Madden 25: A 1st Round Bust
It is considered bad form to begin a review talking about yourself. After all, it is supposed to be about the game not the writer, but I feel it is necessary to lay out where I was coming from when I approached this review. I love the Madden franchise. Yes, I know it is basically the same thing year after year with updated rosters and slight modification, I don’t care. I love it. I love taking my Jets team to a place they haven’t been in forty five years. I love pouring over my roster trying to figure out who to cut and who to keep. Do you wonder why Franchise mode lets players take control of absolutely everything, from drafting to free agent pickups to stadium naming rights? Do you wonder why they need to include 30 years worth of draft picks for the franchise mode? It’s me. I’m the reason. While I have never honestly made it to year 30, I have made it past year 10, and I control every little detail of my team. I scout players, negotiate contracts, I even play the preseason most of the time, and when the draft comes around I have my own draft board written down on several pieces of paper detailing what players and positions I want to target. I am a fanatic.
Every year I buy Madden, even when I was unemployed and couldn’t afford any other games for the entire year, I still managed to scrape together enough cash to get Madden. This year was the first year since my one year flirtation with the 2k series back in 2004 that I skipped on buying the console versions of Madden. I write about Android games now, I don’t have the time nor the funds to dedicate to console games. And so, with a bit of sadness, I looked at the option to pre-order Madden 25, the twenty fifth anniversary of the franchise that I have loved for years, and for the first time in nearly a decade, I said “no thanks.”
When I saw that EA had released Madden 25 on the Google Play store, I was psyched. I was so excited I actually ran upstairs to tell my girlfriend, as if she could even begin to comprehend what this meant to me. Finally I could play Madden again, no “NFLPro” by Gameloft that has “Number 7″ under center, I was finally going to get to play with my team, my players, and make virtual representations of them lift the trophy that they haven’t touched since Joe Namath and Weeb Ewbank were household names.
Then, I booted the game up, and it all came crashing down. Madden, it should be said right off the bat, is free to play. Which, depending on your perspective, I suppose, could be a good or bad thing. The way it is implemented here, however, unequivocally makes it a horrible thing. Every single thing about this game is wrong. I’m not sure what team handled this version of Madden, but it is clear they don’t know a damn thing about American Football.
First, the entire game is based around the Ultimate Team mode of the big boy versions of Madden. Each team is given their starting players, or at least who was projected to be the starting players back in July, and everyone else has to be bought. This would be bad enough, but since the rosters (despite coming out last week) are so far behind, fans will likely have to buy their new additions. Instead of Rookie QB Geno Smith as the starter of the Jets, the game starts you out with “The Sanchize”. Instead of giving Bills fans their first look at a virtual EJ Manuel, the game provides them with Kevin Kolb, who went on Season ending IR back in August and never even played a meaningful snap in a Bills uniform in real life.
Roster problems aside, this could still be a good solid game of pigskin football, right? Wrong. There are two control schemes in Madden 25 for Android. One, the “casual” version takes control out of the player’s hands and instead just tasks them with juking, spinning and stiff arming. And the other, which is more or less a simplified version of the console games, with a virtual joystick and swipes taking the place of buttons. The first one is incredibly boring, since you aren’t doing much of anything. The later control scheme actually works fairly well, until you play defense. As soon as the Quarterback passes the ball you automatically switch the defender closest to the intended receiver, but since you were more than likely trying to rush the Quarterback with a linebacker to defensive lineman, you have now just taken your Cornerback off his assignment and possibly given up a touchdown. This is extremely frustrating and the only solution seems to be letting the defense run itself.
EA seemed to be privy to this, because online multiplayer doesn’t have Defensive play, only asynchronous play where you simply play against a computer controlled defense and compete with the other player for touchdowns. Does that sound fun to anyone? I didn’t think so.
