Madden NFL 25 Review (Xbox 360)
When Madden NFL 06 was released with the Xbox 360 in 2005, gamers and sports nuts rejoiced in unison. Next-generation graphics combined with what was one of the best Maddens ever made (Madden NFL 06 for Xbox) was bound to be mind-blowing.
How could it not, right?
After months of waiting and preparation – and about 100-plus games on the original Xbox – my college buddy Tom and I fired up the system on a fateful November night with a huge amount of excitement. He chose the 49ers, I chose the Titans.
Before I knew it my blockers weren’t blocking, my defenders weren’t tackling and Tom was breaking away for a touchdown on the first next-gen kickoff experience of my sports gaming life.
Luckily I caught him on the five-yard line. I was overwhelmed by frustration at this and then something happened: an animation showing my team slapping hands and jumping up and down because they made the tackle.
The game never improved, and the story I just told was merely a highlight (yes, a highlight) of Madden’s first iteration on next-gen. To some, that moment and that game set the pace for what was going to be a highly underwhelming generation of Madden NFL.
Fast forward seven years and we now have Madden NFL 25, which is for all intents and purposes EA Sports’ swan song of football on current gen and also the 25th anniversary of the storied franchise. With Madden NFL 13 being a huge leap forward for the franchise with the inclusion of real time physics and Connected Careers Franchise, more anticipation and excitement ensued with this year’s release and the promise of a more refined version of the ‘new’ Madden.
Madden NFL 25 is the final chance to create the ultimate football video game within this generation before many consumers and development resources migrate to next-gen. Madden NFL 25 is a game waiting to hand out mixed emotions. To the casual gamers, you’re about to have the time of your life playing with your best friends. To the hardcore simulation gamers, you might be somewhat disappointed with what are sure to be maddening legacy issues within the game engine.
Passing has been pretty solid the past few years within the Madden franchise, however the running game has been giving gamers issues over the years with a lack of realistic options. EA Sports has revamped the running game this year, and it is a high mark for the franchise. With the addition of the precision modifier (LT/L1), gamers finally have near-complete control over their halfback. There are new spins, dives, jukes, hurdles and stiff-arms to be had, as well as a few new options such as my favorite: stumble recovery.
Stumble Recovery is exactly what it sounds like. When the runner begins the stumble animation, there is a small window of opportunity to pull down on the right stick to regain your balance and get your back back on his feet. On the flip side, if Ed Reed is staring you down getting ready to ignite the crowd with a game-changing hit and fumble, just flick the right stick up to dive for a couple more yards to keep the drive going and your helmet on.
Each running back does play to their capabilities as well, which can make this game a blast for anyone in love with Adrian Peterson. As in real life, Peterson is the most dominate back in Madden NFL 25. He can spin, juke and truck with the best of them. But take Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, the ultimate hit-or-miss superstar in the league, and trucking quickly becomes nonexistent. However, his speed around the edges, and his juking abilities, make for him to be a very dangerous weapon behind a solid offensive line.
I do have concerns about how the moves seem overpowered somewhat. For instance smaller backs tend to unrealistically truck through linebackers as if they were Adrian Peterson. Even then, Adrian Peterson didn’t truck All-Pro linebackers like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, or Patrick Willis on regular occasion either. The fatigue meter adds a nice balancing act to the moves, but I am worried the offensive run game weapons will overpower defenses with time.
However, the running game in Madden NFL 25 is the best in the series yet.
Scrambling QBs aren't completely overpowered this year, but only if you use the QB spy.
With the scrambling quarterback position ever-growing in the league, Madden NFL 25 has added in more available options for those who love using scramblers like Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson. The Pistol offense has been included in the game, and once you master the broken play, you’ll be frustrating your friends beyond belief. But just the same, a simple QB Spy can shut down these scramblers to make for a pretty fun matchup.
Defender reaction time is noticeably improved, especially with the linebacker units. Quick up-the-middle passes aren’t near-gimmes anymore as zones and coverage have been tightened in the middle of the field it seems, but they are still effective the way they should be. Defensive ends break off the line much quicker, leaving low-rated tackles struggling to protect their quarterback on some plays. However, if the offensive line is even decent, putting pressure on the quarterback is tough as nails.
