Madden NFL 25 Review
Note: The main text is from the current-gen review, and the additions from the Xbox One version have been added below.
It's fitting that an iteration celebrating the 25th anniversary of Madden is littered with references to past games and hampered by the feeling that, no matter what has been done for this particular version of the game, the foundations it was built upon this console generation are not fully up to the task of delivering a highly polished product.
The uneven execution of ideas that have characterized Madden in this generation continue. You can see it in an owner's mode that changes little of how you run a franchise. It's also evident in the game's second stab at a physics model that produces tackles and hits that you would have never seen before, but which often inexplicably do not accurately take into account the mass of the players involved. These collisions are also at the whim of AI that have a hard time identifying targets to block, angles to take to a tackle, and sometimes even the awareness to trigger a tackle animation when the ball carrier is near.
Madden 25 does achieve a modicum of competency – and even excellence. Another year with the Infinity engine has paid noticeable dividends in the kinds of tackles seen, despite the work needed to produce consistent outcomes in player contact. Still, the inconsistency has me pining for an unambiguous step forward such as last year's revamped passing game and the birth of Connected Careers.
I hoped the return of owner functionality in Connected Franchises would be that advancement, but its revenue and fan happiness NFL ranking system is confusing (how could my Team Success rating get lower after going deep into the playoffs?) and, in the end, didn't matter. Even with a seemingly toxic combination of a bad stadium, a losing team, and high prices, I still could sign players and renovate my stadium. I like the fact that your team funds correlate directly to how much of a signing bonus you can offer players, the staff you hire, and the state of your stadium, but there are other franchise/money-related features that are still missing. These omissions include being able to offer different contract options to players and restricted free agency.
These latter two points may be relatively insignificant, but the franchise mode still hasn't recovered all of the features that were previously purged, and presents limited choices such as not being able to negotiate rookie or in-season free agent contracts. Minute details like this are wrapped in larger-scale oddities such as a menu system that still buries or omits info.
Madden's next-gen debut is certainly better than when the series first appeared for the last generation, but there's still plenty of work to be done.
Although the overall score is the same, the Xbox One version edges out the PS4 one because of its cool SmartGlass functionality. Check it out below.
The game’s graphics look pretty good and the play is smooth. Much has been made of the next-gen versions’ ability to render all the players and camera people on the sidelines, but I didn’t find this very additive. Players on the sidelines will nominally move out of the way if a player is steaming out of bounds, but they are still rather stiff and lifeless figures.
As good as the player models are, their uniforms surprisingly don’t pick up dirt or grass stains. It is cool, however, to see clumps of turf get kicked up by players’ cleats.
Ball carriers showcase some fancy footwork that heightens their foot planting and change of pace, and yet movements still feel smooth. Perhaps the fact that players sometimes anticipate contact and in those moments gamers lose control split-seconds before a tackle is related to this. I also noticed players’ momentum caused them to drift out of bounds, and as often as they were cognizant enough to plant their feet inbounds on a sideline catch, they’d inexplicably step out of bounds. On the flip side, I felt that tackling was easier in this version of Madden 25.
Elsewhere on offense, the blocking on the second level remains suspect, and running backs staying in to help block produces some laughable moments as their bodies fold and flop in unnatural ways.
Passing against defenses is tougher, with defenders being more active on the ball than your still too-passive receivers. I even saw some instances where defensive backs suspiciously broke on passes before they had good sight of it.
Finally! Although you won’t see an option for it in the in-game pause menu, if you turn off the system, when you return the game will let load where you left off – down, distance, and everything.
Progressing your Connected Franchise from week to week takes about the same amount of time as it does in the current-gen version, and scrolling through the stories from around the league is a little better.
The sensor picks up your voice better than on the Xbox 360, even though there are not new commands.
EA Tiburon did the right thing and didn't make this version's second screen functionality about play calling. Preferably using a tablet with the SmartGlass app, you can get good extra info while you're playing on offense or defense. This includes the last 10 or so plays you've run (and their success or failure), your opponent's tendencies (where they like to throw the ball and to whom), and even play suggestions from the community. It's pretty useful.