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Xbox 360 Review: ‘Madden NFL 25’

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madden252Madden 93 would send a rogue ambulance barging onto the field to reach injured athletes, running over stray players in the process. Modern NFL mandates disallow realism bending and misguided humor, and so does this title. In some cases, both deviate from exploiting injuries all together.

Madden 25 makes cursory edits over on-field sprains, tears, and breaks. Commentating team Jim Nance and Phil Simms make glancing, mournful statements about, “upper body injures,” while cameras pan around digitally recreated stadiums. Sideline reporter Danielle Bellini remains an ethereal voice with a microphone. It is endemic to modern Madden, lacking NFL production bravado despite movements to better represent blockbuster video packages in prime time TV slots.

Nance and Simms are often erratic, oblivious to late game strategies and misguided on downs. Halftime is a statistical shell placeholder, and boxy coaches stiffly show enthusiasm between plays with dire unrealism. EA’s fixation is instead their corporate sponsors; it is amazing how well placed Gatorade bottles are–label out–during post-game interviews.

Madden 25 is a pitiful celebration. Opening montages zip past Madden logos, from the yellow and green fonts of embryonic IBM PC offerings, to a cluster of current console red and black. Loading screens pinpoint single innovations in successive offerings, stuffed between menial tutorials as an afterthought.

EA likely never foresaw this anniversary, let alone said commemoration falling onto a bridged pathway between console generations. Stuck in a corner of dimming audience appeal, one which coincides with each technological leap, Madden 25 stutters to close Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platform releases. Or rather, until EA ships publicly lambasted roster updates so as to leech a market saturated with 100 million consoles in the transition.

Innovation crumbles with a left trigger modifier, meant to buoy stiff arms, leaps, and other assorted razzle dazzle maneuvers. “Precision Modifier,” not quite carrying the marketing splendor of “vision cone,” is ill-adjusted to Madden 25’s internal systems. Failure to spy control set ups or latch onto words in a thinning digital manual means enjoying familiar systems unabated. Physics boosted Infinity Engine 2 sweeps up tackles and busts polygon seams, rendering an uber stiff-arm utterly useless for on-field progression.

Ultimate team, connected franchises, and other assorted gameplay modes anemically hold up menus with their slim set of additions. Owning a franchise leads one to dealing with customized potato chip costs, pricey stadium renovations, and full team relocation if necessary.  It casually impacts team play at its almost unseen peak. And, by lowering potato chip prices below league standards, advisors become obnoxiously smug about giving a thriving fan base financial leniency.

Madden’s survival in the era of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was staggered by misappropriated focus. Blockers unrealistically plant gaps in offensive lines as to introduce metaphorical neon signs which say, “run here!” Holes in defensive postures may as well blink in addition in order to casual guidance. It is a long running issue which has never been fixed.

Safety play is impossibly robotic, so out of place as to punish simulation ideals and keep Madden functionally playable in the process. Crossing routes still clip players who abnormally bounce off one another; Infinity Engine 2 is no solution. No wonder Madden’s console breadth has collapsed as to avoid handhelds, Wii U, and PC, while mobile users are stuck with a monolith of free-to-play complications. Why further dilute the brand elsewhere?

To be clear, Madden 25 results from seven plus years of design labor. Madden 06, with its static radio announcer and pudgy player models, only surfaces in bargain bin nostalgia. Seeing this graphics engine explode and a slow procession of logically reinstated features (sprint rightfully returns in 25), has made this tumbling journey of quality football bearable. For its faults, the Infinity Engine works to an impressive conclusion as the ball slips into receivers hands without wonky in-flight adjustments.

But that hardly represents reason to memorialize Madden 25, which coins its anniversary arrival as marketing jargon only. This is a routine stop gap. Madden’s complex overhaul feels incomplete, more than a console interim away. While capable, EA’s affection for professional football is dismal outside of their ability to finance this perennial, profitable replication of America’s game.

Madden NFL 25 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Mobile

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.