The line play itself is technically the best yet in the series from the offensive execution standpoint. There are some problems with the football aspect of the line play though. Dive and Iso plays are way too automatic because defensive linemen get pushed/step backwards way too easy. In the real-to-life NFL, defensive linemen have a job to control the line of scrimmage and in Madden they are pushed back way too easily. This results in easy yardage on a lot of running plays if you simply follow your blocker.
Pass blocking is decent, but you still get locked into animations and getting separation does not come easy. While the promise to not be stuck in animations has been delivered time and time again -- that is exactly what happens if you are a defensive lineman down in the trenches.
The defenses are hardly impotent, but offenses have so many more tools at their disposal.
The secondary also presents some problems within the gameplay. Too many times, slow receivers outrun a defensive back on a post route, corner route, etc. Curl routes are money as well, as the only way to stop a lot of routes is to play bump and run and hope the delay is enough to get pressure on the QB. Zones tend to be way too soft, and man coverage seems tilted in the receivers favor. QB completion percentages are artificially high, which tends to make it tough to get stops on defense.
Grabbing interceptions is more frustrating than ever. It seems as though interceptions have been toned down quite a bit, but the catching animations are still there thankfully. It’s as if, to preserve a semblance of realism, corners and safeties are now programmed to drop multiple interceptions.
Many of the issues and improvements are brought to you by the Infinity Engine 2.0. The game runs smoother, except for the noticeable two-second lag after every huddle, what’s up with that anyways?
The animations look good when strung together, but it also leaves the door open for some odd transitions that just don’t make any sense still. The Infinity Engine is definitely cleaner and more polished this year, but it’s far from a perfect solution just yet.
The gameplay has improved, but for every good thing you see there is something on the other side of the coin that is just as bad. This game needs to give the defense some legs again.
Brand new this year: All the modes you used to have and then didn't and now have again!
Owner Mode makes its glorious return the series after too long of an absence. From players and personnel to pretzels and hot dogs, you’re now in control of everything within your NFL Franchise. You set prices for concessions, tickets and merchandise to see you gain profit, and make decisions that can affect the mood of your fan base. You can run the team however you choose.
One welcome addition is the option to relocate your franchise. If your team is flailing, and stadium construction/renovation isn’t an option, then why not create the Los Angeles Jaguars?
Relocation lets you build from the ground up at 17 different locations, all of which have real interest in an NFL franchise. Choose a new name, uniform and stadium to build up a new fan base. In owner mode, it’s all about how much money you make.
Of course, minus the new way of doing relocations this has all been in the game before.
You can still choose to play as a coach or a player, but only a few tweaks are present. The experience system was redone to grant more points to spend to further your progression, but other than that it all feels too much the same.
CPU logic was said to be revamped to the point of near perfection, but I don’t see that at all. Trades and drafts are pretty close to realistic from what I can tell, but Front Office decisions have left me scratching my head. For example, after my first full season (I played as Tennessee), the Super Bowl hyped Seattle Seahawks finished with an 8-8 record and out of the playoffs while watching the San Francisco 49ers go 14-2 with an MVP quarterback leading the way. How does Paul Allen react to the situation? He fires Pete Carroll immediately following Week 17.
I get that season would be utter disappointment for the Seattle franchise, but enough to fire Carroll? I don’t think so. And for fun, the Redskins edged the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 16-13.
Ultimate team introduces team chemistry this year, a new and interesting dynamic to the mode.
Madden Ultimate Team has never been my go-to game mode. The whole collecting cards and throwing players out on a field in a jersey they’ve never worn just doesn’t excite me like other modes within Madden.
But this year, that’s changed. With the reintroduction of Chemistry, the team-building experience has finally reached a point to capture my interest.
There are four types of offenses and defenses to build around, and each player you unlock/receive performs much better in those specific schemes. It gives you more motivation to keep playing to unlock the best and perfect cards for what you want to accomplish.
I optioned to go with a Speed Run offense and a Pass Rush defense for my team. As I collected more cards that fit the schemes, my team chemistry shot up and it was welcomed with actual results on the field during gameplay. Having a quick back is a must in Speed Run, but a great offensive line is even more important. Luckily, I quickly snagged some great lineman that opened up more lanes to break bigger runs.
