Madden NFL 25 Preview: Smarter Physics, Harder Hits
Madden developers tend to stand out from their other colleagues in the industry. Sure, there’s that ineffable glow that comes from working on one of the most lucrative game franchises of all time. But there’re also the muscles — these guys must code all day and lift all night, or vice versa. The Madden presentation at last week’s EA Sports Season Opener event in Redwood Shores, Calif. was dominated by the hulking figure of Rex Dickson, an aptly named former college player turned developer (how did his parents know he would grow up to have giant deltoids?).
According to Dickson and his cohort, many of the innovations in Madden NFL 25 (so named to commemorate the series’ 25th anniversary) are focused on the running game. A new “Run Free” system has been carefully concocted to mimic the freedom and precision of the NFL ball carrier, with a team of 40 people working on the central gameplay mechanics. Skill moves are more precise, particularly when controlling highly rated running backs. Stiff arms are correctly aimed at the oncoming defender’s face. Players can hurdle defenders broken down to tackle, and recover from stumbles with the help of a well-timed button press.
Some changes to the running game are subtle: developers tried to capture personalities and running styles more faithfully, and you’ll now recognize backs that float like hummingbirds, swerve like race bikes, or plough forward North to South like charging bulls. Others changes are sweeping: an ambitious new “braking” system (similar to one introduced in FIFA 14) slows runners to 80% speed at the squeeze of the left trigger, enabling them to hit the right hole more easily, or craftily cut a run back against the grain. No longer will backs crash into the blockers in front of them; Madden devs took a page from the Assassin’s Creed playbook, and players can now reach out and brush by an offensive tackle like an Assassin moving through a crowded area.
The congested chaos at the line of scrimmage is an acknowledged franchise weakness. For this year’s game, EA hired a former NFL pro who completely redid the system. Blocks, imbued with physics, feel more impactful, and the improved interaction between the offensive and defensive lines was plain to see in the early build provided at the event. The improvements required a raft of new motion-captures and animations, including five different kinds of pull block, but the results speak for themselves.