It is sometimes hard to believe Madden turned 25 years old this year, meaning I have annually been playing a franchise for a quarter of a century! Through many of these years, EA Sports has added some incredible features. Some features become a constant, while others (like owner mode) will disappear for a few years; only to make a triumphant return (like it did this year, in Madden NFL 25). Madden NFL 25 gives fans an exciting new Run Free mechanic to go along with the Infinity Engine 2.0. Add in the beloved owner mode, and EA Tiburon is on pace for a spectacular release!
The newest addition to the Infinity 2.0 engine is Run Free technology. For the first time in Madden history, players are able to link combos together to unleash devastating, ankle-breaking moves to shake (or run through) would-be tacklers on their way to the end zone. Doug Martin can run his juke-spin move like he does for the Buccaneers’ deadly run game. LeSean McCoy stops on a dime to make defenders dive passed him on his way to a long TD run. Running the ball with Adrian Peterson makes me believe I can break the single-season rushing record in one game.
The new All-Madden CPU is on-point! For once, I actually have to work when I play the CPU. The AI is insanely smart; it can actually read and understand players’ actions. Players have been baiting other players into making stupid throws, but this is the first Madden where baiting actually works against the CPU. If a player runs the same play over-and-over again, the CPU will make adjustments and stop the play quickly. If the player is running no-huddle on offense, the defense will continue to run a different play. This is easily the best AI in Madden history.
With Owner Mode making its reappearance, players will once again have the ability to control the prices of concessions, tickets, parking and more. Owner Mode for Madden 25 adds an incredible new feature, which allows players to move their teams to a new city. This may seem like an awesome idea, but players must choose their new destination wisely. In the off-season, players will sometimes have the option to switch the city they call home. There are many options on where teams can relocate (like Los Angeles, Mexico City, London and more). Each city has a fan support, which can be better or worse than your current location. Players then get to choose their team name. There are only a few options, and they are given to you based on the locals top choices. Los Angeles, for instance, has the most fan appreciation for the name, “Aftershocks,” due to the high volume of earthquakes in the southern California locale. Once a team name is picked, the player can then choose the jerseys, pick a stadium and more. Keep in mind, every decision affects how the fans will support you. Pick a team name, jersey or stadium they do not like, and watch your stadium sit empty until postseason every year. This addition makes owner mode better than ever before.
The Twitter feed is back, along with the weekly headlines, to let players know what is going on around the league. This is particularly informative for online leagues, where trades will go through frequently; although, most of the league hears little-to-nothing about them. Online franchises give players the same amazing feeling of owner mode, which allows you to add only 31 of your friends to battle it out over many seasons to see who the real beast is.
Madden Ultimate Team also makes its usual appearance. Collecting cards has never been more fun. Yes, there may be some microtransactions, but you can just play to collect packs and enjoy yourself without spending a dime. Of course, if you want a super-rare card, then you may have to pony up some real cash. I can still take my stock pack, and beat most people I play, so I find no need to spend any money.
For gamers who are unable to download the day one patch, there will definitely be some glaring issues with the game. The invisible player glitch runs rampant throughout almost every game pre-patch. A random number of players will just disappear during a drive, and they will remain invisible for the duration of the drive. When running hurry-up, one random offensive linemen will sporadically line up off-sides, just standing there. This can sometimes be fixed by calling an audible, but sometimes they still remained off-sides. The clock has always been an issue in Madden. When a player runs out of bounds, the game clock is supposed to remain stopped. However, in Madden, this only works when the player is in the huddle (picking a play). Once the play is selected, the clock will continue to run down.
Major props to EA, because the invisible players glitch was completely removed after the day one patch. When running no huddle, it is extremely rare to see the offensive linemen stand there anymore. EA did work to fix the game, and they had the patch ready for launch day. The clock, however, is still an issue. In a close game, when you are trying to run out of bounds to get an extra play off before the two minute warning, you should just go for maximum yardage instead of running out of bounds. Once you select your play, the clock will automatically run down to the two minute warning with swiftness.
EA also did a fantastic job fixing the few minor issues found in Madden NFL 13. Running between the tackles in Madden 13 was almost impossible. Press coverage on the left side of the field was slightly broken, too. These were two minor issues, but for players who play league games all year, they are magnified by the sheer amount of hours these Madden gamers put in. EA Sports did a superb job fixing both issues with Peyton Manning-like precision. The new Run Free technology makes running the ball anywhere not only possible, but fun. Players are actually allowed to treat the game like a chess match. Switching up moves will cause the opposing player to guess where you will end up when they finally flick the hit stick. Press coverage on both sides of the field works exactly how it should. If you have a corner with amazing press coverage, then the receiver will struggle to get off the line and find any resemblance of getting open.
One of the best parts of Madden 13 was the ability to lead receivers into almost completely different routes; however, leading receivers is completely different in Madden NFL 25. While players can still lead their receivers, throw to their back shoulder, throw the ball near the ground or make that 6’6” receiver jump over the shorted defensive back, EA severely cut back the ability to lead your receivers into completely open areas of the field. Playmaker is still a fantastic option for getting a receiver to a soft spot in the zone, but your receivers will continue to run on their own once they complete their routes.
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are back giving play-by-play from the studio booth, but EA added Danielle Bellini as a sideline reporter. Bellini offers insight on players who get injured among other things. This is a welcomed addition to the series, as hearing Nantz and Simms for hundreds of hours every year can become tiring. Nantz and Simms seemed to be in the recording booth much longer than in previous Maddens. I barely hear the same sentence twice, and have yet to hear anything three times. It is great to see the announcers you love comparing your current third down to your third down percentage from the week before.
Ultimately, Madden NFL 25 is not only a monumental release for EA Sports, but it is also a great simulation football game. EA went above-and-beyond with their Run Free technology. I look forward to seeing where next year’s iteration of Madden will land on the grading scale, but I give Madden NFL 25 an 8.4/10 (Great). If you are a football fan (or a sports game fan) do yourself a favor and pick up Madden NFL 25!