We’re into late August, the preseason is over, and every team’s fans – even the Buffalo Bills’ – think their team has a chance at the Super Bowl. For football fans with game consoles, this can only mean one thing: Time to play some “Madden.”
“Madden NFL 25” (PS3; Rated E; $59.99) comes at an interesting time for the franchise, in that it is the ninth (!) version of the game released in the current generation (eighth for the PS3), the last version before Microsoft and Sony begin a new battle for console supremacy.
Usually, this means going through the motions with one more glorified roster update while the development teams prepare for the expectations that come with developing for a new console. Chances are that the presentation of the game has been pushing the limits of the technology for a few years, and there’s not much to do with new versions aside from maybe a couple of new low-impact modes and some tuning to the on-field play.
And yet, the No. 25 itself dictates that this cannot happen. This has to feel like the culmination of every “Madden” game before it because, let’s face it, game franchises simply don’t last this long. The silver anniversary’s a special one.
“Madden NFL 25” succeeds on almost all counts.
The on-field play is as exciting as it’s ever been. The big improvement is to running with the football, as the player is now given the option to slow down a bit for the sake of performing more powerful versions of existing moves, such as a targeted stiff-arm and a particularly nasty juke.
Running is actually one of the most extensive training exercises as well, ensuring that a player who puts in even minimal effort will be hurdling and trucking with the best of them in no time. Otherwise, an expanded audible system and a more reliable dive tackle system are among the gameplay tweaks that come in particularly handy.
Options and additions
In terms of options, “Madden NFL 25” is predictably full of them. The return of Owner Mode, as part of “Madden’s” Connected Franchise mode, is a welcome sight, and getting the chance to move, say, the Jaguars to Toronto or London is certainly one of the game’s evil little pleasures. As usual in Owner Mode, you get to control the minutiae of running a team, but if you’re afraid control at the top will keep you from the on-field action, don’t fret: You can do what the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones has probably always wanted to do and take over the coach’s job as well.
As for what special additions are here to celebrate the number on the box, there’s a 25th Anniversary Team that features the best athletes from the game’s history – sadly, Bo Jackson was before “Madden’s” time, but Barry Sanders, Michael Vick, and even Sean Taylor show up here – and there’s a nostalgic focus on legends of the game, particularly in the single-player career mode. It’s a nice touch, too, that loading screens give little history lessons on the innovations of “Madden” games past; man, I miss the passing windows.
Unfortunately, it’s that nostalgia that gets in the way sometimes, as it’s easy to become wistful for the simplicity of a plain old “play a season” type of mode, and the Ultimate Team business that EA keeps pushing never stops feeling extraneous.
Even so, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that “Madden NFL 25” is the best of the current generation’s “Madden” games, a worthy entry to transition into the next generation of consoles.
Also new this week: “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” (PS3, PC) is Square’s second try at “Final Fantasy XIV,” and this attempt at MMORPG immortality looks to be much better received than the first. If shooting things is more up your alley, “Lost Planet 3” (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) is bound to offer more of the above-average arcade shooter action of previous installments, and “Painkiller: Hell & Damnation” (PS3, Xbox 360) updates a cult classic for a new generation.