Former Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi once said, "We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good."
That quote could just as easily be the mantra of the developers of Madden NFL 25. For 25 years, EA Sports has sprinted past the competition, stiff-arming would-be heirs to the throne in the pursuit of the perfect football game.
They haven't entirely succeeded — not yet anyway — but in pursuing perfection, they have achieved excellence. While it still suffers from some presentation and technical setbacks, Madden NFL 25 is a beefed-up football simulation that outperforms last year's stellar Madden NFL 13.
The 25th anniversary of Madden brings with it the usual improvements: upgraded graphics, better real-time physics, more realistic environments. The biggest overhaul is run free, an all-new running system that gives you complete control over the ball carrier.
Madden NFL 25 focuses on the power, precision and creativity of the NFL running back, featuring legendary Detroit Lions halfback Barry Sanders on the cover. As part of the run free system, acceleration boost combines your standard speed boost with a new stamina system.
When you watch video of NFL running backs, you see that very few of them are at full speed when they get the ball. They're going about 80 percent when they take the hand-off, and then burst through the hole when it appears. The same mindset has been adopted for Madden NFL 25, allowing players to build up to their maximum speed naturally while providing the explosive, game-changing element of a speed boost.
There's also the precision modifier feature, which allows the player to string together devastating combos that leave defenders in the dust. Spins, dives, hurdles, trucks, jukes and stiff-arm fends all return, in addition to a new stumble recovery mechanic. This feature provides a small window during the stumble animation where you can pull down on the right stick and regain your balance. If you miss the window or are afraid of getting wrecked by a defender, you can also flick the right stick forward to dive for extra yardage. Just like real NFL running backs, you have to gauge when to try and regain footing, or get as many yards without putting yourself at risk.
It's this kind of attention to detail that makes Madden NFL 25 a must-buy for fans of the running game. In addition to the new running system, this year's version offers improvements to the game's various modes.
In connected franchise owner mode, players own and manage a National Football League team, controlling every aspect of the business. Players can relocate teams to new cities, including international markets like Toronto, Mexico City and London, or revive a historic team like the Houston Oilers.
Man, those Houston Oilers were awesome, and Warren Moon, Lorenzo White and Haywood Jeffires were an unstoppable triple threat on the classic 1991 Nintendo video game, Tecmo Super Bowl. Speaking of Tecmo Super Bowl, Madden NFL 25 taps into 25 years of nostalgia, with loading screens that act as timelines, highlighting older entries in the series and the gameplay features they introduced. It's pretty cool to see these brief flashbacks in all their 16-bit glory before diving into this polished, ultra-realistic game.
Madden NFL 25 is one of the finest football games I've played — the best simulation since Sega's ESPN NFL 2K5 (considered by many gamers to be the greatest football game ever made). With a brand-new running system and a streak of nostalgia that recalls the glory days of professional football, EA Sports' latest edition in the Madden franchise is worthy of the Hall of Fame.