Unlike NHL 14 and its inspired throwback to its roots via the quite brilliant, NHL 94 Anniversary Mode, a mode which essentially transformed the modern game into a high-def take on its 16-bit, Mega Drive era ancestor, Madden NFL 25 has, well, bugger all really. Other than a fancy intro video and a few loading screens highlighting different milestones achieved in the series’ long and illustrious history, there really is very little here that you wouldn’t find from a standard yearly update.
Still, saying that, what you do get is one of the better yearly updates that the Madden team have delivered in quite some time. It may not bring anything immediately ground-breaking to the table, but the combination of subtle refinements to last year’s excellent Infinity Engine, increased polish throughout and a deceptively impressive update to the passing, and in particular, the running game, and Madden NFL 25 actually stands as a fine example of what can still be achieved on current gen hardware. Sure, the next-gen version doesn’t really add much, and as a visual showcase, fails to wow in the same way as other launch titles have, but taken on its own merits, Madden NFL 25, be it on current or next-gen consoles, represents a fine way to celebrate the series’ anniversary, even if the package fails to celebrate its past in the same way as its ice based counterpart.
At a glance, Madden NFL 25 is almost a spit of its highly successful predecessor. It looks great of course, but initially, you could almost be tricked into believing that you’re playing the same game as last year. After the snap though, that all changes, and the improvements to both the offensive and defensive side of the game make themselves apparent for all to see. While the defensive side has been beefed up, with interceptions now easier to pull off and tackles feeling more brutal and lifelike than ever before, it really is the offensive side of the package that makes Madden NFL 25 standout from its immediate predecessor.
This improvement comes largely from the all new precision modifier which, while a little tricky at first, once mastered, really takes the on the field gameplay onto the next level. Rather than simply aiming towards a runner and timing your pass based around pressure from the defence and the pattern of the play, you now have the option to ease your runners away from defenders to create space while icons let you know when specific runners are looking for the pass. This seemingly subtle change actually makes quite a dramatic difference, and for high level players, will often mean the difference between a first and a fourth down.
While these seemingly minor changes to the passing game do reveal themselves to be surprisingly influential in the long term, if anything, the changes to the running game are even more pronounced. While the usual array of moves; juke, stiff arm, spin and dive, are all still present and accounted for, the combination of improved physics and precision modifiers make running the ball a much more natural and tactical experience. With modified skills (more effective versions of the same moves) requiring you to let off the gas, stab the left and commit the move, the emphasis on momentum becomes much more apparent with players forced to slow down, pick off defenders before hitting the gas again and, hopefully, tearing up the field. The move from right to left trigger is initially tricky, but once you get a feel for it and begin to use it in conjunction with the new physics engine, running the ball begins to feel infinitely more natural, opening up far greater possibilities than were available in previous iterations of the game. The animations still aren’t perfect, and pile ups do tend to show off the systems inadequacies, but for the most part, hits feel bigger and movement and collisions more natural.
Outside of the surprisingly fantastic on the field gameplay (Madden NFL 25 really is the most fun I have had with a Madden game in years), the sheer wealth and breadth of content continues to amaze. Beyond the usual array of quick-fire single player offerings and extensive online options, the real meat of the package continues to come from the outrageously extensive, Connected Franchise mode. This gives you the option to approach the game from the perspective of a player, a coach or an owner. Each feel extremely distinct and none are short changed in any way. Be it mastering your individual player’s position on the field, coaching your team to Super Bowl glory or micromanaging your franchise from the top down (the list of responsibilities really is mind boggling), Madden NFL 25 adds to its predecessors already outrageous collection of game modes and play types to deliver an experience that can verge on the overwhelming.
Luckily, as always, an array of game options and sliders mean that, whichever way you play the game, Madden NFL 25 will have you covered. There may be nothing to match the brilliant simplicity of NHL 14’s fantastic, NHL 94 Anniversary Mode, but what is here is highly customisable and extremely user-friendly, right down to its new, clutter free front end.
It may not celebrate its past in a way that fans would have hoped (it doesn’t really celebrate it at all to be honest), but anniversary or not, Madden NFL 25 represents the best Madden release in years and the most enjoyable, brutal and lifelike representation of the sport to date. It’s still not perfect, and as always, you do get the impression that a bit of serious competition would do the series wonders, but for now, Madden NFL 25, be it on current or next-gen consoles, delivers a genuinely fantastic take on America’s most popular sport.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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