Most helpful positive review
70 of 88 people found the following review helpful
The best effort seen in the series since "Gen 3" began, and a solid starting point to build from for the next years to come.
on November 17, 2013
To say that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Madden NFL 25’s release on the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 at the end of August this year would be an understatement. After a triumphant (and, sadly, likely final) showing from NCAA Football 14, Madden NFL 25 on “Gen 3” consoles left a whole lot to be desired. The game showed some improvements to the on-field gameplay, but its overall package with regard to presentation and features in career modes didn’t compare favorably for me when put next to this year’s college game.
Of course, knowing that a “Gen 4” version of Madden NFL 25 was in the works for Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One likely had some hand to play in my reaction to the “Gen 3” version of the game as well. In these rare years where two versions of a sports game are released, it’s difficult to be completely sold on the first version out knowing that something with more development time is waiting in the wings.
With the previous generational transition in mind—and the infamous legacy of Madden NFL 06 on Xbox 360 still a sore subject for many sports video game fans—there was certainly reason to approach Madden NFL 25 on PS4 with a “wait and see” perspective. For all of the hype invested into the game since its official announcement around E3, no actual gameplay camera footage was made available in the marketing push until the consoles made it out into the wild, leading many to speculate that the game would not live up to its expectations.
The PS4 has officially arrived; so has Madden NFL 25. Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out!
While improvements to the visual quality of Madden NFL 25 were the first to be teased in the marketing run for the “Gen 4” versions, the “meat and potatoes” of the game updates concerned gameplay elements such as “True Step” player motion, “Player Sense” contextual awareness, and improvements on the offensive and defensive lines for the “War in the Trenches.”
For the most part, these new gameplay elements come into play as advertised. “True Step” player motion is noticeable almost immediately, as the range of “jerky” player control is limited even more so than it was in the “Gen 3” game which introduced foot planting. The result is a gameplay experience which feels more grounded in reality from a physical standpoint, since it’s considerably more difficult to make sweeping directional changes without the player taking the appropriate amount of time to adjust to that new heading. It is definitely a re-learning process for anybody who’s been putting significant time into the game on PS3 or Xbox 360, but once you overcome the learning curve, player movement feels much better on PS4 than it did previously.
One thing which hasn’t been improved much in gameplay is the use of the Precision Modifier, which was tied in with the “#RunFree” marketing that defined “Gen 3” Madden NFL 25 over the summer. I was never personally able to get the Precision Modifier moves to work the way I wanted them to in actual game situations in the previous console versions of the game, leading me to approach running the ball in much the same way that I had in Madden NFL 13 and NCAA Football 14. Very little seems to have changed in the “Gen 4” version of the game; I still had a good amount of frustration in trying to clear the Precision Modifier Skills Trainer, in much the same way I did with the “Gen 3” version. Even though there are supposed to be even more Precision Modifier tools available on PS4 and Xbox One, I’ve found that I can be effective without using any of them.
One way that the running game connects between “Gen 3” and “Gen 4” is that it can still be easy to run the ball against the CPU. In back-to-back games playing as the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers (after my initial adjustment period), I was able to put up over 200 yards rushing with both Alfred Morris and Frank Gore on All-Pro difficulty with default slider settings. Obviously slider tweaks will have to be made to tone down the effectiveness of user rushing, but it’s still somewhat frustrating to have the running game be so dominant out of the box.
Beginning the transition from the running game to the passing game, “Player Sense” contextual awareness comes into play by having your players on the field react more appropriately to the context of their situation on the field; for example, stepping over an engaged lineman’s legs instead of tripping over them, or tiptoeing along the sideline instead of just rushing out of bounds. These animations come into play automatically based on the situation, which may be a point of contention for those who don’t want the game to be making those decisions for them while they play. In my experience, “Player Sense” has been more helpful than harmful, and results in a better overall experience compared to “Gen 3” Madden NFL 25 in terms of players making better decisions in the field.
