Madden and I have never been friends. I don't hate the game, football just isn't my sport and the sport I do watch, I don't play the video game for. I've been exposed to football and Madden because of friends and family. My best friend and was an avid Madden player and Washington Redskins fan. My girlfriend is also a big Redskins fan. My family falls squarely on the side of the Carolina Panthers and they're constantly asking me how the new Madden will turn out.
I know the sport. I watch it every week. I know enough to engage in the sports-related small talk that happens whenever you go. I know the game, I've played it before. One roommate I just stopped living with played Madden NFL 13 all the time on my PlayStation 3. But I lack the familiarity with the series that some readers may have. I don't know it like I know Assassin's Creed or Dead Space. So I'm speaking from the position of a layman here.
Graphically, Madden NFL 25 on PlayStation 4 isn't all that impressive.
The Madden team at EA Sports has put a ton of work into the next-generation Madden 25. They're touting a host of improvements to the game over the current-gen Madden 25: improved player interactions, grass on the field, field wear and tear, new textures on the uniforms and the stadiums, cloth physics on the jerseys, and true 3D crowds. And you can see these improvements... in the replays. The effect is totally diminished in the normal playview, which puts you far above the players. I'm guessing EA Sports knows it too, because official screenshots tend to stay away from how Madden players normally see the game in favor of the superior close-up shots.
Even up close, the players' uniforms and helmets are looking better, but their faces still need a bit more work. Madden has leaped into the uncanny valley and it probably wouldn't be as noticeable if I hadn't also seen the superior work being done on NBA 2K14.
So Madden's graphics won't shock you and change your mind about the PlayStation 4, but it's not all disappointment. EA has changed how the game plays. Again, as a layman, one of the few differences I noticed between the PlayStation 3 - thanks Redbox! - and PlayStation 4 versions of Madden 25 is the running game. The PlayStation 4 version prioritizes the simulation over the gameplay, so running includes momentum now. That means your player can't cut and turn on a dime anymore, he needs time to shift his weight, change direction, and build up some speed. If you're an avid Madden player, that's a big change that affects how you've been playing the game up until now.
There's also a number of other changes that make the game lean towards realism. This includes interactive crowds: if they notice a big play, they'll respond accordingly. It's a small addition for the series, but I'm sure it's a welcome one for Madden players. The offensive and defensive lines now benefit from the added processing power of the PlayStation 4 with more blocking interactions and decision-making based on actual player stats. Based on those stats, certain players can actually sense changes on the field and adjust in real-time. I brought in my former roommate to taste test if this actually made for smarter players on the digital field. His verdict? Yes, it does work. The players react like they would in real life and with constantly-updated rosters and stats, that means a better game for football fans.
One thing that tends to happen when EA Sports games transition from one generation to the next is you get slightly-improved graphical presentation, but most of the extra modes and options players have come to expect are missing-in-action. Sony must have given EA Sports the hardware early this time around, because Madden NFL 25 on PlayStation 4 stands up well next to the current-generation versions. All the modes players had on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, including Ultimate Team and Connected Franchise, are here. Ultimate Team even transfers over from PS3 to PS4 if you're upgrading.
While Madden NFL 25's updated visuals aren't always readily apparent, EA Sports did a great job making sure the game isn't lacking in what players have come to expect from current-gen versions. If you've bought Madden 25 already, the PS4 version may not impress you when it comes to graphics, but it is the best version of the game. The changes in physics and player AI mean veteran Madden players will have to re-learn certain parts of the game, but this is the way forward for the series and the simulation. Madden NFL 25 on PS4 feels like the beginning of a pivot for the franchise, but the series still has to tear away from the shackles of current-gen platforms. I expect Madden 2015 or 2016 will be where the series digs in and really starts impressing people.