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Madden NFL 25 review: Silver anniversary


Over the years, the Madden series has seen a number of features debut, disappear, and even return again. These features ranged from Madden 11's fairly useless and Old Spice-sponsored Swagger player rating to Madden 06's much-maligned vision cone. EA Sports is celebrating the series' 25th anniversary with Madden 25, a game that brings some of the better features seen in the series together in one package.

Generally, the game's on-field play is much better than that of Madden 13. Last year's overly-effective man coverage has been tuned down, and the ease of leading both streak and wheel routes to the far inside of the field, perpetually out of the reach of defenders is a thing of the past. EA Tiburon also introduced a better read option system in Madden 25 this year, in that the game identifies which defenders to watch out for when calling the tricky plays where both the quarterback and running back are a threat to run with the ball in their hands. Madden 25 also includes the new version of the physics engine first introduced in Madden 13, the Infinity Engine.

Gallery: Madden NFL 25 (4/25/13) | 10 Photos

Several tweaks to the Infinity Engine this year have resulted in far fewer instances where players trip over one another. Whereas runners had a difficult time with the physics and collision detection of Madden 13, they will have an easier go in Madden 25. Blocking has been upgraded immensely, and the introduction of the "precision modifier," mapped to the controller's left trigger, offers a greater variety of ball-carrier moves and is nothing short of a game-changer in the transition from last year's game.

At first, stutter-stepping with the precision modifier before pressing an additional button or using the right stick to attempt to juke or spin around a defender felt gimmicky, and left me feeling uncoordinated when I was constantly tackled near the line of scrimmage. In due time, I found the sweet spot with a variety of rushers, from slower power runners like Green Bay's Eddie Lacy to the Titans' speedster Chris Johnson. I found that the new rushing moves are best used sparingly, and just like real life, shouldn't be expected to operate as sure-fire ways to break tackles.

In Madden 13, players could not reliably run between the tackles on either side of the offensive line, thanks to the sensitivity of collisions in the Infinity Engine. Madden 25 has swung things in an entirely different direction, as every running back in the game seems like a viable threat to move the chains. After swapping out the Jets' offensive line and tuning run blocking down to zero in the game's slider settings, I found myself pulling off five-yard gains with the team's 74 speed-rated fullback. On my first read option attempt with QB Greg McElroy under center, I ran for a touchdown with the 64 speed-rated player. In Madden terms, these are quite slow, trudging players performing in exceptional ways that you just don't see on Sundays. Madden 25 is in dire need of some tuning to help balance the running game.

Madden 13 marked the introduction of Connected Careers, a mode that combined three career modes into one umbrella section of the game. This year, that mode was taken to the next level in Connected Franchise, which brings elements from past games like NFL Head Coach to the forefront in its new owner mode. By becoming the owner of an NFL franchise in Connected Franchise, players can still control their team on the field, but are also tasked with front office decisions that affect the profitability of the team. Wrapped in a beautiful new menu system (an excellent and easy-to-understand user interface that's pervasive throughout the whole game), owner mode features sections for setting concessions and merchandise prices, hiring and firing your staff, speaking to the media, issue stadium upgrades and more. As an owner, I found myself paying close attention to my finances every virtual week and taking the "fan feedback" sections into account when adjusting the price of items like hot dogs and chicken salad.

Among the options in owner mode, players can also relocate teams to one of 17 cities. It seems like an unreasonable restriction at first, but EA Tiburon opted to make each city and its also-limited team name options stand out as being more realistic. Turning the Dallas Cowboys into the Oklahoma City Bisons resulted in a team with a logo and colors that actually looked like something that could debut in the NFL, and they were greeted with appropriate banter from the game's returning commentary team, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. After discovering that the mode's quick-save option would create a new career mode file instead of overwriting it, I opted to jump back into an earlier version of one connected franchise and make different decisions for my Bisons, only to pleasantly find my team moving in a different direction the second time around with my new decisions. Players can also import their NCAA Football 14 draft classes to Connected Franchise this year and control all 32 teams if they so choose, two options woefully missing from Madden 13.

You can also start your Connected Franchise with a custom-made roster file, and it can be one made by another player entirely. This is thanks to the game's Madden Share feature, which allows players to share, download and rate items like playbooks, skill slider settings and team roster files. The process of sharing these items is seamless, and the prospect of downloading new playbooks to check out as well as custom rosters from a devout Madden community proves exciting. There wasn't much to see during the review period other than a handful of custom playbooks, though I sincerely hope one ambitious player takes it upon themselves to recreate classic powerhouses like the 1985 Chicago Bears and offer those teams up in Madden Share.

The game that marks the series' silver anniversary offers a good mix of features introduced in the games that came before it. Connected Franchise, with the introduction of owner mode, is a great realization of digital NFL ownership offerings seen in the past, while the new ball-carrier moves push the game forward. Of course, Madden 25 could use an update or two to iron out the Infinity Engine and blocking system's tendency to let nearly any running back plow through the defense. The Madden series, year in and year out, is typically rough in some areas while remaining an enjoyable way to get your football fix. I wouldn't expect that to change 25 years in, and it certainly hasn't.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL 25, provided by Electronic Arts.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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