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Since it isn't every day that a game franchise marks its silver anniversary, you expect something sublime from Madden NFL 25. This may be the most respected series in all of gaming, with a pedigree that goes back to before Ronald Reagan left the White House, so it isn't unreasonable to expect the developers at EA Tiburon to do things up right this year with something really special. They haven't. Despite the name, you get the same old story with the traditional roster update, a few tweaks to the graphics engine, new control schemes to rev you up, and a teensy bit of feature creep. Instead of closing out the current generation of consoles with a big bash, this year's Madden just plays out the string.
Madden NFL 25 still looks good, but this big anniversary isn't being properly celebrated.
Not much distinguishes Madden NFL 25 from last year's Madden 13. The game has been refined overall, but not in enough ways to make a measurable impact on how it plays on the gridiron. With that said, the core of the game remains Sunday afternoon in a box. This is a remarkably full-featured NFL simulation where you can play, coach, and manage in just about every way possible through a range of single-player and multiplayer modes. If you have ever fantasized about what you could do with your favorite NFL team, player, or owner, chances are very good that you will be able to do it here. And if you can't do it here right out of the box, you can peruse the files available in the new Madden Share online feature, since it allows easy access to rosters and tweak files uploaded by fellow players that adjust the game in a variety of ways. Of course, the exact same comments about everything save the new sharing option could have been made about virtually every Madden game released in the last decade.
The one big feature addition is being able to play in the Connected Franchise mode as an owner. This completes the trifecta; you can now take on franchise play as a player (a made-up rookie, an existing NFLer, or a rookie version of a legend like Joe Montana or Sammy Baugh), a coach (fictional, one of the real guys wearing a headset on the sidelines this fall, or a legend such as Tom Landry or Madden himself), or an owner (also fictional or a real-life tycoon like Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft). There isn't enough difference between these options, however. You're stuck doing too many of the same things for any of them to stand out. It's strange, for example, that you need to run practice challenges to earn XP when playing as an owner. It's rather unlikely that Jim Irsay takes time away from his luxurious office in Indianapolis to head down to the practice dome and run scrimmages.
You would expect the owner mode to function like a sports management sim, but it really works as a traditional franchise option with a couple of actions grafted on, such as answering the odd media question, setting the price on merchandise like autographed footballs and stadium snow cones, and even deciding to leave town (here come the Rams, Toronto). There just isn't enough depth here. At least the developers have added back in franchise features like draft class imports from NCAA 14 and full offline 32-team control. And they have bolstered the long-term appeal of the collectible-card, multiplayer-focused Madden Ultimate Team mode, with player chemistry affecting team performance, and head-to-head season play. Madden Ultimate Team isn't for everyone given its odd complexity and focus on collecting player cards to field top lineups, but it now almost rivals more traditional franchise play with these added features.