The annual shout of Madden fans has begun, with millions of players who buy the game each year crying out together, “What was changed?” The answer is, as always, a strange amalgamation of “not much” and “too much,” which is one of the reasons the annual NFL-licensed title is so popular. This year the Madden series drops the year from the title, something historically used to identify the game, and instead opted for Madden NFL 25, a celebration of the 25 years that the Madden franchise has been available. At 25 years, this franchise has been around longer than most college students and, given the clear indication that the EA recognizes this amazing title, players will be surprised at the lack of celebration that the game projects. Instead, players will simply boil down the description to something that could be misconstrued as a negative: it’s still Madden.
The game modes are perhaps the most important unimportant part of the game, redelivering some of our favorites from years past. Franchise and Be a Player modes return, remaining largely unchanged. Although, a new element of ‘Franchise’ mode allows players to take the helm as an NFL Owner, upgrading stadium fixtures to appease fans and creating a constant influx of money, used for said upgrades. Although, if you’re a sympathizer of Rachel Phelps, as the owner you can deliver a bad product on the field, let your stadium fall into disrepair, and uproot the team entirely to plant them in another city. It’s an interesting take on the Franchise mode, but still doesn’t quite scratch the itch that players once had in older Maddens that would let you build a team, complete with stadium and coaching staff, from scratch.
The actual difference in Madden NFL 25 is delivered in the gameplay experience itself, and is felt strongly in the My Ultimate Team mode. MUT returns to give players an opportunity to build the greatest team possible from current players and some of the legendary ones from yesteryear. Players will open packs of football cards and, depending on what’s inside, field a team that will undoubtedly be mediocre to start. By completing challenges of varying difficulty, tokens are earned to purchase new packs of cards or to target individual cards on the auction block. Of course, if you don’t want to put the time into the gameplay mechanics, you can sink cold, hard cash into EA’s wallet and purchase packs for real money.
With each of the players available in MUT, those wielding the controller will notice peculiarities between the superstars at your control. Running backs have their own distinct style, some relying on raw power to chisel out yardage, some being gifted with shiftiness and speed. Quarterbacks too, will show off their penchant for short, accurate passes, while those like Peyton Manning have accurate, powerful, deep throws that are masterfully executed. It’s this clear ability distinction between players that makes Madden NFL 25 perhaps the most impressive in terms of player depth. No longer is speed the deciding factor for the best players, instead players can excel at any number of precision skills and still be effective.
But for all its depth, the return of a plethora of game modes, and the solid online play, the game still has its flaws. Passing remains an issue when your receiving clearly has position on a defender, but somehow gains a burst of speed equal to Superman to step in front of your bullet pass to deflect or intercept the throw. Additionally, maintaining a constant running attack can cripple a defense on a play-action pass, causing the entire secondary to bite on the fake, leaving a receiver wide open. Should you execute this maneuver though, the AI will catch up to even your fastest player with their defensive backs and in some cases linebackers. It’s a way to help nullify the obvious error inherent in the play-action system, but for a game that cements itself in realism it can certainly spoil the experience. Finally, the injury bug is one that bits an astounding amount of players. It could be the constant use of the “Trucking Stick,” which also makes a return, but you may find a dozen players on the IR two weeks into the season if you’re not careful. It’s an element that rips apart your roster and essentially spoils a season.
em>Madden NFL 25 suffers from being the Aaron Hernandez of the Madden franchise: it’s got amazing talent and skill and when everything is operating the way you expect, it’s a masterpiece of sweat, blood, and touchdowns. When things go wrong though, they go way wrong. Odd locomotion causes unrealistic results and players with massive injuries at the slightest touch will pull you out of your simulated experience and lie dormant in the back of your mind as you play each subsequent game. The lack of true fanfare for the 25 years that the franchise has been around is also disappointing. A retro mode or something beyond the simple loading screens could remedy that, but like the accused Hernandez, Madden NFL 25 had potential to be the greatest ever. Some flawed decisions warrant the utterance that “at least it’s still Madden.”
Overall score 7.5 out of 10