Electronic Arts Sports and NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden teamed up in 1988 to bring the first John Madden Football video game. That version was only available on the Apple II and ultimately wasn’t a success due to the complex interface and slow-developing graphics. Throughout the years, however, the EA Sports team has fended off competition in the football gaming market and reigned supreme as the developers continue to improve gameplay to provide the closest rendition to real life football out there. Madden has come a long way in 25 years; here’s a clip of gameplay from the original game in 1988: gameplay video. And here’s gameplay from the latest version, Madden 25: gamplay video.
Madden has often gotten a bad rap in the PS3/Xbox 360 era for staying relatively the same from year to year. After playing Madden 25, this year’s version combats that trend. EA Sports has done a nice job of adding new features to make the game more comparable to the product on the field in real life. Of course there are tweaks that need to be made in order to smooth out the gameplay, as is the case in every year of Madden, but Madden 25 offers gamers the best rendition of real life football to date. Metacritic, a site that is well-known for rating video games, has Madden 25 at 75 out of 100, which is a product of “generally favorable reviews” from 11 critics. I put on my “critic” hat and decided to rate the highlights, and lowlights of Madden’s silver anniversary edition.
Connected Franchise -After introducing Connected Careers in Madden 2013, Madden 25 offers Connected Franchise, a significant improvement upon last year’s version on many levels. Connected Franchise still allows gamers to choose between controlling a player or coach, but it now adds an interactive owner mode. Owners are able to control their teams on the field, but now have the responsibility of front office decisions that affect the popularity and financial stability of the team. This particular feature is the highlight of the game in my opinion. Owners have the ability to change the prices of concessions and merchandise prices, upgrade their stadium, hire and fire staff as well as manage the product on the field. The amount of interactive features inside the owner mode will keep you entertained for hours on end.
Improved “Infinity Engine” -There was nothing more frustrating than seeing your players trip over each other in Madden 13. The idea of bringing life-like physics to a football game was genius, but the execution was poor in Madden 13 and the infinity engine left these NFL athletes looking extremely clumsy. Madden 25 brings a vastly improved physics engine to the table; hits are more realistic, blocking is smoother and now when you run into the back of your lineman you don’t fall over automatically.
Running game -The “Run Free” marketing technique behind Madden 25 advertised a new and improved running system to provide a more life-like experience to running the football in the game. Just as the read option (when he quarterback “reads” a defensive player and chooses to hand off the ball to the running back or keep it) has become a popular technique used in the NFL, Madden has implemented a new system that incorporates the read optionelement into the game by signifying which player to read.
Another feature that adds to the overall “run free” experience is the new precision modifier, which allows gamers to have total control of their runners with the ball in their hands. Using the left trigger combined with the right analog stick, gamers can utilize different moves to get around defenders. It is effective if used at the right time, however if you use it too often, your player fatigues quicker and will be taken down with ease.
Defensive gameplay -While EA Sports tuned up the running game and overall feel of controlling the offense, they seemed to negate making improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Man coverage is absolutely useless in this game at the moment; receivers get crazy separation from defensive backs and linebackers. In Madden 13, man coverage was over-powered, so I can understand a decrease in its effectiveness, but at the moment it is not usable — a happy medium could be obtained with a minor tweak. Generating any kind of pass rush is difficult as well, which allows the opponent to sit in the pocket with the quarterback until someone breaks away from a defender or finds a hole in zone coverage. Again, these are issues that I’m sure will be addressed in the next update.
Commentary – Madden has toyed with different combinations of announcers over the years, from John Madden himself, to Gus Johnson and Chris Collinsworth, then Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in Madden 13 as well as Madden 25 now. The duo of Nantz and Simms is CBS’ top broadcast team for their coverage of NFL football on Sundays. The commentary is bland at best and there seems to be no real change from last year with the overused generalized statements throughout the gameplay. While I get the fact that both Nantz and Simms are busy men, there’s no excuse for not creating more soundbites to enter into the game for all the kinds of scenarios that take place. It gets old, fast, when I hear Nantz saying, “And the defense is showing blitz,” every time I’m showing blitz. It’s not a major problem, and I know I’m getting nitpicky with this, but it would add to the realness factor tenfold with an improved commentary setup.
Final Verdict -Overall, I thought the game was very well done this time around. In a year where new gaming systems are coming out, the EA Sports team could have easily pumped out a game for PS3 and Xbox that hadn’t made significant changes and just focused on the next-gen games, but they didn’t. With minor tweaks to the defensive gameplay, Madden 25 will go down as the best game in the franchise to date. I’d give it four out of five stars.
This is the first story in the line of different topics in Madden that we will be breaking down here at the Center for Games & Impact.
Ross Dunham is the sports games writer for the Center for Games & Impact. Find out more about Ross here.