‘Madden 25’ has a lot for fans to like

Michael Klein, Editor-in-chief

As NFL fans rejoiced the Kickoff and start to the 2013 NFL season, EA Sports celebrated its own holiday Aug. 27 with the release of “Madden 25.” After a disappointing effort by EA Sports on the “Madden 25 (Demo),” it seemed like it was going to be another letdown season for fans of the franchise, despite it being their 25th anniversary. Fortunately, “Madden 25” begins to make amends for a past decade of complacency and broken promises by bringing back key modes while improving gameplay.

Some of the most welcomed advances to gameplay will be felt immediately with Run Free where players can use precision-modifying moves including: trucking, spins, jukes, jab steps, dives, stumble recoveries and stiff-arms; all of which can be chained together for exciting combos that can spring your ball carrier to daylight while making your opponent look like they slipped on a banana peel.

Improvements to the Infinity engine add realism to the game that players have never seen before. Collisions between players are much more varied, for example. However, some mechanical flaws emerge and can disrupt the flow of a competitive game.  At random moments, your runner will occasionally defy laws of physics with broken tackles and run through others’ bodies or end up on their back without any prior animation ever taking place.

Defensive players have more ability to recover from a bad angle.  Shoestring tackles can be executed and relieve the defense with dive tackles.

The return of the speed burst with stamina restrictions is a welcomed addition for those annoyed by past Madden games that would randomly take key players off the field for long sequences, which happened to usually occur during the most crucial moments of a contest.

Football aficionados will enjoy the overall depth to the in-game strategy. As the game of professional football has evolved, EA realized that their gameplay must keep pace. The Wildcat offense that swept the league a few years back is nearly non-existent while the Pistol has been a major focus this year.

An additional 351 plays and 20 new formations are featured with two new playbooks – Pistol (ala Collin Kaepernick at Nevada) and Run and Shoot. Blocking is much smoother and realistic.

As smart football fans know, the game is usually won or lost in the trenches. Targeting your blocks in the open field is also much easier. Defensive line play is drastically better than 2013. Last year it felt like a pass rusher would be left unabated to the QB, stood up or fall straight down. Now it feels like control

Trainer Mode is a great way to sharpen your skills and prepare for the stiff competition waiting online. Hurdling over a potential tackler can be one of the more rewarding ways to matriculate the ball down the field.

It is about time that a bone-jarring hit injures the recipient instead of the hitter. The L2 or LT is used as a move modifier, allowing the ball carrier to string multiple moves and combinations together.

Connected franchise allows you to use 50+ legendary players and coaches like Vince Lombardi.

Owner mode allows you to import draft classes from NCAA 2014.  As an owner, you deal with finances, stadium, staff, marketing, fan happiness, team success, media statements and fan feedback. You have the ability to relocate your team. It even allows you to take the NFL international to Ireland, Canada, Mexico, England

Offline fantasy draft is unnecessarily clumsy, but it is neat how teams value players based on the offensive or defensive scheme they fit best in. For example, a QB like Michael Vick will be much better suited in an option read offense than a run n gun.

Madden share allows players to up and download rosters settings and playbooks. What will be interesting is whether EA takes this away after the 2014 NFL season concludes, in order to get fans to buy next year’s installment. It would be a classy move on their part to allow players to share their created rosters that could include rookies from future NFL drafts.

In the end, this is the first Madden in many years that warrants the full price tag.