There is also a new Head-to-Head Season mode in MUT. Enjoy a 10-game season that ends with an eight-team playoff for ultimate bragging rights.
One more addition the MUT is the ability to reorder your depth chart with the push of one button. An option that surprisingly is new this year.
The 25th Anniversary All-Madden team is a fun distraction for a few games.
The Best of the Rest
The highly-anticipated All-Madden 25 team is just as fun as you can imagine. It all starts with Madden NFL 04 superstar-stud Michael Vick. He’s just as awesome as you remember, plus even better with how far the series has come since the days of the original Xbox, Gamecube and Playstation 2. And if you forgot how crazy-good Brian Finneran really was in that game, you’re about to be reminded. This idea was absolutely awesome. Props to EA for this one.
Madden Share makes for a nice addition to the game as well. It allows users to create, share and distribute any sort of roster they want. It should add more replay value, and possibly open the door for some interesting teams, but with me being one of a few people with the game right now it’s impossible to fully judge this feature.
The Nike Skills trainer is a cool addition, but it's far from a game changer on any level. If you are a vet of the series, or after you use it once, there won't be much of a need to use the mode again.
Importing draft classes from NCAA Football 14 makes a triumphant return with a new twist. Each draft class gets rerated (to an extent) to keep the class as balanced as possible –at least that’s what’s supposed to happen. In my first draft class from NCAA, there were 11 quarterbacks drafted in the first round, starting with AJ McCarron going No. 1 overall to the Rams and finishing with Tahj Boyd to the Patriots at No. 23. I don’t see the Rams giving up on Bradford yet, but the Boyd pick to New England is an intriguing one.
The classes do feel much better once you play with them on the field. The classes don’t look goofy with giant beat-em-up, Donkey Kong arms. They actually play perfectly with the rest of the roster, which is a huge plus compared to the way these imports have worked in the past. I had quite a bit of time using Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Washington running back Bishop Sankey, and both played very well. Never once did they feel jerky or like they didn’t belong; it’s as if they were already in the game on release.
There's a lot to love about Madden NFL 25...just there's a lot to hate as well.
Madden NFL 25 is a tough game to peg. At times it’s the best Madden released, and at others it feels like the same game we’ve been playing for years.
The improvements are there, and it shows in the gameplay, but it’s not a drastic change from what we are used. But with this being the final ‘big’ Madden release on the current systems, expectations won’t be met for many.
Almost every one of the new features are returning features which have been removed in the past. Even worse, the returning features aren’t upgraded, just tweaked from previous iterations.
The game is merely a slight improvement over Madden NFL 13, a game I considered one of the best Madden games ever made despite the Infinity Engine shenanigans.
So by default, Madden NFL 25, the franchise’s big 25th anniversary, is the best Madden ever made on a purely technical basis. Unfortunately, not even that can make up for its shortcomings rife with legacy issues mixed with a been-there-and-done-that feeling within the game.
With Xbox One and PlayStation 4 literally around the corner, EA had better be prepared to blow people’s minds. And hopefully, when I fire that game up, my first next-generation experience doesn’t include my team celebrating after giving up a 95-yard kickoff return.
Madden NFL 25 is the epitome of what this generation has been for the Madden franchise, there's a lot of flash and a lot of things the game does well, even extremely well. However, each time you start thinking the game has taken that next step towards greatness there's something you run into that brings everything back down a notch. As it is, Madden is a good but not quite great game.
If you are a fan of what Madden has done this generation this is your game, if you are less enthusiastic then you might wait to see what next-gen brings.
Learning Curve: If you’ve played one Madden, you’ve played them all. The new running game is a quick, easy adjustment. Just use the Nike Skill-Trainer.
Control Scheme: Just like the old games with a few minor tweaks. Still a solid scheme.
Visuals: Pretty disappointing. Only slightly improved from last year, it seems we’ve reached the max of this generation’s potential.
Audio: Commentary isn’t bad, but not great either. Game sounds are best to date, but there are a couple audio clips pulled straight from NCAA Football 14.
Score: 7.5 (Good)