We are approaching the end of an era. Since the initial release of Madden NFL 06 for the Xbox 360 in 2005, EA has continued to deliver on its original promise. Even if the graphical fidelity never lived up to the unforgettable snow filled teaser trailer, EA managed to continue to innovate and iterate on its football franchise. As we await new consoles this fall, the question remains, what does EA have up their sleeve for Madden NFL 25 its swan song of this current generation of consoles?
Very few things have stuck with me from my formal education days, but I’ll never forget the rainy day in 10th grade history when my teacher said that history repeats itself. Not the most poignant of statements but ever since then I’ve often looked at this video game industry through that lens. When Madden made its departure from the Xbox and Playstation 2 it left with a fully featured and maxed out experience. Sure we all left the fully featured experience to go to the system with more polygons, but no one would argue which was the better playing or deeper experience. Going into Madden NFL 25 I expected a rich and smooth gameplay experience, and I was not disappointed.
The last couple of years the Madden franchise has pushed harder and harder at re-creating the look and feel of NFL Sundays. Last year we got a glimpse into the announcement booth and an increased focus on the pre-game rituals. This year not only do we get a few trips down memory lane – looking back at the last 25 years of Madden, but everything just seems smoother. There is a really nice clean aesthetic about all the menus. If you played your franchise recently, that’s what will be in the first box when you launch the game next. Interested in earning some achievement points? Well there are some modes to try out to earn some of those points. Everything is super easy to navigate and with a game that has this many modes to choose from that’s a good thing.
That increased focus on aesthetics continues once you’re in the game. Building upon what came with last year’s game; this year adds a number of small touches to make the game feel more like what we watch on Sundays. That starts in the booth where Jim Nantz and Phils Simms have received a far deeper commentating experience. It still doesn’t measure up to the NBA 2K franchise buts its getting there. One of the first games I played was with my San Francisco 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks. If you’re a football fan you know these are two upcoming teams with two young quarterbacks who made names for themselves last year. Well Phil Simms and Jim Nantz recognize that and have a very fluid conversation about their upsides. This happens with all variations of teams but this level of complexity reminds me of watching them on CBS on a Sunday afternoon. The commentary still gets things wrong from time to time, but having played this game for countless hours I can say there repertoire of dialogue far exceeds what was in last year’s game.
The most impressive part of Madden NFL 25 is the action on the field. There is a level of polish that just hasn’t been there with the new infinity engine. One of the big improvements is the running game which along with the precision modifier allows you to make quick cuts or try and barrel over the defense. The precision modifier is using the left bumper to put more emphasis on a move. This allows you to barrel over a defender, stick a move, or even leap higher when trying to make a goal line score. Depending on the back will really tell you which approach to take. To make the running game better you needed more than just an enhanced control scheme. The offensive line finally feels like it works as a unit to break open holes and continue blocking as you run. In past Madden games you could be in the open field and immediately your guys would stop blocking. Now blocking is a priority and it makes running the ball far more entertaining than in past games. I played quite a few times online during my review time and for once people were actually running the ball, and running it effectively.
The passing game is still Madden NFL 25′s bread and butter. The developers have done a wonderful job of catering more to the mobile quarterbacks. When I was playing as my 49ers I often had Kaepernick moving out of the pocket and was still able to complete passes. In past games the AI would punish you royally for moving and throwing but that seems to be toned down a bit with this resurgence of mobile QB’s.
There were only a few small hiccups that could easily get readjusted either in the settings manually or through a game update. Injuries are extremely prevalent right now in the game. In both of the franchises I started during my time with the game I lost a number of players to injury each game. And these weren’t quick sprains that they got back on the field in a few plays. The majority of the injuries were multi-game or season ending injuries. The other issue is that with this extra level of polish that the in-game action has it makes the static pieces of the game stand out more. For example catch a ball on the sideline and watch your team stand there stiffly like cardboard cutouts. Or the crowds which from a far look great but up close really pull away from the Sunday environment.
Madden NFL 25 is jam packed with online and offline franchise modes that let you choose from being the Player, Coach, or Owner. Pick to be a player and focus on your career and your career alone. Choose the coach route and obviously the goal is to improve your coaching stats to move up to a head coach and then onto the Super Bowl. And the owner mode allows you to really get into the weeds and set prices and understand what goes into being an owner in the NFL. There is so much content here whether you play online or offline that you can easily get lost in it for hours.
Madden NFL 25 is the closest we have seen so far to re-creating the magic of Sunday. There is intensity in the pre-game intro that carries into the first snap and concludes as the last second ticks off the clock. Even without any game changing additions, there was a clear focus on smoothing out the rough edges and making the best playing Madden of this generation. This focus has been sorely missing from the last couple of games and that allows Madden NFL 25 to leave this generation on a high note.