TSO EA Sports Madden 25 Review
The 25th anniversary of Madden brings a renewed hope in the series following what was a promising iteration last year. With a refined version of the infinity engine, a running mechanic known as the “precision modifier,” and the introduction of owner mode, there’s no questioning the Madden team’s ambition this cycle.
While these additions hardly render Madden 25 another “roster update,” I can’t help but question the philosophy of the development team as a whole this year. Instead of solidifying the solid foundation they laid down a year ago, the team decided to again implement a number of new features. In so doing, we are left with a game that suffers from many of the same issues it did last year.
Madden 13 took a very positive step in delivering an authentic TV broadcast. While there are some clear improvements in Madden25, the CBS style music is gone, as are the TV style intros. Instead, we have game previews that feature a clip of the city – which is a neat addition, but it gets old quickly. The main menu got a much needed overhaul as well, with the Madden team opting for a tiled menu. I find the menu itself incredibly counter-intuitive and confusing relative to NCAA Football 14s similarly styled menu.
That said, there are some definite positives as far as presentation. Crowd noise is still nowhere close to where it needs to be, but it is distinctly better than it has been in years past. Crowds seem to react better during big plays, and some stadium chants have been brought over from NCAA Football 14. Sideline reporter Danielle Belinni joins the team with pregame, halftime, and injury updates, but never has anything particularly specific or interesting to say. For whatever reason, Belinni chooses to talk about the backup quarterback during each halftime presentation.
The broadcast team of Nantz and Simms is vastly improved, both in the accuracy of their commentary and refreshing new awareness of everything going on with both your team and around the league. Gone are the days of them referring to Eli Manning as the reigning Super Bowl Champion six years into franchise mode. Instead, the commentary is dynamic and fluid – ever evolving along with your virtual football world.
As I packed up my bags and announced I was moving the Jaguars to London, the duo discussed it at length during my final home game. When I landed in London, they spoke about how fantastic it was to see the NFL finally go global, and how they think the market in London will support a team well. At one point, I found myself surrendering a ton of third down conversion, only to have Nantz point out how much I’d struggled in the same department the previous week. He was right, I most certainly had.
The default camera angle has seen a slight change, as users will now be slightly more zoomed out then they were in previous iterations. It definitely takes some getting used to, but after a while, I grew fond of it. The “zoomed” camera angle is another option along with broadcast. Though I found the angle unplayable in NCAA Football 14, the zoomed camera angle is surprisingly enjoyable in Madden 25. The camera backs up quickly and seamlessly enough for you to have vision of the full field, though pre-snap you have to move left and right to see your X and Z receivers.
Though much of the presentation upgrades are welcomed, the game is not without its share of minor annoyances in this department. The cut scenes of coaches on the sideline suffer from the Soap Opera Effect, a term videophiles use to describe a motion smoothing mechanic used to compensate for blurring. For those less technical, you’ll see a notice a very unnatural sliding effect when cutting to the coaches. It’s nauseating, though I would expect some people notice it more than others.
Even more annoying is the field goal kicking camera, which EA has still left at an awkwardly high angle that makes it difficult to kick. By this point, I would’ve expected EA to come to terms with the fact that everyone hits RT/R2 to cycle back to the classic kicking camera, one much more conducive to accurate kicking.
All in all, the game atmosphere still feels somewhat listless. Writing this review whilst watching an NFL preseason game just reinforces that opinion, as the preseason crowd in Jacksonville is substantially louder and more responsive then my Madden NFC Championship game played in MetLife Stadium earlier today.
Madden 25 introduces the new precision modifier (LT/L1), a gameplay mechanic that gives users complete control of their ball carrier. Bigger backs feel much different than scat backs, and the moves you can pull off seem very dependent on the ratings of the ball carrier. Having said that, the moves in general seem a bit overpowered, if only because even the most athletic of defenders seem a whole lot less agile than their offensive counterparts.
The Infinity Engine is back and thankfully much improved. Gone are the days of running into your offensive lineman and falling down. Instead, running backs will maneuver through and around the big boys, as they realistically navigate their way out of the backfield and through gaps. The game seems to truly reward patient runners – waiting to find that opening and accelerate through it.
The force impact system and stumble mechanic, which were both present in NCAA 14, are also in Madden 25. While the stumble mechanic feels more responsive in Madden, the force impact system is still a bit overpowered. Far too often am I seeing small backs truck big LBs and safeties they simply have no business trucking.
