Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Madden 25 Demo Impressions

There's a lot to learn in the new Madden 25 demo.
There's a lot to learn in the new Madden 25 demo.

We got our first chance to play Madden 25 when the official demo released yesterday afternoon, and now nearly 24 hours later, we’ve got a lot to say about our first impressions with this year’s game.

Before getting into exactly what we liked and didn’t like in the new Madden 25 demo, it’s important to first make it clear that much of the value in this season’s title isn’t playable in the demo, as no portion of Owner Mode or Franchise was available to play. As you can imagine, what we’re mostly focusing on is gameplay with a few notes here and there about UI changes.

Check out what we thought about the demo below, and then feel free to add in your own two cents in the comments. It’s important to get as many views on the game as we can so we have a clearer picture of Madden 25 come launch day on August 27th.

Madden 25 Demo Impressions

• Skills Trainer is Fun
I don’t know whether or not the Skills Trainer that is available in the demo is the full version from the game, or if it’s just a portion of it, but either way it’s a pretty interesting mode that definitely has potential to be improved upon in the future. In the demo, players can learn how precision modifiers work in the running game, tune up their ball hawk skills, work on their pass timing and master the read-option. Of all of these possibilities, by far the most useful appears to be the read-option practice mode, which is a great way to master the nuances of the play type in a fun environment. The read-option feels really strong this year, which is going to make knowing how to stop it very important this season.

Keep in mind, however, that sliders seem to be tuned heavily in these practice modes (or they’re defaulted to the easiest difficulty). Players like Patrick Willis will have an incredibly hard time tackling you in the Precision Modifier trainer, while blocking seems to be absurdly good in the read-option mode. This is understandable since the mode is meant to provide a controlled environment for learning, and there has to be some way to control for the chaos, but just be sure you realize that when you jump into the actual game, things won’t be quite as easy to execute.

• Power Backs are Back
You only have to run around with Marshawn Lynch for a few minutes to realize that power backs are back in style this year. Madden has improved interior running by not only making the blocking better in the game, but also preventing friendly-fire collisions and putting a greater emphasis on size and strength when running over defenders (this must be that “Force Impact” we’ve heard so much about). The result is a power running game in Madden that can be very effective at gaining four or five yards a play, and sometimes lots more as you blast through defenders. Unfortunately, there are no speed backs in the demo with high-quality skills, so it’s hard to see how this compares to faster backs, but for now it seems like power will be valuable again in Madden, which is a welcomed return.

• The Game is Much Slower
Make no mistake about it, Madden 25 is much slower than its predecessor, which is something I know many people wanted but certainly not myself. Some have come to me and said it’s the opposite, that the game is much faster, but I just don’t feel it and I play quite a lot. My guess is EA wanted to slow down the game in order to give players more time to make use of the new ball-carrier precision modifiers and read-option, but the pacing just feels like you’re running a bit through mud at times when first starting out (you’ll adjust to it, though). This also helps because it makes the new acceleration burst style of sprinting much more useful.

The game feels much better, in my opinion, when set to the “Fast” setting although it’s probably a bit too fast for most (and certainly faster than M13). I would like to see the game somewhere between those two settings, but that’s just my preference. I can certainly get used to the current speed, however, particularly if it slows down games by encouraging more running and less points, which creates shorter games.

• Safety Play is Much More Dynamic
One of the first things I noticed in this year’s game, is that play from the safety position is much, much more dynamic. In the past, if a safety was sitting in a deep blue zone, then they would hang back there pretty much no matter what was going on underneath them. Now, if a player loses a man assignment and the safety is near by, he’ll actually take over on the route and pick up the defender. This kind of play can be both bad and good depending on how you like to play defense, but overall it makes for a more dynamic, less predictable game. I’ve also noticed safeties coming up more to defend intermediate routes, which is probably aided by the fact that pass leading has been toned down this year.

• Screen Blocking is Scary
For the first time ever in Madden, I actually said “oh no” when a running back screen was thrown and I had a defender in the area. In past Madden games, it really didn’t take much more than one good user defender to shut down a screen play irregardless of the position used, but now that blocking is so much more based on size and strength, it’s practically a death sentence to see a big offensive linemen pulling out in front of a defensive back. In one particular instance, I had two DBs closing in on a screen pass with one lineman out in front, and actually had both defenders get de-cleated one by one by the lineman, which was my first big wakeup call to the importance of size advantage in this year’s game. It felt great, natural, and really improved the game strategically. As well, because defensive backs are not so great at stuffing running back screens on their own any more, that means calling a screen during a blitz is as dangerously effective as it should be.

