Even the most adamant of “Madden” fans don’t expect each new installment to be mind-blowingly original or reinvent the game of virtual football each time out, but with the series celebrating a landmark quarter century anniversary, you’d be forgiven if just this once you let those expectations be lifted in the hopes that “Madden 25” presents that significant leap forward that has eluded the franchise like cover boy Barry Sanders used to elude defenders.
If you are one of those that hoped the series would present an installment worthy of its biggest anniversary yet, then I’m sorry to tell you the short answer is, it doesn’t.
“Madden 25” continues where “Madden 13” left off, in that its main aim is to make the on-the-field part of the game more dynamic. Whereas “Madden 13” did that with a new physics engine, “Madden 25” adds precision modifiers, which allow you to pull off some enhanced moves in the run/after the catch play. Accomplished by using the left trigger or shoulder button at the optimal time, it’s a system that actually does benefit the running game tremendously and, for those willing to explore it, can create some pretty incredible highlight reel maneuvers, such as the ability to juke right after a spin and blow past multiple defenders. It’s reminiscent of the incredible “charge” ability in “NFL 2K5,” but with a flair all its own.
Off the field, the biggest addition (though it’s somewhat of a returning feature) is the Owner mode, which sees you take the role of owner and manage everything from soda costs to staff decisions. Like the precision modifiers, it’s a feature that benefits from some commitment and yields most of its entertainment from playing like a maniacal control freak a la Al Davis, making dangerously bold media comments that throw your staff under the bus or just saying screw it and moving the team to Portland, Oregon (FYI, my Oregon Hipsters are 2013 NFC champions). Considering you can still play your season in between the shenanigans, it’s actually my preferred franchise mode for the added options.
Those additions are nice, but it’s now officially inexcusable that the series’ biggest problems still remain. There still isn’t a quick season mode; you still can’t skip the pre-season with the press of a button; switching from week to week still has long loading times; offenses are still too pass heavy; dull menus are piled upon dull menus to navigate towards anything; the game’s pick up and play ability gets pushed aside more and more; crowds look terrible (seriously, what the hell?); announcers repeat lines stockpiled over years; the game will randomly just decide you’re going to lose and pile on misfortune on top of misfortune; presentation is inconsistent; and so on, and so on.
It’s really a shame that so many of those problems exist too, as certain elements (especially the running game) are as good as they’ve been in franchise history. When looking at “Madden 25” as a whole, though, you’re left with a sloppy experience that doesn’t put enough focus on making much-needed improvements to go along with the headline additions, and as a result, doesn’t justify the $60 asking price unless you are among the “Madden” hardcore or really crave a particular new feature and roster updates. If that isn’t you, then there’s no shame in sticking with “Madden 13” for another year, as it’s at least as good as “Madden 25” in several respects.
You’re forgiven if you expected more of “Madden 25” than the same old stuff, because the biggest “Madden” release to date could have built upon some of the exciting new additions introduced in “Madden 13” and easily been the best one yet. What’s unforgivable is that EA Tiburon blew that golden opportunity and chose to use the game’s big anniversary as a chance to celebrate its traditional one step forward, two step back progression system, instead of crafting a game that leads the prominent franchise into a new era of greatness.