Run, Madden, run!
Twenty-five years. It doesn’t even seem possible that Madden first made its debut a quarter century ago. It would be two years before I played the game, when it was first released on a console—the Sega Genesis. And another two years before I’d write my first Madden review, with Madden 93.
This was a year before EA secured the NFL license to feature real teams, and two years before the introduction of the NFLPA and real players. It’s amazing to see how far the franchise has come, particularly since there was palpable fear among fans that once EA obtained the exclusive NFL license in 2004 (eliminating the NFL 2K series, Madden’s chief competition), the game would stop evolving. It hasn’t, and the Madden name has remained synonymous with videogame football.
Madden NFL 25 is more than an anniversary celebration, though—it represents the most significant addition to the game since the introduction of Franchise mode in Madden 99. The game’s new running system, dubbed “Run Free,” takes a game that’s always been more heavily weighted toward the pass and balances it out like never before. Even if your team has a quarterback with a last name like Manning or Brady, a solid ground assault is the foundation upon which great offenses are built.
In the past, running consisted of following your blocker and praying the opposing defense blew the coverage. Sure, you could break away for a long run, but it was as much a matter of luck as it was skill, particularly since AI-controlled defenders in your area would often magically tackle you, even if they weren’t in the proper position.
Run Free gives players complete control over the ball carrier and adds more than 20 new moves to help get the rock down the field. Players are no longer limited to a spin here and a jump there in an attempt to gain yardage. In real life, if you watch a running back break from the pack and head for the open field, you’ll see him employ a number of moves to evade would-be tacklers coming from every direction. Spins, dives, jukes, stiff-arms, hurdles, and trucks are all part of a successful runner’s repertoire.
And these moves don’t stand alone. During a long run, the back will likely need to string together several of these to gain maximum yardage. Doing this with the Run Free system takes some practice, but when you break away for long yardage, the feeling is exhilarating—and the result is nothing short of revelatory.
As such, Run Free gives the game a new—and much more refined—balance. Players who build their running skills while keeping up their passing attack will be stronger and much harder to defend. No longer can defenders rely on strong pass defenses, knowing their rival will just run headfirst into a pack of waiting defenders with little to no hope of breaking free. Whenever new features such as Run Free are announced for a sports game, it’s easy to discount the relevance as marketing copy. That isn’t true here. Run Free makes Madden NFL 25 a whole new game.
That isn’t the only addition, however. EA’s beefed up last year’s excellent Connected Careers feature, renaming it Connected Franchise and adding an awesome Owner mode into the mix. Football fans can finally live their ultimate fantasy: owning their favorite team. Owners control every aspect of day-to-day operations, from the prices of parking and concessions to whether a team will change its name and move to another city. Here, I’ve been tempted to take control of the Oakland Raiders and move them to Dublin. I think the Shamrocks would make a great new name for them, with new team colors of green and yellow. Raiders fans are welcome to post hateful comments below. Go Broncos!
There are plenty of little tweaks here, too, including full 32-team control and transaction logs so you can go back and analyze how the moves made affected the league.
Madden NFL 25 represents a new beginning for the franchise. There are undoubtedly still exploits some players will discover, and there’s surely future tweaking to be done. Plus, there’s still the question of how the next-generation iterations will measure up (some of us still bear the scars of the last-generation transition, when all of the best features were stripped out of the game’s debut on 360 and PS3). But for everyone who’s ever loved Madden NFL, this year’s installment is a must-buy. Consider it a love letter from EA for all we’ve given to them.
|Developer: EA Tiburon • Publisher: EA Sports • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 8.27.2013|
For Madden Football’s 25th anniversary, EA’s given us a whole new running system—Run Free—that offers the game a whole new sense of balance. While it’ll take some practice to become proficient, once you get used to the precision controls, they become second nature. EA’s also beefed up last year’s Connected Careers, turning it into Connected Franchise while adding an Owner Mode for unprecedented control. All of this makes Madden NFL 25 one of the finest football simulations ever released.
|The Good||The amazing new running system that changes everything.|
|The Bad||The learning curve to effectively employ all of the new running techniques.|
|The Ugly||How moving a team to Salt Lake City would affect beer sales at the stadium.|
|Madden NFL 25 is available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Primary version reviewed was Xbox 360 review code.|