Friday, 13 September 2013

Review: Madden 25 (360)

A quarter of a century. Hard to believe it's already been that long since the first Madden football videogame first appeared, revolutionizing sports videogaming entirely. One of Madden 25's cool features is during loading screens, as gamers wait, screenshot flashes of Madden games from the past appear, with a little interesting fact about that particular edition. Seeing some of those early games, it's amazing to see how far Madden and gaming in general have advanced visually and technologically.

While Madden has come quite a long way since 1989, it hasn't quite advanced much from Madden 2013. There's a correcting of the balance issues from last year's new Infinity engine, where players would trip and stumble all over the field, especially after the play. Upright on-field players would fall over downed ball-carriers constantly, even after the play had been whistled dead. It almost seemed that the field was covered in ice with the amount of slipping and tripping.

The new Infinity 2 has eliminated that problem, while throwing in some enhanced moves primarily into the running game – 30 new ones – and even combos that gamers can use with the precision modifier. With the legendary slash & speed back Barry Sanders gracing the cover this season, it's easy to see why the running game was given extra attention in Madden 25. Even the new modern quarterback – a dual-threat QB that can burn through defenses with not only his arm but also his legs, such as Seattle's Russell Wilson or San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick – is given a move upgrade to match his real-life abilities. It's hard to strategically use most of those moves efficiently, however, because most plays end too quickly before even being able to initiate them into gameplay.

Most of the newness lies in some of the new game modes in Madden 25.

In this year's Connected Franchise – the game's franchise mode – gamers can not only choose to play as a player or coach the team, now there's the opportunity to be an owner, dealing with your team's financials, such as ticket prices. Owners can even decide to move their franchise to another city. For the Madden Ultimate Team mode, teams that gamers can build are based on card packs, as usual. There seems to even more emphasis on purchasing special card packs, though, enticing gamers to upgrade their teams while apparently giving EA an even bigger revenue stream from micro-transactions.

Online, Xbox Live seems to run much smoother in both the setup and connectivity during gameplay. Little-to-no lag plagues Madden 25, a departure from Madden 13's sometimes-problematic online encounters. What's not very good is the totally bland announcing performance, so dull and uninspired. No more actual John Madden enthusiasm in the color commentary like there used to be before "Coach" retired from both commentating during actual broadcasts and previous Maddens.

What is very good is the gameplay. The playbooks have been updated to include spread option offense for those teams now implementing it into their repertoire, like the 49ers, Seahawks, Redskins and Eagles. Gameplay over the last few years has been more balanced, with smarter AI on both sides of the ball. The overall gameplay is as realistic as it has been in a few years, rectifying last season's "balance" hiccup.

Madden 25 has traveled a long road from its Sega Genesis beginnings to today's modern iteration. It's certainly not perfect, but once again gamers get a solid football title with all kinds of entertaining modes both offline and online.

- Lee Cieniawa

The Good:
- Refining last year's new Infinity gaming engine, the Infinity 2 "balances" out the original's balance issues – which caused players to trip and stumble all over each other, even downed ball-carriers after the play had ended
- Online Xbox Live gaming runs much smoother than the last edition, connecting much easier and much less laggy during games

The Bad:
- Announcing presentation extremely bland
- 30 new moves – and even combos that gamers can use with the precision modifier – but it's hard to strategically use most of those moves, because most p lays end too quickly before even being able to initiate them into gameplay

Score: 8.5 / 10