Madden NFL 25 marks 25 years of the game’s existence but its notable for quite a few more reasons than that. In recent years I’ve felt that even though each year’s iteration has been better than the last, I’ve also felt like the team has been getting away from what makes the game great. The introduction of tons of new modes is always nice but those new things can’t come at the detriment of the game’s core modes. Most hardcore Madden fans like myself would tell you that in recent years, that arguably the game’s most popular mode, Franchise mode, has been pretty much neglected and in some instances degraded. For those fans, I’d say that Madden NFL 25 represents a welcome return to focusing on that mode and on the core gameplay.
Last year’s introduction of Connected Careers in Madden 13 didn’t go over so well with fans, they didn’t really understand it because EA didn’t do a good enough job communicating what it was. Madden NFL 25 introduces Connected Franchise, which is essentially an extension of Connected Careers but brings back the beloved Owner mode. The new Owner mode which was absent from last year’s game is everything you remember and then some. If you just want to be a player ( Superstar mode) or a coach you can do that, but if you want the full NFL franchise experience, then Owner mode is where you’ll spend most of your time. In Owner mode, you take full control over your favorite tam making all the decision from personnel to merchandising, you decide who stays or who guys and you even decide how much fans you’ll pay for tickets and concessions among other things.
In terms of off the field things, as I’ve said you can set prices of team merchandise, concessions, parking and more. You can upgrade your stadium which cost money, but better facilities will increase revenues so its well worth the investment. If you feel like upgrades just won’t be enough to get your stadium to where you want it, you can knock it down and build a new one. And if all else fails and your city just isn’t showing you the love, you can uproot the franchise and relocate it to one of 17 cities including places like London, England and Mexico City, Mexico. Depending on how much they want your franchise, cities will even offer to pay a portion of the cost to move the team. The relocation process is made very simple and split into 4 phases, choosing a city, choosing a name, uniform, and stadium. You’ll spend the rest of the season playing in your old city as you get updates about the status of the stadium and such for your move to your new location the next season.
The new Owner mode gives Madden junkies like me everything they could want and more. Everything is set up to where it feels fair in terms of the options put in front of you to build your team. The new Trade Block is nice though I wish it worked more like the Trade Finder in the NBA 2K franchise, in Madden NFL 25 you still have to do quite a bit of work to put solid trades together. What I did find out though is that players on the trading block can often be had for a single or a combination of lower round picks as their teams attempt to dump them, so if you find a player you like on the block, try offering his team a 5th or a 5th and 7th and you’ll be surprised at how many times they accept. The Free Agent list is handy is always for improving your team, just make sure not to overpay an aging veteran when a young guy with potential can be had for less.
Overall, I feel like the new Owner mode is well balanced where smart players can build really good teams, but you won’t see the super teams that players were able to construct in the past. This year you’ll have to make some tough decisions which will often include letting some very good players go because your too deep at a position and the player isn’t garnering any trade interest.
The other highlight of Madden NFL 25 is the gameplay. In several areas the game has been drastically improved and that should make player excited. The latest iteration of the Infinity Engine is much improved and provides contact and tackle animations that feel a whole lot more real without all the weird stuff that happened with it last year. Hit stick hits feel like crushing blows the way that heavy impact hits should. You’ll see a lot more passes dropped when the DB makes contact at the exact same time as the fall gets there, guys won’t just auto catch everything any more. The run game feels really good this year too, though I’m not sure its as good as in NCAA Football 14 where I thought the blocking logic was excellent and really allowed for the kind of natural holes and cutback lanes that you see in real life to open up in game. All in all though, I really like what they did on the gameplay side this year and hope that the trend continues. One final component of gameplay that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention is Precision Modifiers. These can be activated by holding L2/LT and then performing another normal action such as spinning, juking or trucking. The precision modifiers give a little extra oomph to those moves and learning to use them effectively can be the difference between a short gain and breaking away for the TD, so I recommend you use the Skills Trainer to learn how to effectively add those moves to your repertoire.
Another fan favorite mode, Ultimate Team, is back and better than ever. The team has reintroduced Chemistry, which will change the way you put your lineup together. By matching up players who fit into the same type scheme, you’ll see tremendous benefits in the way they play as a unit. Ultimate Team in Madden NFL 25 also introduces Head-to-Head Season mode where you can compete in 10 game seasons that culminate in an 8 team playoff. As you’d expect, doing well in the regular season gives you a higher seed in the playoffs and the rewards you unlock get better the deeper you go.
For all the things I really enjoy about Madden NFL 25, there are a few things I didn’t like. I don’t like the propensity of what should be slower DL chasing down RB from the backside, that definitely needs to be addressed because it just wouldn’t happen in real life. An issue affecting both NCAA Football 14 and Madden NFL 25 is that ” man align” is not working, which will cause you to give up up a few completions that you might not have otherwise. On a non-gameplay note, I still don’t like the fact that you can improve your team by signing guys off the free agent list to one year deals, perform well with them and improve them via XP and then end up making them so good that you can’t resign them. It seems counterproductive to invest all that effort into a player who was without a team when you got them and then not be able to have a chance to lock them up long term if you see them performing at a high level mid season.
Another thing I didn’t really care for was the fact that it doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off injuries during simulation. I generally play all regular season games and playoffs but I don’t really care for the preseason. I learned a hard lesson the first time I tried to simulate through the preseason as I had several key player sustain serious injuries. It seems that by default, injury probability is just way too high during simulation which forced me to play all my preseason games to avoid taking any major serious injuries which I didn’t enjoy. During games that you play, players will still get injured from time to time but at nowhere near the rate as when you sim so be aware of that.
My final call on Madden NFL 25 is that it gets the majority of things right. The game focuses on the core elements that true fans really enjoy and that’s important. At times I still feel like there are way too many things going on and I wish that they would cut down some of the noise but I realize that there are some fans of the game that enjoy those things. I can see myself playing Connected Franchise mode for months to come and that definitely says something. If you are a Madden fan, particularly a fan of franchise mode, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
PS3 review copy provided by EA Sports. Madden NFL 25 is now available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iPhone and iPad. Madden NFL 25 will also be available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 at launch, and on Google Play later this fall.