Madden NFL 25 PS4 Review: Return to the gridiron

This review focuses only on the differences between the PS3 and PS4 versions of Madden NFL 25, so read our full verdict of the parts of the game that the two versions have in common.

The Ignite Engine has a lot of potential behind it; put simply, running has never reached this level of realism before. Cutting outside is no longer the easy way out for Madden players, which is a testament to the Ignite Engine for bringing the game back within the realm of authentic NFL football. Players even lean slightly when changing running direction, which genuinely looks great, and players now avoid a lot of the little things that would have tripped up players in Madden 13, making the focus on what to do rather than how to do it.

Then again, the "how" is still more important than ever. Unlike how the animations worked on PS3, players are now forced to play in gridiron fashion and react against opponents rather than simply running around them; the free and simplistic movement that I commented against in my PS3 review is gone. Now, even using Precision Mode isn’t automatic, as defenders react to the ball carrier and pursue much more competently, so timing and situational luck are the keys. This mechanic still needs work, since lower stats almost gimps a player from being able to react off the ball, but the workings of something authentic are finally in place in the Madden franchise.

In addition, defenders now react to the ball more naturally. Corners will put their hands up to blindly defend against a pass if their covered receiver plays on the ball, and executing this action as a player feels right. Simply tapping Triangle at the right time makes the player lift his hands in desperation to deflect the pass, and defenders no longer try to turn towards the ball to catch it when they’re not looking. Again, the realism is coming around, and it’s for the better, making Madden feel less like a game and more like a sport.

Meanwhile, menus and the user interface in general are extremely quick-to-load, so much so that thinking about the PS3 menus now agitates me. The massive amount of loading between menu choices and switching between game modes was atrocious, especially compared to the two-second times that the PS4 version totes. One particular low point on PS3 was when I clicked on Resume Connected Careers rather than manually choosing the Career I wanted to play. Now, the time it takes to load the quick load option is as fast as doing it manually, which is impressively zippy; I no longer feel like I’m wasting time staring at menus instead of playing football.

That said, many of the Madden issues on PS3 are still here, but many of them are minor. However, the summation of mild problems can feel significant. For instance, much like the PS3 version, wind is never labeled properly. When the wind gauge says that the wind is blowing east, it’s actually going west, and compensating a kick to counter that is infuriating when the ball flies off to the side from which the wind is apparently blowing. Another issue is how players play off the ball, especially after a catch. Even while holding the joystick in the same motion before and after a catch, the player often seems to have an inherent need to turn up field, especially when within five yards of the field boundaries. Managing the clock can become problematic, too, as some players will try to turn up field automatically, only to be tackled in bounds, leaving the clock running.

The new running game makes for a very rugged experience that rewards players willing to dedicate to the run game as defenses naturally tire out, but Madden needs a bit more implementation for this realism to be fully… realized. Defenders still shed blocks with ease a lot of the time, and blockers tend to make bad decisions about their assigned targets and how to hold them. Blocking tends to focus more now on where the ball is, so running south and out of the pocket as a quarterback actually puts the defenders in a bad position, which is as it should be. Still, the moment that the ball moves anywhere out of the pocket, defenders are suddenly chasing after the ball and not reacting to their blockers while the blockers are still focused on their defenders. The realism isn’t quite there yet, but better defense AI would be a good starting point for next year’s edition.

Online modes work really well. Of course, they’re dependent on the players’ internet connections, but the hiccups usually take place before plays start, making the gameplay smooth and unhindered by latency.

Though Madden 25 is a technical improvement to the PS3 release in August, issues are still in place to make this game a questionable purchase for anyone who’s not a fan of the series. The Ignite Engine is a wonderful addition, and the run game is better than ever, in terms of realism, but the change in focus from an almost arcade-like Madden 25 on PS3 to a gridiron, traditional Madden 25 on PS4 might be off-putting. Be warned that the next generation of Madden still has its traditional issues, but the issues are outweighed by a long-needed change in the running game.




The Final Word

The running game is traditional, and NFL enthusiasts will dig into the experience with a gridiron fist. The common issues with past Madden games still linger, but the pros are beginning to outweigh the cons for the first time in a while.