Developer: Electronic Arts
Price: Free
Version: 1.0.7
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

Oh football season, how we’ve missed you so. Right on schedule, Madden has made its annual return to iOS. Don’t worry, we didn’t just take a really long collective nap and wake up in 2025. The name Madden 25 alludes to the brand’s 25 years in existence. With all that time to perfect the pigskin, this should easily be the most accurate free simulation on iOS. While that may be true, the game’s whole freemium model could also prove to be its biggest hindrance.

IMG_0395Football has never looked better on an iPhone 5. Madden 25 has done a fantastic job of bringing the sport to life on iOS, with the help of crisp visuals and silky smooth animations. The action is fast and frantic, but never quick enough that the player ever feels like they’re not completely in control. Well that’s true as long as they opt to ignore the title’s optional digital joypad. Its sluggish response time is probably the reason it isn’t the default control scheme.

Taking a page out of the book of Madden 25’s console big brother, the mobile game has a fairly deep playbook. Unfortunately most of these plays are locked behind a leveling wall that makes them available as the player levels up. And then there’s a financial cost to use these “special plays” that pulls from the coin purse of accumulated currency, earned during post-game bonuses. Even items that could be considered critical strategic plays that are fundamental to the sport, like spiking the ball to stop the clock or being able to return a punk or kickoff anywhere other the middle of the field, are hidden away as well.

IMG_0412It seems that in order to compensate for this injustice the AI is about as bright as a northern Alaska winter. Simple concepts like clock management when they are behind in the fourth quarter or the proper time to punt or kick a field goal has the digital opposition befuddled. For example, there was actually a game where the computer could have won with a field goal on fourth down, with 3 seconds left on the clock, and for some reason it opted to PUNT the ball through the uprights instead. Luckily there is also an option to engage either Facebook friends or random strangers in head-to-head, turn-based competition.

Though EA Sports has managed to nail the presentation in Madden 25, the free-to-play model just doesn’t seem well fit for the football genre. This is certainly a passable experience, and the Ultimate Team angle to roster management is somewhat enjoyable as well, but having to wait and earn energy in order to start another match barely seems worth it when the simulations aspects of the title are so off-putting. Hardcore fans of the sport are more than welcome to give it a try, but expect to be letdown rather quickly.

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