Also present is the foot planting that was in NCAA Football 14 as well. The foot planting is, by far, the best addition gameplay. Zig zag runs are gone, as you will now see a player have plant and drive to shift his momentum while changing directions. I’m happy to report that the speed at which they do so is contingent upon that player’s acceleration and agility ratings. Unfortunately, the game plays substantially more arcade than NCAA Football 14 in this regard, as player movements seem less pronounced and nuanced.
Run blocking was completely revamped as well. Seldom do you see a blocker miss an assignment, and pulling guards are much quicker getting across the line to pick up a defender. While the logic itself is refreshingly realistic, run blocking in general is highly overpowered. Tight ends drive good defensive ends back 5 yards, and there is still some suction blocking present. Several times I’ve seen defenders beat their blockers and re-engage for no reason whatsoever, particularly against running plays.
The passing game remains largely the same, at least offensively. Precision passing is still too powerful, and lob passes are rarely a viable choice. Indeed, passing trajectory is in need of a serious overhaul, as the game rewards players who unrealistically throw strikes the second their player gets a bit of separation on a corner route or post pattern. In reality, those balls need more air under them, as the angle of the throw makes it easy for the defender to bat down a line-drive throw. Additionally, there still seems to be little differentiation between top quarterbacks and fourth or fifth tier ones.
Coverage is, without a doubt, the worst it’s been in some time. While there have been noticeable improvements to the buzz zone (players won’t creep up into the flat), deep safety play and hook zones are abysmal. Zone defenders seem lost, and completely oblivious to their ever-changing surroundings. If you run a slant through cover 2 sink, defenders will drop in their specific zones and watch as the receiver slices right through them, making no attempt to pass off assignments or adjust accordingly.
Safety play suffers from the same, as even the best safeties seem content to sit back in their zone irrespective of what’s happening on the field. I ran four verticals against the CPU on All Madden and watched my outside receiver get locked up by Darrelle Revis, while my slot receiver blew past the linebacker. Instead of adjusting to help the linebacker who had clearly been beaten, the safety stayed put in no man’s land, in no position to make a play on either potential throw.
Even more so than zone, off man coverage is entirely useless. While curls and outs remain the two dominant routes, there is really no route an off man defender plays well at all. I saw 65 overall WR Michael Preston beat Revis in off man coverage on curls and out routes 20/20 times on All Madden difficulty. While I will concede an out route should be very hard to stop in off man coverage, the rating differences between the two players should mitigate that advantage to a large extent. As for curls? In NCAA Football 14, off man defenders play curls and comebacks substantially better than they do in Madden.
While off man and zone are weak, 2 man under is again overpowered. I find it incredibly frustrating that the only reliable coverage in Madden is seemingly too reliable. Generally speaking, wheel routes and slants should eat up 2 man under, but the latter seems to result in far too many interceptions this year. Slants can work, but only under the right circumstances. If you’re lined up against Richard Sherman, even Calvin Johnson struggles to get off man under with a slant. Comebacks are a route that can’t be pressed, and seem to be the only consistent counter to man under this year.
Pass blocking, much like run blocking, is far too strong on default settings. The pass rush is virtually non-existent; the little pass rush you do generate is always from the LE spot. Why the LT remains disproportionately dominant against the RE is truly baffling to me, but one can only hope this issue will be addressed in the next generation.
Madden 25 does, however, recognize the ever-growing trend of read option/pistol offenses in the NFL. Gamers with fast quarterbacks will have more plays and weapons at their disposal this time around, and it’s nicely balanced in my opinion. If you’re going to run with your QB, be advised you run the risk of an injury (yes, QBs can and will get injured this year) or a fumble. Defensively, you can set your defensive read (stay on QB or follow pitch man), which helps a great deal.
CPU clock management and play calling has noticeably improved. The CPU will no longer base an offense around draw plays or screens, though the former are still called too often in my opinion. Clock management has also improved dramatically. Now good QBs will run the 2 minute drill very effectively, using timely timeouts and spiking the ball when needed. Speaking of clock management, why Madden has again neglected a “chew clock” feature is beyond me. It’s been a truly great addition to the NCAA Football series, and certainly would do wonders for Madden.
