Madden 25 marks 25 years of people throwing around virtual pig-skins and, from the loading screens between gameplay, you can tell that the development staff meant for Madden 25 to be a celebration of the 24 previous iterations. Even if you hate sports and have no intentions of ever playing virtual football, you must agree that this is at least a time for celebration. Madden is one of the longest running videogame franchises around, with the first title in the franchise, John Madden Football, being released for only the Commodore 64, Apple II and MS-DOS PCs.
That happened back in 1988 when underpowered rosters made up of pixels competed in single game after single game. There was no season mode in Madden back then. The original game also lacked the real names of the players and teams due to the fact that EA Sports did not have any NFL or NFLPA licenses at that time. Today’s version however has full rosters of highly detailed polygons enjoying football in as many ways as possible.
But is Madden 25 any good?
As with all Madden games made in the last few years, Madden 25 feels like an iteration on the previous year’s game. As a result, it’s not perfect and you have to take the good with the bad. In the presentation department, Madden 25 is fun and energetic in its delivery of that broadcast feeling it tries to replicate, but not as a result of any technical upgrades. The pre-game introduction videos feature more colours and shapes flying across the screen, and the full motion video introduction of each team does a fine job of getting you pumped to play football. The character models of virtual commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, the players on the field, and crowded stadiums all look and sound the best they’ve ever have. Add in the sideline cameras cutting to random stuff happening between plays, and the pieces come together to create something that looks like a very pretty and realistic TV broadcast.
That being said, anyone who hates AC/DC will have a problem with this game because Thunderstruck appears to be one of the few songs in the soundtrack. To say that the song gets overplayed is an understatement. Some of the cameras appear to be operated by drunks since the replay footage usually consist of extreme close ups of a player’s jersey, and these angles give you no idea as to what just happened. The menu system in Madden 25 now replicates the tile system used on the Xbox360 dashboard or the PlayStation store; and like both of those, the menus of Madden 25 feel confusing since all aspects of the game are now on the same menu level.
On a good note, the gameplay from last year’s Infinity Engine has been greatly improved. People who bought Madden 13 will remember the promise of realistic hits turning into the floppy fish problem. The hits did look more realistic when compared to previous titles, but the new engine also resulted in multiple players falling over each other, standing back up, and falling over again in a comical way that could be described as a bunch of fish flopping around. With the upgraded Infinity 2 Engine that issue is almost completely gone. I still did see it happen, but now it happens only once in a blue moon and to only a single player when it does. Also, the player controls for running plays have been improved. They have always been decent, but in Madden 25 I truly feel like I can pivot and change directions at the drop of a hat. This new level of runner control simply makes running the ball up the field more fun.
On the opponent’s side of the field, it can sometimes become hard to find a fun opponent. The AI can be set to a skill level that will match nearly anyone, but it sometimes becomes confused. On occasion, the AI doesn’t seem to know who it should be going after, or what route it should be running to properly angle a tackle. The other option is to play online, and that’s feasible since the majority of Madden 25‘s content can be played online against other people. That being said, if you haven’t played Madden online in a long time then perhaps now is not the best time to start. This is not a knock against the game or the community of Madden focused gamers, but playing Madden online is the sports gaming equivalent of playing Call of Duty online. The Madden online community is dedicated and Madden is the only game many of them play. Expect to put in a lot of time if you want to become a decent online competitor, and resign yourself to the fact that you will get destroyed often when you first start playing online again (or for the first time).
I should also mention that owner’s mode is back, which is why last year’s Connected Careers mode is now the Connected Franchise mode. This is the highly publicized mode that lets you role-play as the owner of an NFL team and control everything from high level stuff like the city they play in, all the way down to lower tier stuff like the price of hotdogs. It’s not a bad addition, but I never felt like it added anything to my enjoyment of virtual football. On top of that, you make decisions based on what six advisors tell you about the team and community around your team; however, I didn’t find them to be that helpful. On one hand, I was being told to win more games to become more popular with new fans (why didn’t I think of that), and on the other I was being told that I charged more for fish sticks than any other team in the NFL (is that bad though?). My advisor wasn’t telling me if people were buying or not buying them despite the $1 price hike and, from what I could understand of my team’s financials, they did not seem to go as far as breaking down the concession stand profits by the number of units each menu item sold. In the end, the mode is there if you want it, but I spent most of my time the way the majority of the audience does: playing online games against other humans.