Review: Madden NFL 25 (PS4)

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Title: Madden NFL 25
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (13.1 GB)
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
Madden NFL 25 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
The PlayStation 4 Disc version was used for this review.

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our PS3 coverage of Madden NFL 25.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 349 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Now in the 25th year of the franchise (hence the name) and having the exclusive rights to the NFL for nearly a decade, the game has seen its ups and downs (remember the Vision Cone?). Stepping into a new platform for the first time can be a daunting task, this time even more so since Madden NFL 25 is a launch title. For this review, I’ll be focusing on some of the bigger changes and how they impact the gameplay.

First and foremost is the running game. While it really felt like EA Tiburon has finally found the right balance, there’s a noticeable difference in the movement of the players this time around due to the all new EA Sports Ignite Technology. The much improved physics allow for much more realistic animations and reactions than anything we’ve seen in the past. It’s an upgrade from the already improved PS3 version and it bodes well for the future of the franchise. In the open field, nothing ever looks canned, with players twisting, spinning and diving with a level of realism previously unseen in Madden. The “Run Free” system allows you to execute a whole new series of moves, jukes and spins designed to leave defenders bewildered and the key is in the Precision Modifier.

You have essentially the same button presses as before, Circle for spin, Cross to stiff arm and so on, but adding in L2 makes your moves that much better and stronger. So, say you’re headed for a seam and a defender gets in your way, you can perform a truck move by pushing forward on the Right Stick and you may or may not be able to knock the defender out of your way. Adding the Precision modifier however will get you lower to the ground and generating more force allowing you to knock most defenders aside.

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There’s also a new stumble recovery mechanic available. When you’ve been hit and you start to stumble, pull back quickly on the Right Stick and, if you time it correctly, you’ll regain your balance just like a pro. If you don’t think you can pull it off or you’ve got defenders closing in from all sides, push forward to dive and fight for those precious extra yards.

You can string together combinations of moves to stay on your feet and moving towards the End Zone but really the trick lies in the timing. You can’t just hold down the precision modifier and expect to run all over the defense. Think of it as an adrenaline burst, something that’ll lose effectiveness and needs time for recovery. It takes some practice, but with good timing and the right button combinations, you’ll have a truly effective ground game.

This is even more apparent in the PS4 version as the Ignite Engine steps to the forefront, adding a layer of realism to the movement of every player on the field, it’s really quite impressive. The players no longer have a scripted feel to their movements and they each move individually instead of moving to the line of scrimmage and bending down in unison awaiting the snap of the ball.

The other big addition this year is the Connected Franchise mode. Allowing you to play as a Player, Coach or Owner, handling the responsibilities of each. Aspects of the Owner mode have appeared in previous versions of the game, Madden NFL 2004 in particular where you could set prices for seats, concessions, parking and more as well as upgrade or build a new stadium and hire and fire coaching staff. The big difference here is in how everything is integrated along with the sheer volume of options you have at your disposal.

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Progression of players and coaches comes with now with more XP being awarded with everything you do and it’s easier to see everything at a glance with the new menu layout. You’ll need to listen to your advisers and take the fan feedback into account when making decisions or you could find it tougher to make money. You’ll need that to run the day to day operations, hire better coaches and attract and sign top-tier talent, all in a bid to reach the Super Bowl.

EA has also included a ton of legen – wait for it – dary players and coaches for the Connected Franchise Mode, over 50 actually. Some need to be unlocked, but the list includes past stars like Barry Sanders, Deacon Jones, Deion Sanders, Night Train Lane, Mean Joe Greene, Joe Montana, Mike Ditka (as a player and coach), Reggie White, Walter Payton, Dick Vermeil, Joe Gibbs, John Madden and Vince Lombardi to name a few.

Visuals:
The visual differences may not be apparent immediately, but there’s definitely a bump from the previous generation. Things just look a little bit smoother, a little bit more realistic. What’s nice is the addition of hundreds of new animations and scenes to play out between actual plays on the field. You’re not stuck looking at the same five or six things over and over again anymore.

Unfortunately, the same presentation issues that were present in the PS3 version have made their way to this new version as well. Every time out is punctuated by a few players coming over to the sidelines for water. It’s the same every time, right down to the guy with the water pointing the bottle anywhere but you mouth. Most likely in an effort to save development time, the stadiums were pulled in from the previous generation and just “fancied up” a bit. Not that they don’t look great, they really do. Crowds especially look fantastic this time around, but when I started up my first game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and still saw the old Spectrum (which was torn down in 2011) through one of the openings in the End Zone, it was a bit of a let down.

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The players tend to look and move in a believable way and the new Ignite Engine really does a lot to add to the realism on the field. There’s a definite bump from the PS3 with better lighting, smoother lines and a more realistic atmosphere overall. There’s still work to be done however. While your players will kick up grass on the field, it quickly disappears and you leave no real marks on the turf. Upgraded stadium modeling and better attention to detail around the sidelines would also go a long way in the next version. Seeing the same cameramen copy/pasted around the edges of the field stinks and just feels like laziness on the developer’s part.

The menu system has received a significant overhaul and it has sorely needed it. It’s taken on the tiled system that’s all the rage in design circles nowadays and when it first loaded I really felt like I was on the Dashboard of the Xbox 360 (minus the ads). I have to say, it’s pretty much perfect. With all the different game modes and options, the new menus shine.

Finding different game options and features is now dramatically easier which makes for a much better experience overall. Having everything in large tiles also allows the system to give you more information at a glance and it’s really one of the most important changes in the game this year.

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Audio:
Well the commentary is… commentary, I guess. It’s really not that great, with a lot of repetition and not a lot of player names being called out. A lot of work needs to be done in this department as, unfortunately, it tends to be the lowest priority in most of the EA Sports games.

The rest of what you’ll hear on field is pretty good. EA Tiburon has been building up a sizable sound library for quite some time and they’ve put it to good use here.

Online/Multiplayer:
Multiplayer works great here and with everyone having headsets it should make a big difference… as long as people use them. Madden Ultimate Team is back with a few tweaks. Chemistry returns in the form of play styles. You’ll need to choose a captain for your team so it’s best to pick someone that fits into your style. Wanting to go with a Speed Run offense, I picked LeSean McCoy as my captain. This gave the team an immediate boost and translated into a much stronger team overall on the field. Along with new 10 game seasons leading into an 8 team playoff format, there’s definitely something worth checking out.

Madden Share is another sweet new feature designed to take advantage of all the User Generated Content that surrounds each release. With its own dedicated section in the menu, you’re able to upload and download custom Rosters, Sliders, Playbooks and more. What’s even more crazy is the ability to mix Playbooks resulting in a sort of Franken-book with the best of each team.

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Having them all in one place easy to access and rated by the community takes a lot of the searching and guesswork out of finding those crazy custom rosters you’re looking for and it’s a welcome addition.

Conclusion:
It’s Madden, as always. The menu overhaul alone is one of the most significant things to happen to the franchise in a long time. For years, the EA Sports games have been adding more and more features and the menus just haven’t been able to keep up. Being able to find a game option easily is a feature that can’t be underestimated.

As a launch title it fares quite well. The game looks better and plays a little smoother than its PS3 counterpart which is to be expected. It’s also pretty obvious where they cut corners to hit the PS4’s launch date. Compared to early EA Sports offerings on the PS3, this is off to a much better start and bodes well for the future of the Madden franchise on the PS4.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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