I used to love playing American Football games. By games I mean a single game, and by that I mean Accolade’s 4th & inches. This was back in the eighties though. At the end of the late eighties my grandfather worked for a couple of American businessmen who brought me back memorabilia from a number of franchises with my favourite team being the Bears.
Moving into the 90’s and the we had the founding of the World League of American Football (WLAF), a developmental league which featured three European teams. It was this league that really grabbed me not only with it giving me a hometown team, (The Monarchs), but also the tweaks to the rules that the NFL tested in the WLAF before deciding whether to implement it in the actual NFL.
Even during this time I still only had one American Football game – 4th & inches – and by the time the late nineties had come along I pretty much lost all interest bar a passing glance at a Super Bowl game now and then. So I know the sport, what I don’t have however is the familiarity with Madden that a lot of players will have. I don’t know it like I know GTA and certainly not like I know FIFA so this review will be from the point of a newcomer to the franchise.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first – graphically Madden 25 on the PlayStation is just not that impressive.
There are a lot of improvements apparently. Greater player interactions, more realistic wear and tear on the field, lifelike grass, cloth physics (yes, I had to read that a couple of times too) and true 3D crowds; all of this is plainly obvious to see….in replays and cut scenes. The guts of the game however are too far away and high up to be able to see a discernible difference. Even up close, more work is required on the faces of the players – EA have booked a trip to the uncanny valley here at times.
So Maddens “next-gen” graphics won’t blow you away and encourage you to upgrade your hardware but it’s not all disappointment; far from it. The first thing you notice is running is very momentum based. You can’t just change direction, your player shifts his weight, changes direction and then slowly builds up his speed and momentum again. The same can be said when you are getting tackled; get hit as you change direction and you will collapse like a house of cards. Meet your opponent head on after running for 10-15 yards and you may stumble and carry on running leaving your opponent flapping on the ground.
There is also a number of smaller improvements such as crowd reactions to big plays or, if you are like me, god awful plays. Most likely this is down to my unfamiliarity with the plays, but I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the AI controlled players have benefited from the increased processing power of next gen with more sensible blocking interactions and decision making which is based on the individual players stats. If this is actually a discernible difference between the two generations, or even the yearly iterations, is for a Madden purist to decide. For me I felt that it added a little more polish to the overall feel but it wouldn’t break the game for me if it wasn’t there.
Normally when a game straddles console generations, the newer generation receives a better graphical presentation but a stripped down version of the gameplay. Madden 25 stands up well in comparison to its PlayStation counterpart with all the features and added extras present and correct, apart from the Game Face feature, including Ultimate Team and Connected Franchises. Ultimate Team even transfers over from one generation to the other, much like the Fifa Ultimate Team did.
First up there is the Skills Trainer, think of this as a set of 4 tutorials. Are they required to start playing the game? Not at all. Are they a necessity to master Madden? Absolutely. Even if it’s to help you understand a move, an option or just get the timing down you will need this.
Here is the paragraph that I seem to write for all EA sports games in recent years. Also included in Madden 25 is Madden Ultimate Team. If you have never heard of an Ultimate Team mode firstly, what planet have you been living on? Secondly imagine the game mixed with a little bit of a Panini sticker album but playground swapsies can be done with any player around the world. The idea is to win (or buy) coins and packs in order to obtain more cards which you can then use to either improve your team or sell to get more coins so you can buy more packs which gives you more cards to either improve your team or sell to get more coins so you can…..ok you get the idea.
That is a very simplistic overview of Ultimate Team; you also have to manage the teams speciality whether this be the short pass game, a long pass version or ground and pound. Your captain decides the teams speciality and it’s in your best interests to incorporate this speciality when selecting the players for your team. If your players are on the same page in regards to the game-plan they will be less prone to making critical errors. Couple this with contract management, online seasons and solo player challenges (which allow you to win rare cards) and you have an in-depth mode that will keep you entertained long after you have relocated every team and won the Super Bowl a few times in the Connected Franchise mode.
In the connected Franchise mode you can now choose to be a player, a coach or an owner. The first two are self-explanatory but as an owner you get to make low level decisions as concessions on food and ticket prices to more fantastic decisions such as stadium expansion or relocating a team to Ireland because, you know, jet lag is fun sometimes. For some the owner mode will border on being a novelty aspect and will probably wear thin after a couple of seasons. For me, the Owner mode was an enjoyable experience that I was happy to drop in and out of just for something different.
In comparison Madden 25 on the PS4 (and I assume the Xbox One) is the better version; just. It’s this “just” that makes this a hard game to give a score to. If you haven’t purchased Madden 25 yet then get the next gen version. If you already have it on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 then I recommend holding back for Madden 2015 as this is when I expect to really be blown away.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One Release Date: 29/11/13
Disclosure: Simon Stevens purchased a copy of Madden NFL 25 for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 7 days on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.