It may be a good thing that the run game is so able in “Gen 4” Madden NFL 25, as the passing game seems much tougher so far compared to the previous version of the game. The “War in the Trenches” elements allow for the creation of an organic pocket around the quarterback, but part of the improvement to interactions between offensive and defensive lineman means that the pass rush has been improved as well. While on PS3 I could feel fairly confident taking to the air if I needed to gain yards in a short period of time, playing Madden NFL 25 on the PS4 has me much more selective about choosing passing plays. There’s often much less time to get the ball away in the pocket, and even when you do get a pass off, the linebackers and defensive backs appear to have gotten an AI upgrade and play better coverage to force incompletions and interceptions. Routes that were almost sure things in “Gen 3,” such as slants, are now much more tightly contested. In both of the games mentioned above with 200+ yard running games, my quarterbacks threw for under 200 yards as a result. It’s hard to complain about the passing game becoming more realistic and more difficult, however, as Madden NFL has needed improvement here for some time now.
As much as the CPU defense has improved, it feels as though user defense has gotten more difficult in the PS4 version of Madden NFL 25. Player switching seems a little sluggish and sometimes doesn’t give you the best player for the situation once a play is in action, and the CPU quarterbacks do a great job at reacting to play development more quickly as they are aware of the pocket crashing around them. Stopping the run on defense is about the same as it is in “Gen 3” when playing the AI, but stopping the pass seems more difficult thus far, especially since CPU turnovers have been fewer and further between. Hopefully the next version of Madden NFL on “Gen 4” consoles will see not just defensive improvement, but improvements keyed into the experience of playing defense as a user.
Special teams are essentially unchanged, though you may miss a field goal or two getting used to the new analog sticks of your console’s new controller in the early stages. Kickoff and punt returns seem to be toned down somewhat thanks to the implementation of “True Step” and the limitations that places on twitchy player movement. In “Gen 3” Madden NFL 25 I could return nearly to midfield on most kickoffs; on PS4, I’m finding myself only getting out to the 30 on average. The CPU still struggles at playing the field position game on punts, often happily punting straight down the middle of the field and into the end zone for a touchback when a “coffin corner” kick to pin the user deep in their own end could be attainable.
Unfortunately, penalties are also largely unchanged, at least from gameplay time spent so far; Madden NFL 25 on PS3 and Xbox 360 have notoriously low occurrences of penalty calls, and the PS4 version has been the same so far. If the goal is an accurate simulation of football as a sport, then the new console generation will need to represent a more realistic number and variety of penalty calls.
The PS4 game may carry the same name, but in terms of gameplay there are certainly enough differences to make for an adjustment period, and mostly for positive reasons.
If you bought Madden NFL 25 for PS3 or Xbox 360, you’ve already seen much of what the “Gen 4” version of the game has in store with regard to presentation. That said, the addition of what’s being called “Living Worlds” has added more detailed and varied crowd models in each of the NFL stadiums, and they do a better job reacting to the action on the field as big plays build up. You’ll also notice a big change with regard to crowd noise—namely, it’s louder and more appropriate to the NFL experience than it was in “Gen 3”—as well as the return to the forefront of some stadium chants (such as the “Who Dat” chant in the Superdome). It also sounds as though stadium-appropriate noises like the foghorn after 49ers touchdowns have made it into the game, adding some subtle touches which help hammer home the stadium experience for fans of those teams.
One new element of presentation which doesn’t work quite as well yet involves “Living Sidelines.” Sidelines are certainly more populated—and populated by more complex character models—than they were on PS3 and Xbox 360, and you can see these characters having some basic interaction with the game as its played on the field. However, one of the big advertised facets of this feature—players running from the field to the sideline at the end of a play and interacting differently whether they were on a “friendly” or “hostile” sideline—has yet to come into play for me in my time with the game thus far, despite intentionally trying to “trigger” these interactions. This is nothing that will make or break the experience, but for the time spent marketing this part of the game, it does under-deliver in its initial showing.
Outside of these presentation changes, there are also some new lines of audio for the commentary team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, as well as sideline reporter Danielle Bellini. The library seems to have expanded somewhat—perhaps there was more audio recorded than would fit on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions—and it seems that there are more anecdotes about players and coaches than in the previous version of the game. The actual play-by-play does still suffer from some repetition, however, as the game continues to build up a library of lines to be drawn from for the commentary duo now only in their second year for the game.
Celebrations are “back” in Madden NFL 25 for PS4, which is mostly to say that the cut-scene player-specific celebrations added in the “Gen 3” game this year—which sometimes didn’t trigger as often as they should—are appearing with more regularity in the “Gen 4” game.
Jumbotron and ribbon board graphics unfortunately remain unchanged, which is perhaps most galling if only because these graphics were introduced in Madden NFL 06 when it debuted for the Xbox 360 and have not seen any significant changes since then; they were unremarkable at that time. Hopefully the next version of the game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can see a long-needed change in this area.
As for the score bug and statistical overlays, they’re all essentially the same in “Gen 4” as they were in “Gen 3,” meaning it’s just as easy to skip through any stats before you even know they were going to be displayed. After the masterful job done by the NCAA Football 14 team at working statistical displays into the game without detracting from the experience and without allowing them to be easily overlooked, it’s hard to not be distracted by how poor these are done in Madden NFL 25.
Even the Halftime Show—which had essentially just returned to the franchise in the “Gen 3” version of the game—has been scaled back from its bare bones construction on PS3 and Xbox 360; those versions of the game featured some in-game highlights along with vignettes for the Halftime Show, while on PS4 the highlights are left out completely and the only thing shown are halftime stats and the same sideline vignettes while the booth talks to the sideline reporter. With the NCAA Football franchise left in limbo, hopefully the Madden NFL team has been able to bring on some staff members who can give the pro game a presentational overhaul.
Given that much of the focus on Madden NFL 25 for PS4 and Xbox One had to do with gameplay, the presentational issues are understandable and perhaps forgivable. However, in the future Madden NFL needs to leverage the basic things that NCAA Football has had in place—a “live” score ticker, studio updates, etc.—and make use of the increased development tools of the new console generation to truly deliver next-generation presentation.
Even though gameplay is king in video gaming, the beginning of a new console generation always has players clamoring over graphics and visual standards as they seek to find the ways in which the new consoles outperform the ones they already own. In this area, Madden NFL 25 on PS4 presents improved visuals in a familiar overall package.
With both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One capable of 1080P HD output, early gameplay videos which leaked from the game were bound to look underwhelming after YouTube or streaming compression got to them. On a good HD TV set, the difference is definitely noticeable from “Gen 3” to “Gen 4,” even though the gameplay camera view remains essentially unchanged.
Helmets reflect light more correctly on the new console, particularly at indoor stadiums or in rainy, snowy, or night games, which were always particularly ugly on the “Gen 3” consoles for Madden NFL and NCAA Football. On the topic of weather, rainy games see great uniform degradation through mud caking on players and their jerseys and pants, while snow games see a new level of accumulation on the field to improve the overall visual presentation. Player skin tones also look more realistic and react appropriately given the type of light in the game. For the discerning NFL detail hound (this author included in those ranks), the shades of color in team uniforms are also more correctly displayed in the new version of Madden NFL 25 as well, especially in direct comparison to the “Gen 3” titles.
Player body types are more varied in the “Gen 4” versions of Madden NFL 25 compared to the game that came out in August, but it can still be difficult to pick out a player by their body type at a glance; hopefully as the game further develops in this new console generation, we’ll eventually reach the point of players looking strikingly different from one another in tune with their real-life counterparts.
Animations are also cleaner as a result of the game moving on to next-generation consoles, boasting the same additional catching animations added over the past few installments as well as what looks to be a newly-revised running animation which looks more correct than the too-long strides of recent titles. Tackle animations and interactions remain largely impressive through the development of the Infinity Engine, though there are still occasional “wonky” animations on tackles or other collisions which break the immersion, especially considering the level of refinement afforded by the next-gen move.
Fields are also more visually impressive, looking more like the fields of NCAA Football 14 in terms of being visually striking compared to “Gen 3” Madden NFL 25. The new version of Madden NFL 25 also features some corrected field art which didn’t make the cut on PS3 and Xbox 360, including the new wordmark in the end zone at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots.
Although there are still strides to be made as the developers get used to working on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Madden NFL 25 represents the first step of improve visuals for the franchise and sets a new standard of expectations for what the franchise will look like going forward. Being able to save screenshots that are HD in 1920x1080 resolution natively from the PS4 "Share" feature also allows for painless sharing of your best moments, in high quality.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Madden NFL 06 when it was released on the Xbox 360 is that so many features were left behind in the generational transition. By comparison, Madden NFL 25 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is coming across from “Gen 3” with pretty much all features intact. You’ll find the game’s Connected Franchise Mode—where gamers can still choose to experience a NFL career as a Player, Coach, or Owner—as well as the popular and lucrative Madden Ultimate Team, Online Team Play, and the newly-rebranded GMC Never Say Never Moments (which previously existed as “Madden Moments Live”); though the latter two on that list are hidden away in the menu hierarchy and require some sleuthing to uncover.
The new Skills Trainer—introduced earlier this year in both NCAA Football 14 and Madden NFL 25—comes over as well, giving players who opted not to buy in on “Gen 3” consoles the opportunity to catch up on new controls and features. The “Madden Share” feature—which allows players to create their own gameplay sliders, rosters, and other files for sharing in the community—similarly transfers over, allowing players to find their desired gameplay experience in the brave new world of gaming consoles from day one.
Madden NFL 25 on “Gen 4” also boasts a new pause screen during gameplay which splits information and options into three separate screens instead of having a top-level text menu. The first screen displays current statistics from the game—including a new visualization of quarterback completion percentages—and the depth chart has a FIFA 14-esque visualization as well on the second pause menu screen. This new pause menu presents much more information at a glance than Madden NFL 25 on the previous consoles, which makes for a nice—and unexpected—improvement.
Finally, while the PS4 version of Madden NFL 25 does not boast the CoachGlass feature which will be found in the Xbox One version, the game does make use of the DualShock 4 controller’s touchpad for use to quickly call a timeout; all the player has to do is click the touchpad button and a timeout will be called. With the omission of a “Select” button from the DualShock 4’s design, it’s a good thing that this function has been re-mapped. The touchpad can also be used to motion a receiver on offense; you press the Circle button to choose your receiver, then swipe left or right on the touchpad to set them into motion in that direction.
As the flagship sports gaming franchise for EA SPORTS in North America, it’s become expected that the debut of a new gaming console will be accompanied by the newest version of Madden NFL. For NFL fans who are early adopters of the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, Madden NFL 25 is a purchase which is easy to recommend; the next version of the game won’t be released for another 9 months, and we are fast approaching the exciting home stretch of the NFL season as teams jockey for playoff positioning.
For players who are looking for a single game as a reason to upgrade to PS4 or Xbox One, however, it’s hard to say that Madden NFL 25 fits that bill by itself. The game is improved in many ways from the version released just three months ago, but it can hardly be called a console-seller on its own. While sports video games rarely fit this bill, it is important to make this distinction for consumers who might be on the fence about making the move to next-generation gaming at this time.
After an uneven “Gen 3” history for the Madden NFL franchise, Madden NFL 25 on PS4 is the beginning of a new era; an era begun by the release of a game which is focused strongly on pure gameplay requests as its selling points, even though features like revamped offensive and defensive line interactions do not make a “sexy” list of bullet points for the back of the box. The game is far from perfect, and there is still much to be done before the Madden NFL franchise can escape from continued criticism, but looking over the past eight years makes it clear that the game that is launching for PS4 and Xbox One is moving in a promising direction. The gaming community will continue to watch development of the series closely—and hold it to high standards, as should be expected of the exclusive NFL video game—but Madden NFL 25 for PS4 represents the best effort seen in the series since "Gen 3" began, and a solid starting point to build from for the next years to come.