The Boys of Fall are back for another season of EA Sports Madden NFL. This year is a big year for the Madden franchise. It’s their 25th anniversary and the team at EA Sports has pulled out all the stops for Madden NFL 25. There are tons of changes all over the gridiron this year. From revamped and greatly improved mechanics and physics, new game mode features, and the always addicting Madden Ultimate Team is now more enjoyable for all styles of gamers. EA Sports knew they had to show up this year for Madden NFL and they have brought their A game.
Let’s start off the field. First you’ll notice right away the new menu UI. You can now get into games faster and you’ll be able to access all your game modes with a few button presses instead of flipping through endless menus. Play Now leads you right to a window displaying your last MUT, Franchise or Skill Training activity so you can pick right up where you left off. It might seem like a small thing but not having to flip through endless menu screens and seeing important game information right as you start up the game is great.
Now on to the modes. There have been some sizable changes to the game modes. Connected Franchise (Connected Career in Madden 13) is where my heart lies, and the inclusion of Owner Mode is taking “running a team” to a whole new level. As an owner you are in charge of everything, from player contracts to the prices of hotdogs. It’s a very daunting task playing as an owner as you not only need to keep your player happy and keep winning but you need to keep your fans happy. You’ll do all the activities a coach does managing the team, plus you’ll have to manage your coaches and hire and fire if they don’t perform. But beyond on that you also have to manage your stadium, setting ticket prices, adjusting food and responding to the media. And if the home town crowd turns on you or if your stadium falls into disrepair you can close up shop and hit the road to a new town, where you can build a new stadium, and even create a whole new team. Playing as an owner is really the ultimate NFL RPG.
Connected Franchise follows a similar play formula as years past, you’ll run practice, do scouting and play your weekly game while earning XP for your players and leveling them up. Practice remains a headache in general. Once again practices are scenario based, some of which are as long as games. I said it last year and I’ll say it again a rep based practice system would be shorter and much more enjoyable. The new Skill Trainer would have been a perfect model for practices in Connected Franchise. The only saving grace for practice is now you’ll earn XP no matter the outcome. If you pass you’ll earn 2000 XP and if you fail you’ll earn 1000 XP. However all the practice choices have the same XP reward no matter if they are 2 minutes or full games. The rest of the mode functions phenomenally and the new UI really makes finding things a snap and taking care of weekly business a breeze. You really spend less time flipping around menus and more time in-game this year.
Madden Ultimate Team has also been revamped a bit. The mode is much more appealing now to casual fans just like NCAA Football 14’s Ultimate Team. There is now a lot of emphasis placed on solo play, so if you are like me and enjoy playing offline you’ll now have a lot more play options plus you’ll still be able to earn some sizable rewards so you won’t feel left out. But taking MUT online with friends is where it’s at in Madden NFL 25. You can now run mini-seasons and really rack up the coins. Plus running through the new Skill Trainer will reward you in some pretty epic cards. This is the first year where I can say “damn I got some good cards” instead of being stuck with garbage bronze cards a one good QB.
This year the team brought back Chemistry in MUT. There are 4 offensive and defensive chemistries available. Increasing your team chemistry will unlock special boosts and bonuses giving you an edge on the field. If you could never get into MUT in years past this might be the year to take a look. And if you own NCAA Football 14 make sure to look through the Grid Iron Rewards menu and work on your rewards, there are a ton of rewards available for hardcore NFUT players.
As you’ll be playing a lot of MUT online it’s sad that I have to say online play is still super laggy super slow and just a mess. Not being able to accurately execute throws and moves are such a big issue and makes online play unbearable. I don’t understand how after all these years Madden is still a painful online experience. At least there is enough offline MUT to keep you occupied but with the inclusion of MUT Season Play the online aspect is a big letdown once again.
Ok enough of the fluff it’s time to hit the field. Last year we saw the introduction of Infinity Engine and this year we get version 2. Players move and react so realistically it’s scary. A lot of attention was put into refining the Infinity Engine and it shows, plus the introduction of Force Impact makes hits bigger and more natural. Trucks, stiff-arms and big hits are all physics driven, so every player interaction has more weight and realism. The physics of player movement is mesmerizing at times, seeing half back bump off the o-line, or watching them stumble and recover is great. Plus all the great natural catching and tackles. Tall wide receivers will often jump up for catches and make spectacular grabs and tumbles. While defenders are now making real natural tackles, be it wrapping guys up or going for shoe lace tackles.
My favorite improvement is on the offensive side of the ball with the inclusion of the Precision Modifier which allows ball carriers to possibly “Run Free”. Holding the left trigger now activates a precision move, for instance Left Trigger and A will be a hard stiff arm that will cause a powerful tight end to just throw a small safety to the side. Or Left Trigger and Trucking, your big running backs will pop the oncoming defender and cause them to be barreled over. My favorite Precision Modifier is precision high dive when on the goal line. It’s so awesome watch the running back go up in the air over the line in an attempt to score the winning touchdown. This single button really gives you a whole new tool set beyond the normal set of moves you have on offense.
Visuals are about the same as we have seen the last few years. Overall the game runs smoother and there are less visual bugs, especially when it comes to the broadcast presentation. The replays look astonishing and all games have a unique graphics package depending if they are in Primetime or not. Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are back in the booth and the commentary is enjoyable and flows really well. Though at times I do want to reach into the TV and strangle Simms when he starts bashing my choices to go for it on 4th down.
Madden NFL 25 is a big year for the franchise and I must say EA Sports has out done themselves. The changes both on the field and off are all top-notch and really propels the franchise to a new level. This year the team has been able to re-create the most realistic NFL experience to date, and football fans of any age or gaming skill level will be able to enjoy all areas of the game. I must say I haven’t said “wow” and “holy crap that was amazing” this much when playing a video game in years. Madden NFL 25 is a must buy for all NFL fans.
A Copy of Madden NFL 25 for Xbox 360 was Provided to us by EA Sports for this Review