Over the past few years, the Madden franchise has done its best to stay relevant, while at the same time not pushing the envelope in any appreciable ways. Madden NFL 13Â was a passable annual iteration, but one that only die-hard fans were interested in.
This year’s entry, Madden NFL 25 (named for the 25th anniversary of the franchise) attempts to justify the $60 price tag, but isn’t as revolutionary an entry as fans might hope. And with the next-gen right around the corner, it feels surprisingly empty when it comes to new or exciting features. Read on for our review.
One of the new key features is the addition of an ‘Owner’ option for career mode which adds a new dynamic to the experience, but most of the owner’s upgrades and decisions don’t factor into the actual gameplay. In essence the only major difference between playing as an Owner or a Coach is that the player gets to set the price of tickets and food. It’s a novel idea, but not a game-changing one.
Madden‘s Ultimate Team mode has perhaps the game’s most exciting new feature, which is called Chemistry. Basically, gamers will want to build their team around a specific offensive or defensive mindset, be it the long pass, the speed run, man defense, or zone defense. After choosing what Chemistry the player wants to adhere to, they then acquire players who best suit that Chemistry. The better the Chemistry is between the players on a team, the more successful that team will be on the field. It’s a smart addition and one that keeps players focused on something other than simply acquiring the best players for Ultimate Team, and it rewards them for sticking to a game plan.
However, while new modes are all well and good, they don’t fundamentally change the on-the-field play in Madden NFL 25. And unfortunately, that’s where the game feels the most lacking. The game is competent, and mechanically sound â€“ a byproduct of years of fine-tuning â€“ but nothing about the experience feels new.
The only noticeable difference in this year’s entry that had any impact on the gameplay is the physics system, which this year is much more forgiving for running backs. Rather than instantly succumb to a tackle, some players will actually bounce off tackles or sidestep defenders based on their skill level. It makes for more dynamic run plays, but can occasionally work against the player, as they struggle to bring down an opponent who’s miraculously still on their feet.
Madden NFL 25 is, for better or worse, an instantly recognizable experience. Passing, playing defense, and calling plays are all relatively unchanged this year, and if there is a change it’s more a slight tweak than a radical reinvention. For example, turnovers don’t instantly lead to a camera swivel this year, which gives the player some time to get their bearings before taking off downfield. Again, not a monumental change, but an improvement nonetheless. Unfortunately, those changes don’t add up to a product that screams, “Buy this one,” especially for owners of Madden NFL 13.
Where the game doesn’t improve, but actually suffers, is in the presentation. It may be because EA Sports has been regularly blasting the trailers for next-gen Madden, but something about this game’s visuals looked off. It’s not bad, but a lot more clunky than I remember them looking in year’s past. Animations and collisions however, are greatly improved, and more indicative of real football.
It wasn’t as prevalent, but the game’s AI was also less reliable than in year’s past. At least once a game the opposing AI would stand in place without hiking the ball for a solid 30 seconds+, and it wasn’t to run out the clock. As well, the defensive AI struggled more often than not to stop any passes, and would oftentimes let the opposing team complete numerous passes in a row. Clearly, some things were not running at the optimum level under the hood, and it showed.
When reviewing Madden NFL 25, there ultimately isn’t much to cover. Not because the game doesn’t introduce new mechanics or new systems, but because it feels the more like a stopgap than anything else. With the next-gen right around the corner, including a next-gen version of Madden NFL 25, what is available for current-gen owners is sorely lacking. There are a few tweaks to the physics, some new features for Madden Ultimate Team, and a new approach to the connected career, but those are merely surface improvements. They don’t fundamentally alter the experience of running a game of Madden, or drastically change how players will approach any of the modes.
And that’s where Madden NFL 25 fails â€“ it doesn’t justify its existence. In fact, in a few spots it feels like a step backwards for the franchise, where some of the progress made in terms of defensive AI and players getting sucked into offensive lineman is lost. It’s a shame that in the year we celebrate 25 years of Madden that the franchise is still running in place.
For a closer look at Madden NFL 25‘s new modes and to see a full game in action make sure to check out our gameplay video.
Are you planning on picking up Madden NFL 25? Will you wait for the next-gen version? Do you have any questions about the game? Feel free to ask in the comments below.
Madden NFL 25 releases August 27, 2013 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Game Rant was provided the Xbox 360 version for this review.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina