Perfecting the Old Playbook
The Xbox One version of Madden looks better than any other Madden game made so far. The power of the next-gen renders both players and coaches in unsettlingly real detail. The might of the next-gen, however, wouldn’t make up for lackluster gameplay. Luckily, the gameplay here isn’t lackluster. Although the PS4 version of Madden 25 plays nearly identical to the Xbox 360 version, the great execution of an old plan makes it the most satisfying Madden game yet.
This year’s new additions impress on the Xbox One. Additions such as automatic cuts, the avoidance actions for the running back, and precision moves always feel fluid when done. In other Madden’s , performing a move such as a spin or a stiff arm on a defender results in both parties tumbling to the ground in an unnatural way. Nothing about the gameplay of this Madden is unnatural, and every move and cut seamlessly integrates itself into the play.
The options, like the gameplay, also receive some updates to help remove clunky bits. The in-game options, in particular, now have the same flare as the main-menu options. These new options highlight the sections of the menu with immediate impact on your game. In fact, the now easily accessible Super Sim has become one of my go-to functions. This nifty extra allows players to simulate through plays, quarters, and possessions. The Super Sim is available in the PS3 version as well, but it’s hidden inside other menu options, making it awkward to use.
EA touched up a lot of other minor details. The cameramen on the sidelines finally get to shine as something other than weird-looking splotches. The crowds, too, contain unusual detail. Actual people make up the cheering masses instead of a conglomeration of multicolored cardboard cutouts. And these cheering masses now cheer at appropriate times. Approaching the first-down marker on third and long sends them into an uproar, an uproar that only gets louder if you actually achieve that new set of downs.
The details on players and coaches add to the texture of the game. After a dropped ball, for instance, the camera sometimes cuts to the receiver’s face, where you can see his quiet anger and disappointment. The same thing happens to coaches. After a botched play or a terrible call, the game sometimes cuts to a coach waving his arm around in fury, his face showing rage. Also, each major player looks as if he received some attempt at making him resemble his real-life counterpart. In the previous generation of Madden , you were just as likely to see a representation of your favorite player as you were a generic player.
Not all improvements made to the game are superficial. The next-gen boost to the AI turns an easily exploitable defense into an impenetrable wall. The secondary guys benefit from this upgrade the most. In previous Maddens , the passing game could be approached like a standard boss battle, where winning consisted of finding the opponent’s weakness and exploiting it as much as possible to ensure victory. From what I’ve seen, no easy weaknesses exist in the secondary to be exploited.
Patching up weaknesses, however, is just the tip of the adjustments made to the opposing AI. Defenses are now much more unforgiving. Throwing passes into double coverage no longer results in the ball bouncing harmlessly off of the defender’s stiff hands. Interceptions are just as likely to occur as receptions. And thanks to the AI’s quicker reaction time, what appears like an open man could just be bait, as defenders will zero in on what looks to be a sure thing and turn your touchdown into a turnover.
The offence receives some improvements along with the defense. Linemen no longer become obstacles in your path during a running play. They move and shift in accordance with the action. More often than not, the linemen become assets in down-the-field runs, as relying on them to block incoming defenders is much more efficient than relying on fancy footwork.
Not all changes made to the game fall under the category of “improvements.” One of the more noticeable issues is the difference in frequency of injury. It’s common to see four or five players a game get carted off the field in injury. In one game, I lost the same quarterback to two different injuries: one for a few quarters, and then another that took him out for the remainder of the game. Injuries can be turned off, however, so this issue can be avoided by adjusting the options.
The announcers are another issue players may want to avoid. Despite the extra power of the PS4, the announcers rely on the same repetitive dialogue throughout a game. Before a player’s first exhibition match ends, they will have heard at least a few repeated phrases by the commentators. Also, the situational awareness of the dialogue is spotty. The same, semi-successful run play can either be a bold choice in “establishing dominance” or an unimaginative play call that will ensure the coach “can’t win a game.”
This game benefits in a few other ways by being on the next-gen hardware. One of the most surprising ways is in the autosave function. In the middle of a Connected Franchise game, I had to leave, and instead of exiting the game and saving, I put the system into standby mode. When I next booted up Madden , I was asked if I wanted to resume my Connected Franchise, which saved at the moment I turned the system off, mid-game. Also, the PS4 touchpad can be used to send receivers into motion, and Madden is also compatible with the Vita’s Remote Play capabilities.
One of the biggest complaints about Madden is that the game basically does the same thing every year. This next-gen iteration doesn’t carry enough innovation to counter that argument. However, this new Madden perfects the classic formula. With the best visuals for the series ever, and near-flawless gameplay aided by powerful hardware, Madden 25 for the Xbox One will satisfy Madden aficionados and casual sports gamers alike.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The players, coaches, and crowds look better than they ever have. The main gameplay receives a touch-up that makes it look sharper than its Xbox 360 counterpart. 4.5 Control
Madden 25’s fluid controls always perform the desired action. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The cheering crowd highlights tense moments well, but the announcers talk constantly, despite having little to say. 5.0 Play Value
Madden thrives on its replay value, and this new version might be the most re-playable Madden yet. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best