*Authors Note* Madden 25 is available for PS3, PS4, Xbox360 and Xbox One For the purpose of this review the PS4 version was played. Spoiler alert, the game is about NFL.
This is my first experience with any form of NFL let alone a Madden video game, and man was it an education. What struck me quite quickly was that I felt like I understood the sport quite quickly after only a few matches. Not because I personally play a lot of sports, but because of how well the game is scaffolded – I felt invested and engaged in the experience, and whilst there was the occasional call that left me mystified (something I’m sure an avid NFL fan could no doubt clear up quickly), I feel confident in my knowledge of the sports fundamentals now and may actually watch some of it.
As a game though, Madden 25 is something of a mixed bag, yes I learnt the sport quite quickly thanks to it, something that wins the game infinite brownie points but there are some issues that initially seemed like they could be dismissed that eventually piled up upon each other, sapping some of my enthusiasm to play more.Followers of NFL, and anybody who has played a Madden game in the past knows what they’re getting here, so I will not waste your time talking about the basics of the sport or of the game itself, because for the most part, the experience has not differed when compared to a number of the past iterations of this series. Clever use of menus, set plays and a sufficient amount of time given to plan your next offensive thrust are positives, the AI, for both teammates and AI is excellent, but the game is hampered a bit by some infuriating bugs that unsettled me during my playthrough. Every now and then, players just speed up – not due to some quirky framerate hiccups, they just inexplicably speed up.
Many features will keep you hooked for hours, either playing solo of with large groups of friends. The Connected Franchise mode is great to play with friends, while the Ultimate Team mode will be a thrill for anyone excited at the prospect of playing with all their favourite players at the same time – and lets be honest, who doesn’t want the best team that can crush anyone in their path? Much of the games improvements all stem from the major improvement in AI. A number of forward thrusts I felt were certain to succeed were picked off my clever defenders, it feels like they’re actually reading the play as you would expect in the real game, and as frustrating as it was to see the ball travel the other way, I felt excited by the prospect of this game really challenging me on a strategic level. Clever AI like we see in Madden 25 forces you to think through your choices, and stops you from haphazardly forcing the ball to end – If you don’t play smart football, you won’t win many games of football, the equation becomes as simple as that.I was thoroughly impressed by the visuals of the game, the crowd looked incredible, and on occasions where I was charging toward a touchdown, to see arms waving, emotive faces and hearing the bellows and screams of the crowd left me exhilarated. What did frustrate me however was the players looks, my first impressions were incredibly positive, they do look great, especially on next-gen systems, however as a now student of the game I did some further research into some of these players that I’d used in game and in some cases, learnt that the way that had been portrayed in the game was much different to how they look in real life. I’m not expecting perfection from player models, hell, I’ve played many an AFL Live game or Cricket game and we know how awful they look (admittedly they have a significantly smaller budget to make a game) , but while the player models are much better in Madden 25, I noticed a few odd differences in the shapes of players faces, and even more blatant things such as missing tattoos, and there was one player in particular that sprung out at me – Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs looked NOTHING like the way he was portrayed in the game, even as someone who knows nothing of the sport, I could notice horrible differences here. It’s just this layer of polish that removes you from the experience a bit. I also felt that all of the players looked just a bit out of scale, like their legs were a little too long for the rest of their bodies, add this to the typical emotionless faces of the players and it paints a bit of an ugly picture.For all that Madden 25 served as a great sporting education for me, and as a game it functions extremely well, with brilliant AI that constantly dishes up challenge, especially as you progress through the difficulty settings, it was simple execution flaws that hamper the experience. The non-framerate related speeding up of players, and unusual, often inexplicable differences between the real life player and the way they’ve been represented removes you from the experience – something that with sporting games, you simply cannot do. Madden 25 has delivered me knowledge on a sport I knew nothing of until now, and for that, I cannot thank EA enough, but as a video game, and a sporting video game no less, much more work needs to be done to lift the series into the upper echelon with the likes of the FIFA and the NBA 2K series. Let’s see what EA can do with the full power of next gen in Madden 15.