Madden 25

Review

posted 8/23/2013 by Sean Cahill
other articles by Sean Cahill
Platforms: 360
It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years since the first Madden NFL Football game hit the shelves.  The franchise has spanned over five generations of game consoles and will eventually hit its sixth generation within the next year.  EA Sports made sure that the 25th Anniversary would be a special one, given the cover vote that was done over the course of several weeks between the legends and current players that resulted in Hall of Fame Running Back, Barry Sanders, on the cover.  While it's a great testament to the longevity of football titles in the industry, the real question is, of course, what does Madden 25 bring to the table?


GAMEPLAY/PRESENTATION
Every sports title's success hinges on just how well the game engine works.  Gamers who enjoy the NCAA Football series will enjoy the fact that both franchises have the same game engine, known as Infinity Engine 2.  The idea behind the engine is that the physics and movements should simply be as realistic as possible while eliminating the moments that have plagued both franchises in the past.  The best example of this is when an offensive player, such as the quarterback, would run into his own player and simply bounce off.  Obviously, unless it's a running back who is following a lead blocker closely, running into anything is going to stop the momentum and not just carry over once the player has disengaged contact.  This may sound a little redundant from my review of NCAA Football 14 just a few weeks ago, but the reason that I have to include it is because this is really the first year that both games have felt like they truly have the same engine.  Even last year with the first version of the Infinity Engine, it felt as though Madden played differently.


New to this year's title is the Run Free and Precision Modifier system.  Instead of just having standard jumping, diving, and spin/juke moves with one button usage, there are now combinations that can be paired up to really take advantage of a player's speed and agility.  It takes a little time to get used to the combinations, but it is very possible to put up a stellar run that can pair up several combination moves and leave an opponent yelling for mercy.  

Madden plays about as well as any of the past titles in this current generation have played.  I still feel as though Madden 11's gameplay was the smoothest, but Madden 25 has grown on me in my time with it.  There are some annoyances that I could not adjust to when making the change from NCAA Football to Madden, however.  The controls between the two titles are a little different in the pre-snap routine, primarily with calling line audibles and hot routes.  I understand that the versions do play a bit differently with play calling, but there is no reason to change the button combination between the two titles if one wants to call a line audible.  It's pointless and simply gets frustrating if a gamer plays both titles regularly.  Another mild problem I personally found to be an issue was the camera angle.  The default camera angle just seems incredibly far away.  Granted, most players when calling hot routes or changing plays will end up zooming out to view the entire field, but when running the ball, the change in zooming can throw someone off just long enough to cause an issue with the play.

The presentation of Madden 25 is still great, visually.  Stadiums are about as accurate as it gets for all 32 NFL teams and it felt like the stadium atmosphere was ramped up a bit to give a more authentic feel to the experience of the game itself.  Coaches have taken on more animations, along with player tackling animations, signals and audibles being called out, and enforcement from the officials.  The sounds and feel of the game are all there to make it feel like a Sunday afternoon, but while these visual enhancement are excellent, the title lacks in just about every other presentation element, especially in commentary.  Normally, I'm a big fan of Jim Nantz.  There is very few out there who have as iconic of a voice as he does, but he comes off as sounding very much like a robot, while his broadcast partner, Phil Simms, doesn't exactly bring much to the table.  The amount of dialogue by both commentators is severely lacking and extremely redundant.  Any long session in a season mode is going to cause anyone to eventually turn off the commentary completely, and there is no better example than when a player gets into the month of October in the season mode.  The reason for this is that October, as most people should know, is when the NFL pays homage to Breast Cancer Awareness, which is an idea that any person can get behind, myself included as my family has been affected by it.  The presentation graphically, once again, is great.  Players are seen wearing pink gloves, shoes, and socks, while coaches will don pink shirts on the sidelines.  Fantastic idea that adds to the realism of the game, but the commentary will drive a gamer crazy as Jim Nantz will remind you in a single game no less than 15 times as to why everyone is wearing pink.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with it being mentioned once or twice, such as at the beginning of each half.  However, the commentary likes to remind a gamer on just about every first down, it seemed.  I am a huge supporter of the cause, but EA Sports and Tiburon should probably curb this because, as I've said, it doesn't help the redundancy issue with the commentary at all.


