For a title celebrating its 25th anniversary, Madden NFL 25 doesn't quite make the quantum leap update you would associate with such a celebratory mark. For players who gave Madden NFL 13 a solid run, there will be a lot of familiar moments here, but that’s not to say there haven’t been a handful of improvements made on the game. Despite those changes, though, it seems like EA Sports' prime focus with this one was to expand the number of features in the game, rather than make any drastic moves.

25’s gameplay differences don’t exactly pop out on first glance, mostly because they occur under the hood—such as tweaks that result in fewer instances of players tripping or falling post-play—and only become noticeable the longer you play. Whereas runners had a difficult time with the physics and collision detection of Madden 13, they will have a much easier time in Madden 25. This is a big win, especially since running the ball in Madden 13 sometimes felt like a replay of the infamous Mark Sanchez butt fumble.

Meanwhile, blocking has been improved upon greatly with the introduction of the Precision Modifier, mapped to the controller's left trigger, offering a greater variety of ball-carrier moves. The Modifier also breathes new life into power backs like the Falcons' Michael Turner, and makes running in between the tackles a more viable option than it's been in the past.

Still, as is typical with EA, with the good comes some bad. With all of the new weapons the running game has at its disposal, runners have ironically become a bit too powerful, thereby putting defenses at a distinct disadvantage. It would be nice to see a fairer balance, as even the much-improved Hit Stick is often no match for high-power runners.

On the defensive side, Man Two Deep was the go-to formation in Madden 13, as more times than not, it provided blanket coverage even if your opponent had an elite receiver. Picking the right spots to play man-to-man defense will be essential this year, and high-skill players will make you pay if you don't mix up your play calling. On the other hand, zone defense has been tightened up a bit, but there are still times when you'll see a corner or safety play too rigid in his zone assignment, leaving gaping holes that make you susceptible to long gains via the air. Thankfully, passing over the middle is more difficult all around.

In Franchise Mode, Connected Careers has thankfully been reborn as Connected Franchise. In it, players can draft budding young talent, sign future stars, hike up the prices on their jerseys and even relocate teams to one of 17 other cities. As a big factor in building a franchise, the ability to import classes from NCAA Football returns, after taking a one year hiatus in Madden 13, but it's hard to get excited about a long-running feature that shouldn't have been axed in the first place.

As a feature that thrives on collective play, Connected Franchise only reaches its full potential for those fortunate enough to be in an all-user league. And fortunately Tiburon has restored the ability to control all 32 teams (it's pretty seamless, as a click of the right stick gives you instant access to any team you want to helm), so offline gamers can jump in and play commissioner whenever they see fit. Another great addition is the Madden Share feature, which allows players to share items like playbooks, slider settings and roster files.

The XXL Endgame

Madden 25 is a very comprehensive and full-featured simulation of NFL football, but fans expecting something supremely new from the title celebrating its silver anniversary will walk away disappointed. What you do get, though, is a game that has been generally refined and offers a ton of options where players can coach, play and micro-manage franchises in just about every possible way. By playing it too conservative, EA Sports' Madden NFL 25  just isn't up to par with expectations for a game that closes out this current generation of consoles.—Written by DJ Rhude (@DJRhude)

XXL Rating: L

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