Also On: PS3
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since the Madden NFL franchise has gone from a simple Sega Genesis past time, to a way of life for many in the competitive gaming circuits. Much like Call of Duty, this is a series that devoted fans take seriously and in return the developers give them what they want year in and year out, which is something more than just a roster update. So what can fans look forward to in their beloved franchise this time around? All I can say, even with its faults, glitches, and occasional hiccups, Madden NFL 25 not only continues to be the tried and true game every football fan loves, but this year’s incarnation may prove to be the best all around football game ever created.
Visually Madden NFL pushes the current gen consoles to the limit not only with player models that replicate a player’s body size, type and movements, but a good chunk of the faces have also been implemented, this even includes the coaches. I know that they have done this over the last couple seasons, but striving for the most accurate representation of each player seems to be a bigger focus this year for the developers. This becomes even more evident with the new cut scene cameras added to this Madden NFL 25. Sure they do repeat quite often, but at least they are not rehashes from last year. Another impressive addition is during big games of the week the introduction screen changes from just emblem showcases to an impressive history of the participating team with actual game footage. It’s the little touches like this that just add to the excitement of the upcoming game you are about to play. The biggest and most impressive upgrade in this year’s visual package is the new Infinity 2 engine that once and for all makes canned tackle, catch, and hit animations a thing of the past. This new engine is even a bigger leap over the strides made last year and with less odd looking aftermath animations experienced just a year ago.
The audio package is just about what you expect from a sports title, complete with authentic stadiums sounds, impressive crowd reactions, clashing of helmets, grunts and groans, and adrenaline pumping music. This is all accompanied by a broadcast play calling team that does a good enough job, but will wear on your ear drums after a while. This not only is due to a good amount of one liners you will hear over and over again, but there are quite a few miscalls this year than I can remember from seasons past. For instance I could be in the 4th week of my single player career and they will still be talking about getting my first 1st down and continue to babble on about it for the rest of the quarter. Admittedly this gets stale really quickly. Hopefully this can be addressed in an upcoming patch.
Where the Madden franchise earns the respect of the gaming community and keeps gamers coming back year after year is the way the game plays and continues to feel more authentic with each new version. I really think this year the developers got it right when it comes to creating the real feel of football. Thanks in large part to the newest Infinity engine, the ball just feels more unpredictable and more alive than ever before. The game also has a ton of new animations and finally running backs and receivers will not only try to shake and bake tackles, but drag them as well. What’s more if your player makes a break for it and is losing their footing, you have a chance to regain your balance by wiggling the right analog stick. It is little touches like this you will see all throughout the game and it really feels more realistically paced this season when speed of the game and the stats generated are concerned. Toss in the reinvented truck stick for the running game this year on top of the already polished passing game from last season, and you have a game that feels great no matter your flavor of offense you choose to play from.
This is not to say the game’s defense or A.I. is a slouch either, as a matter of fact this has to be the most “fair” Madden AI engine I’ve encountered as it all but appears that the rubber band AI from years gone by is a distant memory. That’s not to say the CPU won’t try to make a comeback every now and again, but you can rest assured that bad luck interceptions, fumbles, and a perfect comeback offense that seems unstoppable won’t rear its ugly head and make a miraculous 21 point come from behind victory in the 4th quarter. I will say that out of the box you may have to fiddle with the AI settings when playing the CPU as at this point the QBs are a little too accurate, and some of the game’s balancing needs tweaking, but that is what sliders are for.
Where Madden NFL 25 is meatier than a can of Campbell’s Chunky Stew is the huge amount of gaming options you have the pleasure of playing. You, of course, have your Play Now and online Head to Head games for those who just want to throw down right away, but there more modes this year than I can remember from years past.
First off you have your Skills Trainer mode that is more than just a tutorial mode as you have 4 sets of drills to attempt; running, passing, defense, and pre play. Each style has a tutorial for each drill you will attempt as well as a goal to reach for each drill setting. It is this style of skill trainer that really helps you up your game and maybe even show you plays, timing, and routines you may not have even known were in the game.
Next up you have a continuation of what was introduced last year with Connected Franchise. Last year you had just Player and Coach to tinker with, but this year you can add owner to that list. While there were tweaks to Player and Coaching franchises, they were not as prominent as you see in Owner’s Franchise, and let me tell you, it is the Owner’s Franchise that really impresses. Not only are you in charge of the financial aspects of the game, such as ticket and vendor prices, keeping fans happy, etc, but now as the owner you can change the game’s atmosphere by opting to rebuild stadiums or even relocate teams. All your decisions will be met by the ears of the media as you will answer a series of questions after each reflective action you take. For instance I decided to take over the Lions, as I figured with Detroit filing for bankruptcy and the team has been weary for a while, why not take over the team and relocate them. There are 16 cities in which you can relocate; from Columbus, Ohio to Dublin Ireland…yes Ireland! So of course, jet lag be damned, I relocated the Lions to Ireland and a new franchise was born as well as a new way to look at the game of football overseas. This is just a sample of what can be done in Owner's Franchise, which of course when connected online will be graded and judged by your pears and friends alike.
Upgraded this year as well is the Madden Ultimate Team which takes a bigger page from their Hockey Ultimate Team and what made it so successful, which now includes a team chemistry meter. Now each player card you acquire will have a logo under their position whether it’s Short Pass, Long Pass, Ground and Pound that each player specializes in, but if the team is created with that one particular game plan in mind they will flow better as a team and are apt to not cause as many critical errors. What’s more, now you have contracts to worry about, so make sure when you purchase those packs of cards that you keep an eye on the player’s contracts as you now earn contract cards to extend contracts as well so you don’t lose that player. Not only do you have your head to head online seasons to play, but now there are a ton of single player challenges for the times you just want to hone your skills and earn coins to try and unlock better players. What’s more is you not only earn coins for each single player victory, but a special card or item to boost your team as well. Of course for those who want to take the short cuts, you can spend your hard earned “real world” money and just buy packs of the best cards, but where’s the sport in that?
Other than those modes you still have Never Say Never Moments where throughout the regular season you will relive the best moments of each week, but as the time of this writing , it was 5 of the best plays of 2012 as the NFL season hasn’t started yet. There is even an online Team Play for up to 3 on 3 to dive into for those with real team spirit.
I will be the first to admit that Madden NFL 25 is not a perfect football game, but the overall package and satisfaction you will receive from game to game is so overwhelmingly genuine and good that you will be willing to overlook its faults and realize that this is just about as good as it gets for virtual football. I for one am impressed and haven’t enjoyed a Madden title this much in a while. I can’t wait to see what this team of developers has up their sleeves for the next generation, which is just around the corner.