SEASON MODES
This is where Madden 25 truly shines.  I have always been a fan of the simulation aspects of running a team outside of the game itself, and the Owner Mode is where I spent a lot of time working on this review.  The Owner Mode allows a player to take over a franchise and make every single decision, right down to the cost of a hot dog at the concession stand.  The player will get to choose what type of owner they are, whether it be a lifelong fan, an ex-player, or a financial mogul.  Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, which will be made clear before choosing.  Once inside the mode, a player will have advisors for every aspect of the franchise in order to measure the net worth of the team and how it stacks up against others in the NFL.  Every decision will have an affect on the franchise in one way or another while bonuses and penalties are picked up along the way for various decisions.


The best part of Owner Mode is the ability to upgrade a stadium, renovate it completely, or decide to be the owner that everyone hates and move the franchise to another city.  The positive portion of relocation is that it can actually be very easy to do early on.  A player has to pick a team that has a stadium rating that is below a 20 out of a scale of 99, and there are several of these to choose from.  I thought about being possibly the most cold-hearted person possible and moving the Browns again, but opted to go with the Raiders since poor Oakland Alameda Stadium is practically falling apart at the seams and has the lowest stadium rating in the game.  The best part about relocating a team is deciding on the city to move to and picking the new stadium.  The cities are pre-determined, and cover everywhere from London, England, to Columbus, Ohio.  The market size will determine just how much financial assistance one gets from the city itself, which will either make it easier or harder to move the team.  The reason for this, of course, is that as the owner, your funds will go up and down based on every weekly decision.  Players have to get paid, of course, and new deals with big signing bonuses will cut into those funds.  A real downside to the relocation process, however, is that the nicknames for every city are chosen ahead of time, as well as the logo and uniform choices.  There isn't nearly as much customization as I would like, but it's enjoyable, nevertheless.  The best name?  London Black Knights.  The worst name?  Easily any of the choices for Brooklyn.  Sorry, EA, but just using the standard names that New York already knows isn't exactly going out on a limb, so lets get choices other than The Yanks please.

Carrying over draft classes from NCAA Football 14 has returned, which was a sorely missed option from last year.  In the owner mode, scouting players becomes vital in every aspect in order to determine what players will be worth drafting at the top and which ones are possible busts.  Free agency in the offseason has been revamped as well, with players having to list all the teams with bids on them and giving the player the option to up the offer or pull it altogether if they feel that it is getting too expensive.  I played through three seasons on a simulation and I didn't see any of the plaguing issues from past titles where teams will dump practically every superstar because of how broken the salary cap system in the game was.  Yes, owner mode has thought of just about everything, and it really is the meat and potatoes for this title.

ONLINE
Ultimate Team is back again, and it plays very similar to how NCAA Football 14 is set up.  Players will get the opening pack upon starting the mode and will have a list of challenges to play through that will allow the player to strengthen their team from top to bottom.  The layout is extremely similar and, once again, makes me appreciate the FIFA franchise's version of Ultimate Team as the best out of all the sports titles.  Plain and simple, I feel as though it is just too easy to build up a team in the football titles, and Madden is going to be no different than it's collegiate brother.  Games do not take very long, as the default head-to-head is three minute quarters, so players can get multiple matches in a short period of time to build up their records.  General online mode doesn't have too much of a difference except that the player will just be using regular teams.  The modes are different, but the interaction online is essentially the same.  Truth be told, between last year and this year, there were very few changes made except for some quick options, such as a single action to choose the best lineup for the Ultimate Team.  The newest addition is the head-to-head MUT Season Mode, which is a ten game season, plus playoffs, in which players will go against each other to try and work to the top level for extra coins.
 

FINAL THOUGHTS
Madden 25 has stepped up its game when it comes to gameplay.  The Infinity Engine 2 is wonderfully sound and makes the game truly feel realistic.  Players can't cut quickly on a dime when running full steam and players will have true interactions when it comes to their own teammates as well as the opponents.  I really wish the commentary had more work done with it, especially with the laziness of the PA announcer not even yelling out the name of a well known player and simply calling them by the number.  Nantz and Simms will get old in a hurry, but the game makes up for it with the graphical presentation.  Connected Franchise / Owner mode is truly where this game has the most enjoyment, and I will recommend it to any player who wants to use their favorite team or pick a random franchise, do a fantasy draft, and relocate the team to start from scratch.  The options are endless in the deepest franchise mode to date, and even with the annoyances of camera angles and commentary that seemingly is on repeat, make it worth the pickup.
 
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