Coasting to victory
It was always likely that development on EA’s annual sports franchises would be somewhat neutered as we reach the transition to new hardware, and Madden NFL 25 doesn’t do a whole lot to disprove that theory.This is another solid iteration of their American Football franchise, bolstered by a workmanlike suite of tweaks and upgrades to the core mechanics that make up the only NFL game in town. There’s precious little in the way of headline innovation to draw casual players back into the fold, but what’s here is spruced up and buffed to a mostly high shine.
Granted, Madden’s largest new feature in years - the physics-based tackling of the Infinity Engine - is still bedding in after a promising inaugural season. Madden NFL 25’s version produces the same varied level of believable physical contact and ridiculous pile-ups, with 13’s shaky limbs and comedic trips almost entirely eradicated from the vicious tackles and ankle-tap stumbles.With the kinks ironed out, EA’s procedural animation system is thoroughly impressive. The new “heat seaker” tackles mapped to the right analogue stick bring a suitable level of brutality to bear on those newly-polished ragdoll models, while gang tackles are worth replaying in slow-motion to examine the wince-inducing changes to posture and limb orientation.
Charging into a wide receiver and catching him flush in the ribs was enough to bring a tear to my eyes a few times, and if that’s not a faithful recreation of the real-life spectacle then I don’t know what is.
Running FreePerhaps the most notable skew in Madden 25 is towards an engine that favours a running offence more than ever. Indeed such is the bias this season that even my half-assed knowledge of defensive formations is finally overpowered by the ability to dance through the defence and make up yards on plays that would previously have been a lock for the opposition. Although hardcore NFL aficionados may baulk at the idea of pretty much any offensive player being able to instantly change direction and cut as they please, the snappiness of the running controls makes for a much more dynamic videogame overall.
The newly responsive players are also now augmented by modified versions of the stiff arm, spin and juke moves, each of which is activated by holding down a trigger. Those are generally more powerful or spacious than their traditional alternatives, but to be honest they don’t really make or break the game in any meaningful manner. The old alternatives are still perfectly viable in regular play, and it’s all too easy to forget the modifiers even exist.
The passing game has also received a little attention, and it’s easier than ever to get to get to grips with the basics. Receivers can take the ball down from ridiculous angles and seem able to make catches in crowds with increased frequency, although the overall direction of Madden is still more simulation than arcade; we’re not quite at NFL Blitz just yet. As the quarterback, there seems to be a lot more time to pick out a pass and scramble to safety this year too, although an increase in fumbles, interceptions and injuries make big hits and bad passes that much more impactful.
Easy & BreezyElsewhere, Madden 25 is content to rest on its laurels and let an already-bulging suite of game modes sit unchanged or else slightly altered for the better - such as the inclusion of an option to play as the owner of a franchise. The new menu layout feels a heck of a lot more breezy in getting to the section that you need, and that’ll mean a lot to those of you well-versed in the UI nightmares that have serviced EA’s series in the past. The money-spinning Ultimate Team mode unsurprisingly takes pride of place.
If you’re a newcomer or want to get re-acquainted with the basics, then the overhauled roster of practice drills are the place to start. Unlike former years, these now start out with the basics of offensive and defensive controls but they don’t skimp on the in-depth stuff, quickly progressing towards knowledge of different formations and the myriad pre-snap alterations. Players are asked to complete a series of drills ranked from bronze to gold, and by the end they should have enough knowledge in their locker to start up a game with a little confidence.
Although the overall direction of Madden is more arcade-like, we’re not quite at NFL Blitz just yetFor all the positive tweaks and subtle changes however, Madden NFL 25 still exhibits the same major problems as previous titles in the series - which I have to hope will be addressed in their first next-gen overhaul. Commentary is particularly weak and repetitive, and blocking AI is a lottery at times, with players straying out of their required route or zone, ignoring opposition players that drift past without a sniff of attention. Yes the new running controls get around those incidents somewhat, but they shouldn't be required, and despite the vast opportunity for improvement I'm still no closer to feeling confident the AI is as robust as it needs to be.
- Running game better than ever
- Passing is a breeze
- Superb Physics
- Excellent drills for newcomers
- Poor defensive AI
- No huge improvements
- Ready for an upgrade
- Dull commentary
Madden NFL 25 ReviewDespite marking a quarter century of Madden games, Madden NFL 25's off-sequence moniker is also strangely non-representitive of the minimalist nostalgia in the final product. Besides a clutch of loading screens and an intro video highlighting the achievements of previous titles, there's not much else in the way of celebration here. I'm not entirely sure why they bothered.
What Madden NFL 25 represents is the inevitable gap-year before moving on with new technology, and it should really be treated as such when it comes to purchasing decisions. Hardcore fans will find nearly as much refinement and enjoyment in last year's Madden 13, but newcomers will find a title that's hugely entertaining and easy to get to grips with; its problems only become more evident with increased exposure to both the game and the sport in general.
I can see both sides of that argument at the moment, but Madden still has its hooks in. Let's hope they renew that appeal with the coming generation shift.
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