'Madden NFL 25'

From: EA Sports

Rated: E

Who it's for: It's been 25 years. You should know if it's for you.

Console: Xbox 360, PS3

Grade: A

Note: This review pertains only to the current generation versions of "Madden 25." While the Xbox One and PS4 versions are due with those console launches, it's still unknown if all the features and quality will carry over. The Rocky Mountain Gamer will do his best to update this review online at that time.

Time for a history lesson.

Way back in 1988, still-young game developer Electronic Arts released "John Madden Football" for PC, Commodore 64/128 and Apple II. Although it didn't yet carry any of the NFL teams or players, the game allowed users to customize things such as weather conditions, player fatigue and injuries, and penalties.

You couldn't even play a full season, only single games, but the simulation was so revelatory it immediately became the premiere football video game.

No update was released in 1989 (though the original continued to sell well), but when the 1990 sequel emerged for the SNES and Sega Genesis consoles, the franchise exploded.

In 1994, Madden's first name was taken off the game when the NFL license was added, allowing fans to play as their favorite NFL teams, and a year later the NFLPA joined in by allowing the addition of players' actual images and statistics.

Since 1990, the "Madden" series has given football fans of every ilk an annual homage to the game many consider to be the real American pastime.

For the series' 25th anniversary, EA has pulled out all the stops, giving fans the most refined football simulation yet. "Madden NFL 25" quite simply raises the bar for what a football video game can be.

Since its early console days, "Madden" has been a passer's game. It's understandable, since players consider passing more exciting than running and everyone loves to take on the role of quarterback.

New release   Madden NFL 25  is a far cry ...
New release Madden NFL 25 is a far cry ... (Courtesy photo)

This comes at the expense of realism, since football fans know a solid ground assault is the foundation of a strong offense, even if your QB's last name is Manning or Elway.

Plus, the reason throwing has been more exciting than running is because no one ever made a football game with a truly great running mechanic.

Enter the Run Free system of "Madden 25."

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.

If you watch a running back break from the pack and head for open field, you will see him employ a number of moves to evade the tackles coming from every direction. Spins, dives, jukes, stiff-arms, hurdles and trucks are all part of a successful runner's repertoire.

... from the inaugural game that carried his full name.
... from the inaugural game that carried his full name. (Courtesy photo)

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. Stringing combos together with the Run Free system takes some practice, but when you break away for long yardage, the feeling is exhilarating.

The ancillary advantage of having such a robust running system, however, is even greater.

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 more difficult to defend.

No longer will you choose a running play with the blind hope your opponent sets up the exact wrong kind of defense, so you might get lucky with a rare breakaway. And no longer can defenders rely on strong pass defenses, because you know your rival will run headfirst into a pack of waiting defenders with little to no hope of breaking free.

It's literally a whole new game.

Additionally, EA has beefed up last year's excellent Connected Careers feature, renaming it Connected Franchise. Featuring a refined user interface, the Connected Franchise allows you to control nearly every aspect of your team as you try to build a dynasty.

This even extends to the Owner Mode, which lets you tackle the day-to-day operations of the team. If the Denver Broncos don't please you this year, go ahead and move them to Dublin. You can even change the name to the Leprechauns if you see fit. 

"Madden 25" is undoubtedly the most refined, well-crafted football simulation I've ever played, even though I'm not terribly good at it yet. I'm sure there are still some cheap exploits and bugs floating about that I never discovered, but during my playing time, everything flowed smoothly.

Bottom line: If you're a football fan, you should own this game.