Special teams play remains largely unchanged, though the foot planting will certainly make kick returns more fun and realistic. Unfortunately, coverage teams still don’t stay disciplined enough, crashing in on the outside, allowing a savvy user to manipulate and bait the coverage team inside, only to cut it back outside for an easy chunk of yardage.
Overall, the game itself feels fast and aracdey. While some of the gameplay additions translate very well on the field, the blocking logic is simply overpowered in both the running and passing games. The failure to address passing trajectories and coverages is mind boggling, and really holds the gameplay back from surpassing NCAA Football 14.
Connected Franchise/Owner Mode
Owner mode is back in Madden 25, and it’s as good as ever. Take on the backstory of former player, lifelong fan, or financial mogul as you take over your franchise – with each backstory being tied to a few inherent and obvious advantages and disadvantages. You can also choose to take over as an existing owner, with all real owners licensed and in the game.
After taking over your franchise, you can rebuild your stadium, or even move (provided your stadium is in rough enough shape). There are 17 locations available, all of which are realistic football markets. Be careful, though, as you have to gauge fan interest in those markets and fan base styles (hardcore, bandwagon, etc). Once you settle on a location, you can choose to re-name (or maintain) your team name. Each city has 3 pre-determined names, which comes in handy for Phil Simms and Jim Nantz when discussing your team in-game. You also have 3 pre-determined uniform options, all of which have different fan ratings.
Relocation is a tremendous addition, and a feature I expect many will have a lot of fun with. I applaud the decision to pre-render uniforms, and limit the cities and names (if only so they could get the appropriate audio). It would be nice to have the ability to re-align the divisions, however. Moving the Bills to Los Angeles doesn’t quite make sense from that stand point.
Being a successful owner is a balancing act– you have to balance team success, popularity, your staff, your stadium, concessions, merchandise, and ticket sales. Sure, it’s enticing to move the Jaguars to London, but at what cost? Expect to be handicapped financially, at least initially. Why does this matter? For starters, all your bonus money comes from your “funds,” or net revenue. You’ll also need money to maintain and attract the best head coach, scout, and trainer – all of which have tangible benefits/drawbacks.
The mode forces you to make difficult decisions that affect both your bottom line and on-field performance. You can choose keep Tim Tebow in New England to use his personality rating (new this year) to sell tons of jerseys, but at what cost? What happens when Brady is gone and you need a reliable #1 or #2 quarterback? Make these decisions, but know why you’re doing so. The media will scrutinize your every move, and you’ll be tasked with choosing one of three responses that can affect team happiness, fan interest, and more.
Though having to assemble a staff is a lot of fun, one can’t help but wonder why there are no coordinators or position coaches. I can only imagine how fun it would be to snag a stud coordinator from a rival franchise, or have to worry about that ambitious position coach who wants to be coordinator.
Connected franchise itself received a visual overhaul, and it looks great. Unlike the main menu, I find the franchise mode’s menus very straight forward and easy to navigate. There are tabs for home, news, action, owner (if owner mode), team, and league. Statistical leaders, storylines, and standings are all easily accessible. The Twitter feed returns with some new material and pundits, and continues to make your franchise “world” come to life. The new trade center is much more user friendly, and there’s finally a transaction log that documents every move that has been made.
While EA promised a much more intelligent CPU front office, I’ve had mixed results. To start, players like Giants DT Linval Joseph were inexplicably cut in the preseason. Joseph, who at age 24 is the highest rated DT on New York’s roster, was the most egregious cut I saw, but there were a number of head scratchers. Michael Crabtree (91 ovr) was cut from the 49ers in the preseason of year 2. Like Joseph, Crabtree was in a contract year. I can’t understand why the CPU would cut a marquee player that happens to be in a contract year. Even if they can’t afford to resign him, a player like that should play out his contract, then simply not resigned.
Draft logic seems to be hit or miss as well. With the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, the New York Jets took a quarterback, just one year removed from selecting Geno Smith high in the 2nd round. When I went to look at Geno’s stats, I saw he was never even given a chance to play and prove himself.
As far as free agency is concerned, I saw players going to places that made sense. Reggie Wayne retired and Indy went out and grabbed Hakeem Nicks, while the Giants countered by bolstering a weak position (MLB) with the signing of Desmond Bishop. Unfortunately, I’m still seeing good, young players like Brandon Browner go through free agency without an offer.
