Madden 25 360 Review

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It’s always difficult to write a review about a new sports title. Given a series’ past, it can be difficult to separate a game’s true strengths from it’s yearly improvements, the latter of which should be expected from a new release. It’s that issue, however, that severely plagued my extensive time with Madden 25. The game trumps its extensive history from the moment you initially start playing, but, as any Madden fan can tell you, there are certain limitations in the series that have lingered far longer than they should. With that in mind, how difficult should it be to create a game that attempts to both honor the past and look towards to the new future of gaming coming this year? It’s a task I would not want, but Tiburon and EA have managed to do something special with this year’s edition. Though it’s not quite the perfect game that you might have expected in a 25 year celebration, Madden 25 is an undeniably fantastic football experience.

Part of the intrinsic appeal of Madden is it’s grounded approach to the game, and this year’s version is certainly the most addictive and polished Madden game yet. Though the AI and physics systems can still act of their own accord, you’ll find that the basic improvements for this year are extremely helpful. The Infinity engine introduced in Madden 13 has been improved to reduce the amount of ragdoll plays that hinder the game’s realism; instead of those odd physics, the Infinity Engine 2 adds weight to each play and makes the new Run Free and Precision Modifier systems more evident. There’s a brutal realism when you stiff-arm a defensive player for a few extra yards, and the aerial showdowns during a long pass attempt are experiences that Madden’s never really captured until now.

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Combine this with a laundry list of improvements like a far deeper playbook, improved AI logic for pattern running, and realistic reactions as a ball carrier (watch for the stumble recovery – silky smooth), and you’ll find that the game is far deeper and more enjoyable than before. AI players, crowds, stadiums, and coaches – who admittedly still look a bit odd – look and act more realistic as well. One of my favorite improvements has to be the visible AI improvement to QBs in late-game situations; I frequently encountered quarterbacks in Madden 13 who would quickly rush plays or throw the ball out of bounds before the play had even developed. Now, I genuinely believe that pressuring or sitting in coverage makes a difference, and you’ll notice the amount of decisive plays increasing as a result.

Still, some of those AI improvements will baffle and frustrate anyone who expects a completely realistic football simulation. Perhaps the most confusing and glaring problem is the game’s inability to properly block on running plays. An example would be a Power-O run to the right, a play where my tight end lines up to block a charging linebacker. It should be an easy decision for the game’s AI, but the tight end instead chose to block a cornerback rushing from fifteen yards deep on a blitz. I wouldn’t typically notice the issue, but, just for curiosity’s sake, I ran the play ten times in one game. Six of the ten times, the tight end blocked a cornerback or safety who were limited in proximity to my running back, leaving the linebacker to record 6 tackles for losses, two fumbles, and one broken arm for my running back. Suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty.

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You’ll find, however, that the improvements to the game itself almost counterbalance the AI issues. During a few where there were missed blocks, the Precision Modifier system let my superstar Arian Foster simply leap over the defender who hadn’t been blocked. You see, superstars actually feel different in Madden 25, and the Precision Modifiers at work help keep the AI problems to a minimum by allowing those superstars to make plays that would be impossible with regular starters. In the past, the greatest difference between a star and a normal player has been a slight increase in statistics, many of which would only create the smallest difference in gameplay. By introducing the system, EA’s ensured a dynamic experience for each play, even if the AI decides to run amok for a moment (and you will see those decisions being made – trust me).

Beyond some of these gameplay issues, there’s more than enough gameplay modes to keep you entertained. Connected Careers has been renamed Connected Franchise, and it’s received tweaks that slightly improve the overall experience. It’s a bit of an RPG-lite experience, but players and coaches receive an appropriate amount of XP for practices and participating in games. Considering how unbalanced this mode was in last year’s game, the improvements are welcome and provide a small reason to actually play as a coach or owner. Owner mode is also included in Connected Careers, and, for those of who prefer micro-managing, it allows you to manage  details from hiring your team’s coaching staff to possibly even relocating the team to 17 different cities.

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I would have appreciated more freedom to move my floundering franchise to other locations, but, after one season in Detroit, it was pure joy to relocate to London and finally be rid of Jim Schwartz (hey – a guy can dream). Still, you’ll likely grow tired of this experience rather quickly, and, unless EA continues to improve the amount of options and details in Owner mode, it will continue to feel emptier than it should. The game tries to cover some of this mode’s shortcomings by granting you on-field responsibilities in addition to the finer details of managing a team, but the crossover feels forced and doesn’t truly reflect how most owners (excluding Jerry Jones) interact with their teams during actual games. Allowing me to make defensive and offensive calls during a game while in Owner mode sounds appealing, but how would that kind of action actually be received in today’s NFL? At the very least, intruding on my coach’s areas of responsibility should have some repercussions; instead, the game encourages the usurping of the role, when it should instead cause division and drama.

Apart from these areas, Madden 25 is a much better experience than Madden 13. The numerous cosmetic and AI changes are noticeable, and, while the physics works better than ever, it still has the occasional hiccup. Still, despite some of the problems you will encounter, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more polished and enjoyable football game than Madden 25. With all the improvements and changes this game has attempted to make, it’s exciting to think about what’s coming in a few short months to Xbox One and Playstation 4. With some technical limitations from current consoles removed, who knows how Tiburon and EA will improve an already excellent product?

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8/10

by

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Version tested: Xbox 360

Also available on: PS3

Developer: EA Tiburon

Publisher: EA Sports

Genre: Sports