Just in time for the August and September rushes of fantasy football drafts, Electronic Arts has released Madden NFL 25 for the iOS format. NFL 25 allows you to build your own squad of gridiron gods from a roster consisting of over 1,500 actual players, and have them bash heads on both the single-player and multiplayer fields. Using a card-based system similar to that of the defunct Madden NFL Social, is Madden NFL 25 worthy of an end zone dance? Or is it one giant fumble?
Well, end zone dances and spikes are met with heavy fines. Despite it being free-to-play, if you want to put your dream team together in Madden NFL 25, be prepared to break out the big bucks. NFL 25 is the apotheosis of freemium gaming, and I suggest saving up your money for an actual fantasy football draft instead of trying to get involved with this fourth string experience.
Madden NFL 25 has nothing to write home about in terms of its graphics, and contains just about every iOS shortcut in the playbook. Stands are filled with paper-thin spectators and each character on the field looks the same. I was glad that the arenas actually have the team logo at the 50 and have the team names written across each end zone. On the character models, it's tough to see that the last names are accurate, though they turn legible during cutscenes. While I didn't expect anything groundbreaking done on the iOS format, I have seen outdoor sports captured in much prettier ways.
In the NFL, there is a 15-yard penalty for clipping. In NFL 25, clipping has been apparently penalized as well, only this time it comes from a development standpoint. I've noticed in quite a few end zone cutscenes, players and refs are frequently running through each other. It's even worse when players start walking through goalposts and walls. I have seen so many players walk through the stands that I'm starting to think that Kitty Pryde is on the field. In terms of sound, expect to hear the same songs, fan ambience and player field-talk constantly repeated before, during and after every single play.
Madden NFL 25's controls are its saving grace. And even then, it's nothing groundbreaking. Pick a play, invert it if you want, tap to hike the ball and tap a number corresponding to your intended receiver. NFL 25 is turn-based, so you focus more on the offensive drive rather than being elaborate with your defense. Even while playing multiplayer, playing defense simply means that you're not really doing anything aside from tapping carriers and moving your defenders. Everything on your defense is automated. Even though you can't do much with your defensive lineups, you still need to choose excellent players to put on there so that your opponents can struggle against the A.I. controlling them.
You start off with 10 charges of energy for gameplay, each solo challenge attempt requires one charge. A full exhibition match against the A.I. requires eight charges. Each round of multiplayer requires energy as well (requiring an abundance of energy just to get through a full game). Scenario matches cost five charges. Of course, charges are only unlocked via micro-transactions or waiting for substantial amount of time. Unlocking just about every popular/decent player card? You guessed it, micro-transactions. Buying player bundles only provide you the cards at random. If you're a perfectionist, collector, or just want to make your own Justice League of pigskin, expect to dish out lots of your hard-earned money in Madden NFL 25. Honestly, the gameplay itself and most of my experiences, against both A.I. and other fans, remind me that these microtransactions are not worth it, because NFL 25 isn't worth it as a whole. Having your playbooks purposely limited until you level up your career will force you into running the same handful of plays over and over again.
Ultimately, I feel that this Madden title was simply made to simulate both the fantasy football and NFL Social experiences for either those who lack the friends needed for a fantasy football league, or the richest of NFL fans who simply do not care as to where their money goes. As a game, NFL 25 is quite lackluster overall, but has some decent controls and plays as intended. Unfortunately, I would not even recommend it to even the most dedicated of fans since there are much better football apps to download. Even though I can see certain people dishing out premium dollar to excel on a F2P iOS football title (due to the die hard nature of your average NFL fan), I just feel that the extra money (and time) invested into NFL 25 simply is not worth it.