The draft lacks any presentation upgrades, which is a bit of disappointment. Having said that, the storylines continue to be engaging and creative, and make the scouting experience more interesting. I still don’t understand the decisions to allow people to rack up scouting points – it would be more realistic to require users to use up their allotted points every week or two, then have the points reset.
It’s even more disappointing that we are still without a draft board, which would help users stay organized and be able to draft well if they happen to miss the draft itself. As far as the presentation itself, I was hoping for a mock 1st round draft (or some sort of preview), and final draft grades. These are features that have been removed and really need to find their way back into the game.
Draft player pools seem more top-heavy this year, which is welcomed. The classes themselves seem to have particular strengths and weaknesses, while each equipped with a unique set of gems and busts. I would like to see the game account for the fact that RBs are seldom drafted high in the first round these days, but the projections look much better overall.
There are some very minor annoyances in franchise mode, like the inability to hit one button and spend all your xp on upgrading a particular attribute. Speaking of upgrades, I still can’t understand why you have the ability to upgrade (or even see) the development rating. Another minor annoyance is wind direction is still backwards in online franchise mode, which I find unfathomable. Also, though the sim statistics look good overall, but about half of the league’s quarterbacks will have completion percentages under 50%. Lastly, they removed the ability to advance a franchise multiple weeks.
The addition of owner mode is great, don’t get me wrong. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel like there are several important facets of franchise mode that weren’t developed at all. While there is a player personality rating, none of that factors into contract negotiations or free agency. Some players should refuse to be back ups, play in small markets, or get paid less than the best at their respective position. As it stands now, contract negotiations are all too predictable and unrealistic. There are several factors that go into attracting a player that Madden just doesn’t take into account.
Along the same lines, there is no risk/reward factor when putting together a roster. Without a player happiness rating (something tells me it’s there but not impactful enough and not visible) and team chemistry ratings, personnel decisions are too black and white. The game will start with an 86 overall Randy Moss sitting in free agency. A player like that should force you to make a difficult decision – do I bring him on and potentially bring down team happiness and chemistry? As it stands now, there is no known tradeoff.
The resigning process should be a game within a game. Back loading and extending contracts should be options, and the occasional contract holdout would be a nice wrinkle, too. Again, players should have a distinct set of preferences and personalities that dictate their willingness to sign, and for how much.
Other Modes and Features
I’m not traditionally an ultimate team mode fan, but the addition of a team chemistry rating (yes, Ultimate Team has it but Franchise Mode doesn’t) makes the mode a surprising amount of fun for me. Additionally, there are specific types of offenses and defenses you can build your team around, all of which seem to generate players that fit your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
The Nike Skills Training Mode is a very nice addition as well. If you’re new to the series, or simply want to get familiar with some of the new features, the training mode enables you to do so in a very straight forward manner. With all the new option plays in the game, I wouldn’t be surprised if many vets lean on the training mode to get a feel for how it translates in Madden.
The All Madden team was a pretty genius idea, and fails to disappoint. Running read option with vintage Michael Vick is pure bliss, as is tossing balls up to Randy Moss in his prime. It was a trip down memory lane I suggest you all take, even if it’s just once.
Madden 25 is hardly a worthy celebration for such a storied franchise. While many reviewers believe the changes made this year were granular in nature, I couldn’t disagree more. I feel strongly the development team shot for the moon, but failed to secure the shuttle before doing so. By ignoring the development of many fundamental facets of both gameplay and franchise mode, the game struggles to impress despite some very nice additions.
It is worth noting, however, that many of the gameplay concerns can be resolved through slider adjustments, which seem to all work this year. While it’s important to recognize the functionality of sliders, it’s even more important to ensure they don’t become a crutch for developers. Sliders should be a tool to make subtle changes based on player preference, not to make major changes out of necessity.
The game, to me, continues to reward stick skills, while discounting strategy. Most frustrating is the fact that some of these gameplay decisions can’t be blamed on the current generation of hardware, as NCAA Football 14 does them much better. This leads me to believe that the emphasis was off for the Madden team – as it seems they built a game that has some great looking bullet points on the back of the box, but fails to deliver on the field.
+ Infinity Engine 2.0 is a huge upgrade over last year’s version
+ Owner mode is well executed and an overall blast
+ Improved blocking logic, foot planting, and the precision modifier make the running game a blast
- Coverage on the whole is horrendous
- The offensive line is far too dominant
- Contract renegotiations and free agency remain stale and unrealistic