Madden 25 Review: stark, but flawed, emulation to PS4’s anticipated Ignite engine

The Ignite engine that’s been advertised at every event where Electronic Arts has touted its sports titles has made each game look better than it ever has. The thought of universal functionality with one game engine would make any developer excited, and, with annualized titles like Madden in the fray, fans can only hope that such a drastic change will bring about more substantial ones in the years to come. However, the hopeful Ignite engine is still three months off, since the current-gen version of Madden still sports the frustrating Infinity engine, but it’s not without its positives.

Consider Ignite the Infinity engine’s older sibling, and Infinity is trying to live up to what Ignite can do. In light of all the expected changes to the game, EA has rehashed the existing Madden formula on current-gen consoles to emulate what’s to come. Take the Precision Modifier function for example: while holding R2, you can do much more pronounced moves, such as jukes, spins, and trucks, and the animations look great, considering that players on screen are beginning to move more and more like players on television. One thing that I’ve always wanted in Madden is the ability to do some of the outstanding things that players like Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, and Reggie Wayne can do in a pinch, and this is one big step closer to recreating their abilities; though the back shoulder fade needs a lot of work.

One thing that the Infinity engine did to Madden 13 was it made running the ball easy–way, way too easy–and that centers around the way that you can simply move the joystick and have players change direction without any loss of speed or momentum. Sure, real NFL players can do this, but not every time and not all the time. In Madden 12, only players with very high agility were able to move with any sort of inking of mobility like this, and now players are only affected by their speed and not agility. Granted, this increases returns and makes grasping the game much easier for new gamers, but it sure as hell bores the thumbs off me. Hopefully, this is mere ease-of-access convenience to make the last front-running Madden title feel more tantalizing to those who are considering coughing up $60 twice for it and the next-gen version.

One major difference between Madden 25 and 13 is that defenses here are much more conscious. Player mistakes seem realistic, and watching a cornerback reeling to catch up to a streaking wide receiver after biting from a pump fake never looked more realistic. In contrast, linebackers no longer have that magic ability to jump 20 feet in the air and ball hawk like supermen; they’re still ball hawks, but their abilities are in the realm of reality. On this note, I’m happy to announce that audibles have been successfully rehashed–on both sides of the ball. No longer are you bound by only having four plays to choose from in a hurry-up offense. Now, you can cycle through each playbook formation and choose four major plays at any time from each one, so playing at a fast pace is much more customizable and manageable.

Also featured in 25 is an auto-target tackling system, which works about as well as Russian Roulette. Players can now stretch out farther to attempt tackles, but missing was commonplace, even when the ball carriers didn’t make jukes or fast movements. Luckily, some tackles don’t take much contact–much like when my tackler touched the ball carrier only on the shoulder and the carrier went down–so some work in this department could easily hash this out in a future software update.

Game modes are still here. Connected Careers still keeps all franchise modes, including the new Owner Mode, in the same realm, you can play online against other gamers in Connected Careers, exhibition games, and Madden Ultimate Team, but the latter has the biggest change, and I felt it in NCAA 14 as well: online seasons. You now assemble a motley crew of players by gaining cards through buying packs, earning gold medals in the new Training Mode, and completing challenges based on old and new NFL stories, and you take these players to the online season mode; you can still play exhibition games against players and the CPU, but only the season games are ranked. Each season is ten games long, and you can qualify for the playoffs and first-round bye weeks if you earn enough wins, and you can take it all the way to the Super Bowl this way. This is a very cool concept, but, like how it was in NCAA, trying to win against other players can be challenging, especially since online football plays nothing like traditional football, so tread lightly and expect the unexpected; Trophy hunters: you have to win the MUT Super Bowl for a Trophy, so keep this in mind. Madden 25 tends to take a focus on this mode and coax you into exploring the card pack store to spend money on cards, which acts more like a phone app rather than a $60 console game. Surely, this is EA’s way of replacing the freshly-dropped online passes.

The display has taken a new likeness of Windows 8, and it makes some things better and still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The main screen changes according to how you’ve been playing by featuring the last few modes or saves that you’ve played without having to navigate through slides of applications to find what you’re looking for. However, in doing so, plan to wait longer for the gaming to start, because loading between menus increases drastically when compared to accessing the dedicated application from the main screen. Still, even with the hefty loading, the new UI skin is refreshing.

Madden 25 is really a Madden fan’s game. Every loading screen features a tidbit of what has changed over the years that Madden has been around, and it’s hard to remember that some features that we take for granted were added so long ago as featured changes, such as the addition of Instant Replay in 1992 and Dynamic Passing in 2009. Really, Madden has been around for a long time, and this is the game that appreciates that fact. Madden fans: certainly you’re going to buy this game anyway, but you’ll be the ones that enjoy it for all its worth.

Madden 25 on current consoles has enough to bring players in, but it lacks the overall depth of gameplay to really grasp those who want more than a point-and-click experience. The nostalgia factor brings a lot to the table, and the Ultimate Team changes are quite enticing for those who wish to dwell in the EA servers next to hundreds of players who tend to quit games when losing, but with each addition to the game, another issue surfaces with it. Even with the Precision Modifier adding a beautiful, robust collection of player animations, it all comes down to knowing that something that holds much more potential is only three months away with the next-gen consoles. It’s not all here "in the game," but it’ll whet your appetite if you really need it.



The Final Word

Madden 25 is what Madden fans want: updated rosters, controls, and schemes, but it's not a game changer. Consider this more of a preview for what's coming in the next generation rather than an equated version.