Madden 25 continues the tradition of yearly releases in this series, using the title to honor the quarter of a century John Madden Football has been around. The game offers a wealth of modes and options, giving football fans plenty to see and do after purchasing the game. While more casual fans can just pick up a controller and play quick games to get their fix, players of particular teams can play full seasons and write their own history, perhaps even taking their teams to the Super Bowl and earning the Lombardi Trophy. Advanced players can create their own plays, set hot routes for receivers, change plays at the line, and do a lot of things the pros do down on the field. Players who have aspirations of owning NFL franchises can fulfill those dreams with the Owner Mode, which also includes the ability to relocate and redesign teams, including uniforms and stadiums. Itís all here, as EA Sports likes to say, in the game.
Madden 25's central feature is the Connected Franchise mode. Here, you can assume the path of a player, a coach, or an owner. As a player, the aim is to complete a career in the NFL and earn induction into the Football Hall of Fame. Players can either be created from scratch or can be selected from active rosters and taken over. If you want to create yourself as a running back and try to outrush Adrian Peterson, you can. (Good luck with that.) If you want to play as Mark Sanchez and try to prove everyone wrong about you being a terrible quarterback, you can do that as well. (Good luck with that, too.) While in this mode, the game is locked on to your player and doesn't allow control of others on the field. You have to trust your teammates to do their jobs while doing yours, and that's really what football is all about. There's a nice option in games to simulate plays when you aren't on the field, so you don't have to watch the computer run plays while you sit helplessly.
From each game and practice your player earns XP, which can be used to purchase upgrades. Throughout your career, how you fare individually and as a team earns Legacy points, which determine whether you will be considered for the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. Winning conference championships and Super Bowls strengthens your player's legacy, as does his stat line. Rushing yards and touchdowns are important for a running back, for example, while sacks and tackles for a loss are important for defensive players.
Easily, the Player path within Connected Franchise is my favorite of the lot, and when Peter Skerritt goes to Canton, I'll be sending invites to everyone.
The Coach path in Connected Franchise is a bit more traditional as there's a lot more control for players. Full games are played out on offense and defense, complete with full play-calling duties, roster control, and gameplay execution. Outside of games, there are contracts to consider, free agents to sign, draft boards to watch, and expectations from ownership to meet. As with the Player path, there's XP to be earned here and can be applied to upgrades. Coaches have a lot of responsibility, but less-experienced Madden players can let the computer handle some of the duties to make things a bit easier. The goal here is also to earn a spot in Canton, and that's all based on how much you win.
The final path in Connected Franchise is to assume the role of an NFL team owner. This brings variables like location, fan support, stadium conditions, ticket prices, and other things into play. It's not easy being a team owner and having to wear so many hats (right, Jerry Jones?), but the Owner path lets you take your best shot. Finding the right formula is a big challenge. How much should ticket prices be? Do you make them a bit lower and attract more fans, or will fans be willing to pay higher prices in exchange for more talent and a better product on the field? More serious or hardcore NFL fans may find quite a bit to like about the Owner path, but the intricate balancing act required to be successful on this path may turn other players off.
In addition to Connected Franchise mode, Madden Ultimate Team is back for 25. Combining trading cards and traditional Madden gameplay, Ultimate Team challenges players to build the best team possible with cards that can be bought, earned, or acquired through auctions. Based on the Team Captain that players select when beginning to build their teams, a basic team strategy is set in place. Tom Brady, for example, sets the preferred strategy to a short passing offense. Finding other player cards that also use the same offensive strategy builds chemistry, but sometimes this comes at the cost of weaker overall stats compared to other player cards on your "bench". For those who just want to get into Ultimate Team and not worry too much about the minute details to set things up, there's a one-button option to create the best team based on the cards that are currently owned.
If you don't want to invest a lot of time into either of these modes, Madden 25 also allows you to set up quick games and play for bragging rights. Got a buddy in San Francisco who's trash-talking your Packers after a close loss Week 1? Play against him online and right the wrong. Want to test your skills against other players, just itching for new challenges? The game gives you plenty of opponents looking to give you a battle. You can also play Exhibition games by yourself, or you can use the new Skills Trainer to learn extra moves added thanks to this titleís new precision modifier button.
With the mode explanations out of the way, letís talk a little about that modifier button. It allows for some new or enhanced moves for players, such as longer dives, stronger stiff-arms, and even the option to hurdle over defensive players when the precision modifier button is pressed in tandem with button commands for dives, stiff-arms, and jumps. Adding the use of this button and understanding the proper times to use it requires practice, and the Skills Trainer tutorial mode also offers some practical use.
Overall, I found the game controls to be responsive and more than adequate. Iím not the most gifted Madden player, but I was able to do a lot of things on both sides of the ball and was occasionally impressed with some things that my opponents could do. In my experience, the AI did a decent job of understanding my play calling patterns and learning to break up plays that were initially running up big yards. A few times, my halfback sweeps were blown up in the backfield thanks to a diving tackle that tripped up my runner and caught me off-guard. The turnover balance seemed fair, although interceptions outnumbered fumbles. More advanced players may find more to dislike about the game, but I had a blast playing it and itís the most fun Iíve had with a Madden game during this console generation.
The Infinity Engine has been tweaked to run better, but there are still glitches and bugs to be seen. In one instance, a downed football floated downfield despite not being touched. I saw instances of players running in place, clipping episodes, and a wavering frame rate, though most of this takes place away from gameplay. Automatic replays are also a bit of a mess as camera angles arenít usually the best, leading to some odd closeups of playersí abdomens or other weird things.
On the audio side, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms return for another season in the Madden commentary booth and do an okay job. Repetition (youíll quickly hate October when Nantz repeatedly mentions why players are wearing pink) and occasionally incorrect observations ding the presentation somewhat, though Nantz and Simms are still far better than most other announcing teams that this series has seen over the years.†
The full presentation package in Madden 25 is decent, though it still falls short of what NFL 2K5 managed more than a decade ago. Relevant stat overlays arenít frequent enough. Thereís a wasted opportunity for a halftime show, with highlights from other games, score updates from Nantz, or even a breakdown and analysis of the first-half statistics. Summaries of the weekís action are short bursts of text and Twitter-like reactions from prominent ESPN and EA personalities. Maybe the next console generation will bring the TV presentation that Iíve been waiting to see, because itís not here.
So, is Madden 25 worthy of a purchase? For players who havenít bought a football game before, or for those who have been on the sidelines for a couple of years (or longer), it sure is. Thereís a ton to see and do, and the game will easily keep you occupied over the duration of this NFL season and beyond. For players who bought Madden 13 last year and are wondering if 25 is a must, I believe it's also worthy of a purchase. Aside from proper rosters and player ratings, additions like the Owner path in Connected Franchise and some revisions to how Ultimate Team works this year earns the game a recommendation from me in this case.
With the new generation right around the corner, what kind of additions and features are hoping to see make their way into the Madden experience? Let us know over Twitter @Gamers_Hell