The Madden NFL franchise has evolved a lot since its introduction in 1988. Madden NFL 25 is also evolving as it makes the leap from Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms to the next-generation of game consoles. Powered by EA’s new engine, Ignite, Madden NFL 25 looks to step up its game in a big way as the series makes its debut on the latest console offerings. While many gameplay mechanics and modes remain largely unchanged from the current-gen versions, Madden NFL 25 for next-gen consoles is a more detailed, fancier, and smarter version of what Madden fans experienced back in August.
Those who are experiencing Madden 25, in general, for the very first time this year will certainly like what they see. Stadiums feel more alive than ever. Crowds have personality and react appropriately to the action happening on the field. They are not shy to voice how they feel. Score a touchdown after a long march down the field and the fans will express their joy and happiness with loud roars and screams. Throw a costly interception late in the game and get ready to be booed out of the stadium.
The enhancements toward overall atmosphere extend past just the crowds as well. Take a quick look at the sidelines and you are bound to notice the extra amount of activity occurring over the course of a game. Coaches pacing back-and-forth, players resting on the bench, cameramen rotating around, and much more. It is little, minute details like these that help to bring the Madden NFL presentation one step closer to truly replicating a real-life NFL broadcast.
Madden NFL 25 does look much better on next-generation consoles when compared to its current-gen counterparts, though this should not come as any surprise. Everything from the player’s uniforms, weather effects, crowds, all the way down to the individual blades of grass on the field, look more realistic and detailed. Footprints get left in the snow, grass stains smear all over jerseys, sweat glistens off of player’s skin. This is without a doubt the most lifelike version of Madden NFL yet, but yet still suffers from some glaring issues.
Extra effort certainly went into making player uniforms look and react properly to the environment around them, but players themselves still lack some of that same detail. Player’s faces show almost no expression at all, which is quite a disappointment when comparing this title to other sports games launching for next-gen consoles, most notably NBA 2K14, which brings the emotions and facial animations of players to life.
Coaches also got the short-end of the stick when it came to the proper treatment of their digital likenesses, though they do like better than then hulking giants for coaches found in Madden NFL 13. Most of the coaches share nearly the same, identical body types with the only major differences coming in the way of their actual faces. Some players are also missing signature details like 49er’s QB Colin Kapernick not having a single tattoo on either one of his arms. Yes, some of these issues may seem like minor complaints when you look at the big picture, but when you try to deliver the most authentic and true to life representation of televised NFL games, even the smallest missed fine points are noticeable.
The all-new Ignite engine, which powers all of EA Sports’ next-gen sports titles, looks to be the future for sports video games contributing to ultra-fluid and precise animations. Not only do player animations look smoother and more seamless than ever before, but the intelligence and awareness of AI-players has also been risen. The Player Sense system allows for all players on the field to constantly scan and understand everything that is happening around them. This is not a gimmick folks. AI advancements have led to smarter play on the field, on both sides of the ball.
On defense, cornerbacks know to read receivers and shut them down, jumping routes and applying proper amounts of pressure. Linebackers don’t just move sideline-to-sideline now. They can also read the entire field properly, shutting down gaps faster than ever before, attacking ballcarriers more ferociously, and reading passes and adjusting their bodies in order to make the pick and return it for six.
For offenses, the same changes to AI are also there to be found. Running backs know when to hit the gaps, and turn on the gas to power through gaping holes in the defense. Quarterbacks react more realistically to outside pressure from linemen and linebackers. Receivers get physical with corners fighting to hit their route precisely and make the perfect catch.
The game of football is won or lost in the trenches. One common problem for the Madden series for the longest time was the battle in the trenches, as blocking assignments were never properly taken care of, linemen would get stuck to one another, impossible to get near the QB, and a whole slew of other issues made one of the most critical aspects of football a flawed trait for one of the biggest sports video game franchises. This has been fixed for Madden NFL 25 for next-gen consoles.
Offensive lineman understand who to block, when to rotate to help with the double-team, open gaps for running backs, and much more. They also provide a better sense of security for their QB, which was a massive problem in previous years. Proper pass protection is more evident than ever leading to better and more authentic QB play. Offensive and defensive lineman are in a constant chess match reacting to each other’s decisions, fighting for every single yard.
To help balance out the extra attention offensive pass-and-run blocking received for Madden NFL 25, new improvements were also made for defensive linemen. More than 300 new pass rush animations were added making it easier to shed blockers and get the sack or force erratic passes. Most of these additions are more noticeable with defensive ends, who are more likely to get to the QB before anyone else, yet you will encounter many defensive tackles who will bulldoze their way through an entire O-line to hit their target.
Madden NFL 25 represents a huge step forward in terms of player-AI and how important the battle of linemen is to the overall game experience. It is not a key element that is apparent when in-game, but take some time to watch an instant replay and appreciate the effort that has gone into making the war of 300lb linemen a thing of beauty.
Madden NFL 25 features the new True Step locomotion system, which accounts for player’s weight and momentum in order to produce some of the most organic animations in Madden NFL history. Foot planting and step animations are important, as many variables are taken into consideration making simple maneuvers such as jukes, stiff arms, and spins look and feel fluid and consistent when performed. No longer will players use these moves unless they realistically can. It is a truly dynamic system that uses so many calculations to precisely and accurately produce some of the most detailed player animations and movements in Madden.
Some animations still remain a bit jerky at times even with this brand-new system in place. Gang tackles can get a bit messy. Hit a wide receiver with the ‘Hit Stick’ across the middle and watch them hit the ground in a ridiculous manner. Players trip over one another under the weirdest circumstances. The animations, on most occasions, look great, but we might have to wait until next year’s Madden to see a major improvement with the Ignite engine and many animations, but it is far from terrible and nothing that hinders the game that much.
Madden NFL 25 also features plenty of game modes to keep players occupied. Connected Franchises has players either taking the role of player, coach, or owner. There is also Madden Ultimate Team for those who want to create the perfect super team. Players can compete in Head-to-Head seasons with Ultimate Team. The season consists of 10 games culminating with an eight-team playoff at the very end of the season. Those who perform the best throughout the season are able to earn rewards, a higher spot in the bracketing for the playoffs, and maybe even a first-round bye.
Madden NFL 25 marks a great first step for the future of Madden on next-gen consoles. It is far from perfect, but I am certainly anxious to see what kinks EA Sports can iron out for Madden NFL 15. The Ignite engine has a lot of potential and will likely get better with time, leading to added realism in many areas and a better, more responsive game over the next few iterations of the series. This may not be “THE” sports game to purchase at the launch of either new console, but for those skipped out on the current-gen version of Madden NFL 25, this might be worth a quick look if you are interested in hard-hitting NFL action.
(This review was completed using the Playstation 4 version of Madden NFL 25.)
*Complementary copy of the game was provided by the developer for review purposes.