. That made it hard to hold-off, as besides engine updates and other modifications, the main draw to buying Madden is to get roster updates for the new season. Madden 25 on PS4 has been released well into November with half of the NFL season already concluded. As such, it’s a hard game to justify picking up unless you purchased the current-gen version and plan to participate in the upgrade program. Thankfully, however, even with quite a bit of football already played, experiencing how Madden handles on next-gen consoles is worth a purchase alone. In this review, we focus on the changes and new additions of the PS4 version of the game. Be sure to check out our Xbox 360 review for the scoop on the new modes.
Utilizing the brand new Ignite engine, the gameplay is almost entirely removed from that of the current-gen version. Offensive and defensive line interaction has been rewritten, pass defense has been upgraded, AI pursuit has been improved and much more. Perhaps one of the coolest additions is True Step. True Step is a new player locomotion system designed to account for factors like momentum and weight with higher precision than ever before. Every move a player makes is calculated by the system to instantly result in one of hundreds of new animations. Players step, plant and shift weight realistically, better replicating the way real players actually move. Previously, moves like jukes and spins were combined into one long animations, but True Step changes this by stringing together a series of calculated individual steps into full play motion, allowing for increased precision in player movement. Along with the precision modifier, True Step also allows ball-carriers to better change speeds while holding the precision modifier button, allowing defenders to be baited into chasing them before the offensive player stops in their tracks and changes direction. Although it might sound like a lot of technical mumbo jumbo, the first play you make in the game as a ball-carrier makes it clear how much more realistic something as seemingly simple as running looks in this incarnation.
The blocking system has also been completely overhauled, with linemen now dynamically determining their pre-snap assignments based on the alignment of the defense and finding the most dangerous threat. Once the middle linebacker is found (generally the most dangerous position on the line), opposing players will automatically key in on them and make sure they don’t ensure any big plays. Pass blockers are also able to process relevant information in order to know who to go after and how to block them. This could include informatoon like the speed and angle of rushers, where the QB is and where their line-mates are. All of this proves an authentic passing pocket for the QB to step into and chuck the ball. Double-team blocking is also now supported, allowing linemen to provide a stronger pocket if a defense chooses to use a 3-man rush. Thankfully, the lineman are aware enough to come out of this if they pick up a blitzing player as a threat. Over 300 new pass rush animations have also been created so the defensive linemen have more ways than ever to allude their blocker and reach the backfield.
Although there are literally hundreds of tweaks and additions to gameplay that could probably be described in enough detail to make for an interesting technical manual, seeing it all come together in-game is what’s really special. Things simply seem more realistic now. Players have their own personality and movements that define them, tackles are more varied and it looks more like a real game of football than ever before. I was yelling when big hits were made, which is something I’ve never done before while playing Madden. Overall, it simply plays smoother than the last-gen version with a few caveats. There seem to be too many dropped passes that should have easily been made. The animation for this is jarring, as it seems like the receiver is going to catch it, but then the game suddenly makes the decision that he has to drop it. Running also isn’t as refined as it could be, with routes harder to carry out thanks mainly to the fact that more emphasis was placed on using the running back as a blocker. If the routes aren’t ran as intended, it’s hard to maneuver in other directions which leads to some frustration when you’re trying to think outside the box.
Graphically, things look better than ever. Madden 25 on last-gen consoles was looking long enough in the tooth to stab through its chin, but on PS4, the game looks like what you’d expect a football game to look like in 2013. Character animations are more realistic, stadiums are more detailed, menus have more shine and shadowing has been much improved. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t have the “wow-factor” that titles like NBA 2k14 seems to have on PS4. Players and coaches still decidedly look like video game characters and don’t yet seem “alive.” I’m a huge Cardinals fan and things like head coach Bruce Arians not wearing his glasses on the sidelines when I’ve yet to see him without them on or off field irked me. There’s also an issue with the stadium fans being horribly repetitive. Rendered in 3D for the first time in the franchise, there are probably only ten different character models in the entire 50k+ stadiums and it’s frequent to see two of the same fans doing the same exact motion right next to each other. Unless there’s some sort of identical twin epidemic in the NFL fanbase I’m unaware of, this is an annoying issue that takes away from the realism of the game.
Thankfully, it sounds better than ever. One of my favorite aspects of this version is the improved commentary from broadcasting veterans Jim Nantz and Phill Simms. The commentary is more realistic than ever before, with commentary that’s actual useful and less repetitive. Not only do they say a surprising amount of player names, like relatively-obscure players like Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil, but they provide anecdotes and information about the most known ones. Instead of simply saying that Carson Palmer is a “veteran quarterback,” for instance, they talk about how this may be his last chance to prove himself in the NFL, mirroring what’s currently happening in his career. It’s amazing that the pair were both able and willing to record so much dialogue and it works wonders in bolstering the culture in the game.
With Madden NFL 25 on PS4, the series is fourth and inches away from a level realism once not thought possible in football games. The movements are more authentic than ever before, the level of detail is higher and the game simply plays smoother. Character models aren’t as realistic as we’ve seen in other PS4 sports titles and it’s decidedly lacking the “wow” factor in its visuals, but it still easily surpasses the previous versions of the game. With fantastic commentary, great new additions like True Step and the smoothest presentation yet, Madden NFL 25 on PS4 is an exciting indication of where the series will go next.
Version Reviewed: PS4