Friday, August 23, 2013

Madden 25 review - 4th & inches

Sports games allow us to step outside the realm of of fantasy exploration, sci-fi horrors, & urban war zones, and just relax a bit. We can sit back with a nice cold beverage and pretend we're watching the Superbowl. It's not exactly stress-free, however. A bad play or a bogus call can send us flying out of our chair as if it actually was the Superbowl. Madden 25 sometimes reflects that a little too much.

Madden has had troubles in the past with certain gameplay elements, and unfortunately some of these carry over into Madden 25. Running the ball can still be very frustrating, as it feels as if your opponent's blocker has a black-hole generator. The merest tip of a glove touching your elbow and you stop moving completely. You can push, you can shove, you can even try to roll free, but once that contact has been made, don't count on getting anymore yards. On the opposite side of the coin, you are able to juke far more effectively in this game. Timing it properly, I could consistently get an extra 15-20 yards out of my run, occasionally getting some 50-60 yard plays for easy points. An improvement to be sure, but full improvement would have made the game feel more comfortable.

Passing was just as effective as previous games. Waiting for the overhead icon to brick solid before launching is a must, and keeping an eye on the defenders as well as the line rushing you can be very tricky to balance, so until you get used to watching the whole field at the same time, expect to find yourself face-planted in the dirt quite often. The plays themselves are extremely realistic and will definitely make you take notice when you fire off a bullet right behind a defenders head into your teams waiting hands. Having Brady toss an extremely tight spiral through two defenders outstretched arms with Gronkowski plucking it from the air with ease felt amazing. On the flip side, sometimes the receivers don't seem to actually know what's going on. Completely wide open players with goose eggs tossed at them will result in incompletions which will really set your blood to boil.

Career mode is back, but with a new name and some fun additions. Connected Franchise mode allows players to choose from some truly amazing players and coaches, like William "Refrigerator" Perry and Mike Ditka. Imagine Ditka and The Fridge teaming up? Cool, right? What about player Ditka and The Fridge? That's right, you can unlock Ditka during his glory days. Now that's a scary combination right there. XP and skill progression are still big in this mode, as well as the player "Depth" ranking, however the new UI is a very welcome addition, using tiles instead of scrolling. With over 50 football legends included in Connected Franchise, finding a perfect team will be all about choosing your favorites.

The other side of Connected Franchise is all about ownership. Gamers can set aside their on-field roles and look at the world of financing and decision making. Football isn't just about the players and coaches. There are hundreds of people behind the scenes making each team run as effectively as possible so you can watch them play on Monday nights. Owner mode plays a little bit like a Sims game. You can market merchandise, choose team colors, upgrade stadiums, review staff  members, work on upping your fan happiness levels, and look at your team's success ratings. Want to relocate the team? Why not move the Patriots to Houston, or take the Jets out to California, maybe even send the Bears to London (they might do better over there). Owners also get to decide what's going on on the field. You can take over the coaching job at any time, hey you're the manager, you can do whatever you want. Scout players, do some draft picks, sign free agents, all the while watching your finances skyrocket. Want to know what it's like to be the big cheese? Sit in the Owner's Box for a while.

Ultimate Team mode also returns, and this time it includes an updated version of the "Chemistry" factor, altering your roster to form a team that is geared towards a single offensive or defensive strategy. The more your team works together on those strategies, the higher your Chemistry rating, and the higher your team's ranking. Elevate your ranking enough, and you begin the playoff season at a significantly higher seed placement.

Graphics have not been enhanced by any significant amount, unfortunately. Faces still seem rubberized, fields look like flat concrete painted green and brown, and the dialogue doesn't quite match with the mouth movements. Weather effects are fairly good, and making it snow during a Superbowl makes the announcers go nuts. While sports games are generally all about gameplay, having an environment that looks realistic really makes the game feel better to play.

Madden has been a franchise for 25 years, and there have been so many titles over the years. Each one had their own pros and cons, hits and misses, but they have all followed the same game plan. Madden 25 brings some great ideas and new features to the field, enriching the experience you have with the football pros. Owner mode is a fun inclusion with this title, however the enjoyment lasts for a relatively short time. Improvements to some of the gameplay makes it feel much smoother in certain areas, while still allowing it to feel like a real football experience. Lack of improvements in some core gameplay features can rear their ugly heads during some key moments, leading to frequent amounts of hair being ripped from your scalp, but the amount of times these happen are few and far between. While the graphics are not as polished looking as it should have been, you still definitely get the feeling that you're watching football, and at times you might forget you're holding a controller and just sit back to enjoy the game.

Overall Score: 8/10

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