In the UK and most of Europe, Madden is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. Fans of the NFL, or even those who just understand how to play the game generally find it a great representation of the sport and one that is insanely fun, whilst those who don’t understand the rules and regulations generally dismiss it as some iffy American import. However, the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game may split opinion even more than usual.
The 360/PS3 versions of the game received good reviews, but had little that changed the formula except for greatly improving the running game. However, on next-gen consoles the running game has once again changed, making it even more realistic, resulting in less big running plays.
Momentum has finally been added, so no longer can a ball carrier turn on the spot or juke in the opposite direction instantly. This has had a massive impact; players have to think further ahead in order to outsmart defenders with spins or quicksteps. It takes a long time to get used to and will lead to a lot of runs which are cut short due to not being able to perform that crucial move.
After a few hours, especially if playing as a running-focused team, you will become more accustomed to the momentum of backs and although you won’t be able to perform amazing running plays like in previous versions, you should be able to reliably rush for a first down consistently. The new running game is likely to split opinion but personally I like it. The addition of momentum makes the game more realistic but it massively reduces the amount of breakaway running plays, which have always been a highlight of the Madden series. It took some getting used to, but with some perseverance I grew to like it a lot more.
The passing game remains very similar to previous versions, with barely any noticeable differences. The throwing animations are slightly improved and QB’s can no longer throw passes at about 1000 miles per hour, which also means no more receivers letting the ball hit their helmet and fall incomplete – or at least it hasn’t happened in the time I have had with the game. Fortunately, the controls have not changed and feel as good as ever on the new Xbox One controller.
Defensively, the extra processing power has resulted in much smarter AI who can register where a pass is being thrown before it leaves the Quarterback’s hand and can identify play action much quicker. The offensive and defensive lines have also become smarter, they will react to each other and the whole line will work as one unit and not individuals.
The improved defensive AI leads to quite a few more interceptions but is a massive improvement from the 360 and PS3. Players now respond to on-field events like they would in real life which, much like the added momentum, leads to a much more simulation-like experience. However, once a play has ended, the comedic collisions show up again. Players will often trip over a player who is returning to their feet, or two players on the ground will become entangled in the most unnatural positions. Unfortunately, this significantly detracts from the realism of the game.
The extra power of the new consoles has allowed the development team to improve many of the visual features such as the crowds and stadiums, the player clothing, the vastly populated sidelines and the grass. The improvements are certainly noticeable, but only in the replays and camera cuts. When in the standard gameplay camera angle it doesn’t look much different to the previous games.
Unfortunately, during these replays there are still a few issues, most noticeably the character models, which are quite poor. The proportions of players’ bodies seem somewhat unnatural and some players are missing key physical features. Colin Kaepernick, the Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has numerous tattoos running the length of both his arms, but in Madden 25 his arms are clean with no tattoos in sight. Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers has some impressive blond locks but in Madden 25 it looks like he has five or six massive blond spikes coming out of his helmet. These two aren’t the only examples, with some players being almost unrecognizable.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in this area is the way the crowd responds. If you manage to break out with a big run, or return a fumble for a touchdown, the crowd will roar like never before, but when you’re not doing too great they will let you know about it with a chorus of boo’s.
Unlike the last console transition, all the game modes that are present in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game are available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Madden Ultimate Team, or MUT for short, is the game mode I have spent the most time with and have amassed a relatively impressive squad. Some of the time sensitive “challenge” achievements will reward gamers who unlock them with more players or other cards for use in MUT. The current achievement for completing a single match within the first two weeks of launch gifts players a 90-rated Calvin Johnson, Jr. card – which is nice.
Also making a return is the Connect Franchise mode, which has all the depth offered on the previous versions, as well as the online head to heads and online team play, the standard Play Now mode and the always-useful skills trainer. Finally, hidden away in a sub menu, is the ever entertaining Never Say Never Moments which see you trying to relive or change footballing moments from each week of the season. Fans will definitely not have to worry about a lack of modes to play.
VERDICT: Madden NFL 25 on Xbox One won’t win any visual awards, as it only looks marginally better than its last generation counterparts. The extra power of the new machines is more effectively used on the AI, which is vastly smarter than ever before. The changes to the running game are infuriating at first but really become great once you’re accustomed to them, and the passing game, although not as prominent compared to previous years, is still great fun.
Madden NFL 25 is certainly a good foundation for EA to build upon, but some work needs to be done on the player models, the gameplay visuals and the collision physics before a future Madden title can become a true and realistic simulation.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.