The leap from Madden NFL 12 to Madden NFL 13 was significant. We saw the addition of Connected Careers, the new Infinity Engine where no two tackles are supposed to look alike and the addition of Total Control Passing. By no means was Madden NFL 13 the definitive Madden experience but it pushed the franchise forward and frankly I logged way too many hours into that game. Having reviewed the last seven Madden NFL games and played Madden games since the Sega Genesis days, I consider myself a fan of the series. Sure I drifted away from the franchise during the NFL 2K years, yet here we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the franchise with Madden NFL 25. Once again Tiburon has delivered a pretty good NFL experience. Among just a few of the improvements over past games in the franchise Madden 25 has taken care of many exploits from Madden 13, the running game has seen a significant boost and the Pistol formation is much more prominent this year. To be fair however, it’s not all roses and as I sit back I question whether the team did enough during this past development cycle. I have to be honest, I expected a little more and I just didn’t get it.
This is nothing new for the franchise. Every year gamers, journalist and hard core Madden fans question whether there is enough “new” to the table. I have seen the debates on the forums and in Twitter. It can get heated. Every year I see it and I have no doubt all the haters will be out in full force this year as well. Especially when you consider the development team is also busy focusing on Madden for the Xbox One and PS4. It is reasonable to assume the team at Tiburon may not have been able to dedicate as much time to the current generation Madden experience. Whatever the case may be, Madden 25 seems to be more about tweaking and improving what they already have as opposed to bringing in something completely innovative to the table.
The single biggest change this year comes in the form of the rushing attack. With Madden NFL 25, EA Sports has touted the new revamped running game and there is no question it has improved. The addition of the precision modifier (triggered by pulling on the left trigger) allows you to pull off more moves with your back – over 30 according to EA Sports. You really get to see the new running mechanics at work if you spend some time in the Nike Skills Training area. It will take you some time to master the use of the modifier as pulling the left trigger and tapping the X button to pull off a precision dive for instance takes some getting used to. It can feel awkward but rewarding at the same time if you get a big gain or leap over a defender into the end zone. Overall, the running backs do feel a little heavier in Madden 25. For instance, stretch plays do not seem as dominant as they were in Madden 13 as the backs don’t hit that outside edge as consistently as they could in Madden 13. That said, running up the middle is a bit easier and the run blocking as a whole in Madden 25 has seen an improvement. You will really notice the improved blocking when running run plays out of the Pistol formation. Not to mention it was nice to be able to run into one of my offensive lineman and not instantly collapse to the ground. Also, when it comes to the running game swerving running backs in Madden 13 have been replaced with backs that make hard cuts. Again, it just adds a little more realism and brings the running game closer to the realm of “true to life”.
The running game has unquestionably seen an improvement. How about the passing game? Well I am a little mixed on the subject. For starters, precision passing or rather ‘Total Control Passing’ is back. It is a feature I loved in Madden 13 but it has been toned down in Madden 25 – a lot. I simply cannot lead my receivers to the inside or outside as much as I could in Madden 13. I felt like I had more freedom last year. This year I don’t have that same freedom. I understand why the development team toned it down as last year’s precision passing lead to some significant online exploits. Fade routes, wheel routes and Tight End streaks saw the benefit of pass leads in 13. Regardless, I prefer last year’s passing mechanic at this stage but who knows perhaps in a couple of months from now I may appreciate what the development team did with the mechanic.
Many of the other new additions in Madden 25 take place off the field or right before the ball is snapped. In addition to revamped running game and toned down passing game, Madden 25 features a new audible system. No longer can you pick your 5-favourite plays and throw them in your set audibles. In Madden 25 you can only audible to formations that match the personnel you have on the field. For instance, if you come out in ‘5 wide’ Madden 25 will not allow you to audible into an ‘I-Formation’ so you can get your slot receiver in the backfield. Again, it is all about making the experience true-to-life and the reality is you never (or very rarely) see Brandon Marshall lining up as a running back.