I wish the problems ended there but they continue on. Ultimate Team mode in the big boy versions of Madden, and the entire game here on Android, is based off of cards. You start off with the (again, horribly outdated) starters and then replace them with cards that you can earn or buy. Beyond the obvious problem that I want to play with my team, not Peyton Manning or whoever else in a Jets uniform, there is also the problem of wanting to make earned cards more valuable than starting cards to encourage purchasing. This has completely messed up the ranking system of the players. I got a card for Eric Fisher, An offensive lineman and the number 1 pick in last years draft. Eric Fisher is a great prospect and will more than likely have a great NFL career. He is also still a rookie, and completely unproven. So imagine my surprise when I found him to not only be ranked higher than fellow 1st round pick and three time Pro-Bowler D’brickashaw Ferguson, but ranked higher by nearly 10 points. In the console versions of Madden, D’brick is ranked with a 91 (as opposed to a 67 in the mobile version) while Eric Fisher is ranked 74. Basically their real life counterparts, as shown in the console versions of Madden, have no bearing on the players represented here, here it is all about the purchasing of cards. Which means the whole advantage Madden has over Gameloft’s NFL Pro series boils down to names on uniforms.
Worse still, basic concepts of football are left by the wayside in the name of IAPs. You cannot insert backups in the middle of the game, meaning you have to use one running back the entire time, players also can’t play two positions, meaning a kick returner or punt returner cannot also be a wide receiver or running back, you also can’t switch a player’s position, so Jeremy Kerley, arguably the best wide receiver on the Jets, is stuck returning punts and only returning punts. The computer AI is also laughably bad, without any understanding of how clock management works. Computer teams would regularly let the final seconds click off the clock while I clung to a 3 point lead while holding onto all of their time outs for no reason at all. Which brings me to another ridiculous feature of the game, quarter length. The default length for a quarter is a speedy 1 minute. They can be, in exhibition and multiplayer modes, be increased to 2.5 minutes, but no longer than that. Forget the 15 minute quarters played in real life, Madden for Android doesn’t even let you play the default 5 minute quarters found in the console versions.
Did I mention that most of the playbook is locked out initially and you have to unlock it through IAPs or by leveling up? No? Well, it is and you do.
The single player “season” where you can gain cards without buying them is similarly a slap in the face to true Madden and Football fans. Players are given certain mini-game challenges, like run for fifty yards in six attempts, then thrust into full games that represent “playoffs” before being put into a game called “The Super Bowl.” This is another reason I doubt the team in charge of this port have any experience watching real life American Football. In my short time with the game I won several “Super Bowls” and it never once felt like the “big game.” Madden for Android links the team you face in the “Super Bowl” with the team who has the player whose card you are trying to gain, regardless if it makes sense. Playing as the Jets I often found myself playing another AFC team in the “Super Bowl” and NFC teams in the “Playoffs.” The whole thing feels inauthentic and nonsensical. It’s like EA found an overseas team who had never watched football before, and they simply made the company watch some Youtube videos of someone playing Madden and then said “Make something like that, but with IAPs” and this is what they came up with.
I can’t imagine any Madden fan enjoying this game, and as if to rub salt in our wounds, EA has pulled Madden 12, the last decent representation of Madden on Android, off of the Google Play Marketplace. It seems like they feared players would reject this free to play monstrosity and tried to force it onto us by giving us no other options.
The whole game is criminal, nearly any monetization scheme would work better than this. Give us Ultimate Team for free and have us pay for Franchise, real multiplayer and SuperStar mode. Simply port the last PlayStation 2 version of Madden with an updated roster and charge six bucks for it, anything that would allow us to enjoy a real game of Madden on our phones and tablets, because this is crap. Pure IAP filled EA seal of approval stamped, crap. There are more things wrong with the game, play limits, unrealistic physics, no audibles, the list goes on, but this review doesn’t need to. Stay away from this game. Downloading it will only encourage EA. I would rather they re-release Madden ’94 with updated rosters than play this pile of stinking garbage.