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Madden NFL 25

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 6 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Football)/ Simulation/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

As a casual football fan and someone who used to work retail, the incredible success of EA's Madden football sim kind of baffled me. Every now and then, I'd play a game, wondering exactly what about this year's version (save new rosters) warranted spending the amount of a full-priced release. So here we are. The beginning of a new console generation, and with every launch comes a slew of sports sims. So here are the questions. Is Madden NFL 25 fun? Absolutely. Does it look nice on the Xbox One? Yes, it does. Will it change the mind of anyone who questions the yearly release model? Well...

If there's one thing I really appreciate about EA Sports games, its that they are wonderfully presented and organized in the same general fashion, lending a sense of consistency to the brand. However, the game looks fine on the field, too. Maybe it's not as big a leap up as I expected or hoped it to be, but it's definitely competent. One issue I've always had with Madden was its failure to commit to the inherent violence of the sport. Collisions usually look pretty brutal on television (and even more so in person), but in Madden NFL 25, they usually don't. I'm not hoping for anything out of Blitz: The League, but as it is, it just doesn't look realistic, and by extension, primally satisfying like it is in real football.

I love how seriously televised NFL events take themselves. The bombastic music, whether pulled straight from action movie soundtracks or developed specifically for the events, always makes me laugh to myself, "this is for a football game." Madden NFL 25 replicates this silliness with gusto. The commentary by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms is mostly weak and offers little insight into what's going on in the game. But it smartly focuses on the past, which makes it feel more natural. I get that it must be difficult to come up with a solid commentary track for a game that changes and adapts to every single thing you do, but what's here just doesn't work at all. The licensed soundtrack covers all the bases it should, despite the inclusion of "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas.


Gameplay:

Gridiron football is a fascinating game because of its complex hybrid of both physical competition and chess-level strategy. The dependence these two facets have with each other makes something special and difficult to translate to a medium like video games. However, this series has been doing it well since its inception.

So in Madden NFL 25 (as it is in all football games), you take turns with another team, attempting to move the ball into the opponent's endzone through the use of special formations and patterns. Of course, while that goes on, the other team's job is to defend against the advances of the offense or try to regain control of the ball through interception or forcing a fumble. There's so much more to the game, it's impossible to lay it all out here. Football requires good time management skills, good reflexes, and a sharp strategic mind. Madden NFL 25's playing model is solid, but it doesn't feel like it's changed too much in the past years; considering that this one is explicitly named to celebrated the 25th anniversary of the series.

A good number of people believe that a sports game is only as good as the variety of modes that it offers. Madden NFL 25 is quite a healthy specimen in this regard; of course, you've got Exhibition and online play. Hardcore players will dig deep into their Connected Franchises and Ultimate Teams, and they will probably dabble in Roster Management, the Creation Center, and Coaching Options. More casual players might never touch that stuff.


Difficulty:

Not having messed with this series for so many years, I kind of feared getting back into it; I know exactly how competitive this community is, and I knew that whoever I would play my first match against would be receiving what was essentially going to be a free win. Of course, the offline game is accommodating and welcoming enough to bring over even those who have no belief in their abilities.

I'm impressed with the lengths EA Tiburon went to in order to smooth the otherwise vertical learning curve of the game itself. I'm a total football idiot. I know that certain situations call for certain kinds of plays, but I wouldn't really learn any of them without any help. Gameflow changes that by suggesting plays that are most commonly used in situations. Hardcore players will leave this feature in the dust, but morons like myself will gladly take them as training wheels.


Game Mechanics:

Learning the nuances of Madden NFL 25 is difficult, but if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded with a running game that is difficult to beat. If you want to run the ball in a straight line, you can certainly do so. But ramp up the difficulty, and merely carrying the ball forward is not enough. Football players don't simply run until they're brought down; they juke and jive, squirming like hell to get away from the defense. You can do that too, thanks to a number of precision modifiers that each have their own outcomes. Learning how to pull these off, figuring out their functions, and determining when to use them on the fly is a bit like juggling while on a unicycle, but man, is it an accomplishment when you end up in the endzone.

Kinect functionality is fantastic in Madden NFL 25, for the most part. Calling audibles and other associated commands is easy and responsive. The only hitch is on calling "Set Hut." The time lapsed between that final syllable and the snap is almost instantaneous in real life. Not so much in this game. While that's understandable (Kinect 2.0 is new and imperfect hardware), it's better to stick with the buttons on this one. Name recognition is stellar; for example, if I call "Colston," it knows that I'm talking about #12.

Madden NFL 25 is a solid entry in a franchise that will likely see a release until long after we are all gone. It doesn't take any particularly meaningful steps forward, though some of the innovations made during the transition to the Xbox One are impressive and most welcome. Give it time, though: I'm sure once EA Tiburon settles down into the groove of developing for new consoles, the innovations will keep rolling in, and the experience will keep getting better.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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