On the defensive side of the ball, Madden 25 feels somewhat different or rather your defense is now a little softer. For starters, I found getting interceptions was a lot harder. It is difficult to put my thumb on it but I just did not have the same success picking off the ball as I had in Madden 13. Perhaps that is due to the fact you can no longer hold down Y (Ball Hawk) once the ball is snapped and get the same results. Now you can only Ball Hawk by holding down Y when the ball is in the air. The development team tweaked the DB’s as well and they don’t seem to respond as effectively as they did last year – especially in zone coverage. Whatever the case may be, the AI was able to pass with far more efficiency against me and getting the pressure from my d-line was difficult. In All-Madden difficulty the offense AI seemed to march up the field at will. I can’t count how many times I was cursing out my defense for the shabby coverage. Likewise, dropping defensive lineman into coverage did not seem as effective. I would rather have pylons in coverage than some of those sluggish defensive lineman in Madden 25. In short, I prefer Madden 13’s defense over 25’s.
I recognize I am missing a great deal of the other changes in Madden 25 but I wanted to mainly focus on the changes I noticed. Some other new additions come in the form of the playbooks. I mostly played around with the Seahawks playbook and I was impressed with the amount plays out of the of Pistol formation. There is no question the Pistol formation will be a popular online formation this year but not because it is trendy, rather plays out of that formation work and work quite well. The read option plays can give defenders fits and being able to run with QB’s like Russell Wilson, RG3 and Kaepernick can make your offense unstoppable.
Connected franchise and Madden Ultimate Team have also seen some improvements as well. I won’t bore you with a list of all the changes to some of those offline career modes but you can expect a lot of tweaks and new menu interface. Not to mention you can expect an all new “Owners mode” within Connected Franchise which gives you full control over your favorite NFL team. There is no question the Madden game is as deep as ever with Madden 25 so even if you are one of those who don’t like to venture online and prefer an offline Madden experience, Madden 25 has plenty to wet your appetite.
The online gameplay remains in-tact and you can once again create an online Connected Career. You can also do fantasy drafts for your leagues which is a staple that has been around for a few years now. It was left off the chopping block at launch last year but quickly added only weeks after release. All in all, the Madden online experience remains as smooth as ever. I experienced little lag issues and the experience was as smooth as silk.
Visually, I must say I was a tad disappointed. Madden 25 looks almost identical to Madden 13. Everything from the fields, the stadiums and to the players, it looks pretty much the same. Even the coaches are back and appear a tad too muscular. Pete Carroll still looks as if he can bench 300 pounds. Look at the shoulders on that guy! The menus have changed going with a windows tile style interface which looks nice but the opening pre-game intros have taken a step back. I was surprised we don’t get much in terms of a halftime show or even a few player introductions before the game would have been neat. I want to get excited and pumped up for the game. If you have been to a live NFL game you know that feeling when players come rushing out of the tunnels. I want that feeling and Madden 25 didn’t deliver the goods.
I noticed some glitches during some of the practice segments in Connected Careers as well. In some instances the game would freeze and only unlock after hitting the start button on the Xbox controller. There is also a gaping hole in the netting behind the goal posts in those practice scenarios as well. I’m not sure if it is intentional but it just looked odd and glitchy. Perhaps the team is focusing on the next gen Madden 25 visuals as the current generation graphics are merely more of the same. I am just a little underwhelmed with what we get in terms of the graphics and presentation.
As far as the sound is concerned Madden 25 is on par with last year’s game. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms provide the commentary once again and do a decent job. They are certainly not my favorite tandem but I did enjoy some of the commentary and they didn’t seem to repeat themselves all that often. Some of the in-stadium music was enjoyable as well. During kickoffs you will hear “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Boom Boom Pow”, “Thunderstruck” and “Kernkraft 400”. It gives the game an authentic feel as those sports anthems are often heard at stadiums all over the NFL. In terms of the in-game sound effects, I really didn’t notice much in terms of enhancements.
On its own, Madden NFL 25 is a solid NFL game. The Infinity Engine (version 2.0) has been fine-tuned, the running game has improved and there is no question Madden NFL 25 moves a step closer to a true-to-life NFL experience. For those that played Madden 13 to death you will also notice some changes; however, I am not convinced those changes bring enough “new” to the series and there are some elements in this years game you may find frustrating. You would think, given this is Madden’s 25th anniversary, EA Sports would introduce some “game changers”. If that is what you are expecting you won’t get it here. The Madden faithful will buy the game and likely won’t be disappointed; but that same group should also be left wondering if more could have been done to beef up the Madden experience and push the franchise even further. For now the franchise seems content to remain on cruise control.