On its surface, Madden 25 looks just like last year's installment of the popular game franchise. The stadiums, players, and coaches look pretty much exactly the same. It's the same shiny car, just like last year's model. But get under the hood, and there's a little more horsepower in Madden 25.
The biggest improvement comes in the running game. Let's face it: just as the NFL has turned into a pass-happy league, so has EA in its focus on the aerial attack. The ground game has been the red-headed stepchild (sorry, Andy Dalton) of the Madden franchise. But that ends this time around.
Playing as the San Francisco 49ers, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pistol formation backed up by triple option and zone-read plays. Even better, it's actually an effective offense. Once I got the hang of it in the Nike Training Center (a welcome addition this year), I put it to the test against the Seahawks. Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore worked in unison, Kaep artfully slipping the handoff in and out of Gore's grasp, dancing his way through the first level of the defense into the Seattle secondary. My first touchdown drive was "Kaep'ed" off (see what I did there) with Kaepernick doing his trademark bicep flex and kiss. If not for the disappointing absence of his tattoos, I could've sworn I was watching the real thing.
The actual act of running has also been improved. Back is the "Turbo" button. Really, who among us didn't instinctively press the Turbo even when it was absent in Madden 13? Another addition is the "Precision Modifier." Simply hold the L2 trigger on your PS3 controller while using the right stick or pressing a button, and your player will do a beefed up version of a conventional move. L2 + forward on the right stick will have Marshawn Lynch bulldoze a poor, helpless safety. L2 + Triangle Robert Griffin III, and the Redskins quarterback is vaulting over a linebacker for a touchdown. The possibilities are endless and, well, fun.
There are other additions – or in this case, returns – including Owner Mode. You're put into the front office, deciding everything from ticket prices to relocation. Yes, you can finally live out your dream of putting an NFL franchise in Los Angeles. Or Mexico City. As far as front office simulations go, there are far superior and realistic games on the PC market, but there's something to be said for seeing your team taking the field in Madden 25. This is where binary codes and algorithms can't compete.
If you're a hardcore Madden fan, you'll really appreciate the videos celebrating the game franchise's cherished past. The development team has put together a "Best Of" list, highlighting the greatest Madden players at every position over the years. A trip down memory land awaits when you see Brian Finneran gashing secondaries and Marshall Faulk sprinting past lumbering linemen. It's a nice touch.
Madden 25 is the perfect homage to its long history, and a solid step forward in the franchise. By no means is it a game changer, but it's just what this game needs as it transitions into the next generation of console.
Happy 25th, Madden.
Madden 25 Releases on Tuesday, August 27th.