• Running is a New Game
One of the benefits of the slower speed this time around, is that the running game is much more dependent on following blockers and reading the cutting lanes than ever before. When you first load up the demo, there will be an early urge to hold down the sprint button and get to the edge of the field, but that’s just not the only way to run any more. Now, instead of “get to the edge but cut forward as soon as possible,” the running game now consists of finding the holes that naturally develop based on the run type, and trying to set yourself up in the best position to take on a defender, rather than avoid them altogether.

Unfortunately, the blocking isn’t all there just yet, although you can notice improvements. Toss plays still exhibit knuckleheaded blocking fairly often, but it’s not as bad as in year’s past. You shouldn’t expect the entire running playbook to suddenly open up in Madden 25, but there will certainly be a few new runs that emerge this year in usefulness due to the improved blocking, and yards after contact from power backs in the game.

Another interesting part of the running game I noticed this year, is that players who fall or get knocked down stay on the ground longer. The fact that players stay on the ground longer makes hurdling defenders feel like a useful move, and likely helps create a better distinction between high motor players and everyone else. It’s a subtle, but smart change that has the potential to distinguish players better on defense, and also open up lanes for savvy runners.

What I expect this season: A wider variety of runs being used by players, and a greater commitment to running the ball. It’s simply fun to run the ball this year, especially with the new foot planting, so it’s going to consume a lot of your play time.

• Player UI is Really Confining
While it’s not the biggest deal in the world, the amount you are able to see this year in the player statistics and depth chart pages is incredibly small. For whatever reason, it seems like two or three times as much space as needed is reserved for player names, while the things you care about the most (attributes, stats) can only be viewed three columns at a time. This isn’t a huge deal, like I said, but it’s a small quality of life oversight that should be corrected. It’s not fun, or easy, to browse through such confined pages.

• Injuries Happen Way Too Often
For whatever reason, injuries happen at an absurd rate in the Madden NFL 25 demo. Perhaps it’s the result of user players (myself) using the hit stick so much on defense, and draining my new stamina bar too much on offense, but in either event it’s going to happen twice as much in online games if it’s not tweaked. Right now, with just one user player I’ve had multiple injuries in every single game I’ve played (some multiple times on the same drive). This is so bad, that I’ve actually had to turn injuries down in the sliders just so it doesn’t feel like the game is being delayed by an “injury penalty” every few plays.

• Interceptions Feel Great This Year
Interceptions are as good as ever in Madden 25, not just in how they look and how they feel, but when they are successfully achieved. I’ve always been someone who has said interceptions are dropped way too often in Madden, and noted that even though picks happen often in the game, they happen often because most players aren’t NFL caliber quarterbacks at reading the defense, and they throw exceptionally poorly thought out passes. In recent seasons, it’s always felt like a player would throw several dropped picks a game in my direction, but at least in the Madden 25 demo, that feels different.

Interceptions feel like they are much more likely to be caught this year, and when they are, it’s done much more naturally than before. Part of this is probably due to the fact that sideline interceptions are possible this year (previously they weren’t), which results in a lot more picks than previously, but part is also likely due to the fact that players find themselves in better position for the pick this time around, thanks to the game’s new Switch Assist feature, which has its drawbacks but is certainly safer for grabbing a DB and picking off a pass than otherwise.

• The Pass Rush is MIA
Another note is that pass rush with down defenders seems really stagnant, but that may be much better with user timing and practice (there’s usually always some ways every year to get good user pressure). Still, you can’t expect players to user the d-line on every passing down, especially considering how limiting the pass rush options are (I suspect d-line play will be a focus in the future). It seems that in the process of making the blocking better in the run, they’ve overcompensated a bit too much for blocking in the pass. I did on occasion see some very impressive bull rushes, however in all instances they were the result of user control.

• Precision Running is Good, Not Great
The addition of precision ball-carrier moves was one of the more highly-touted features in the game this year, although it’s far from the most impressive. Precision running feels like a good, but not great feature implementation that is hindered primarily by a lack of variety in movesets. Precision moves, simply put, are simply more effective versions of the same primary running moves we’ve had in the past, with one or two small additions.

The result is that it doesn’t feel so much like a great expansion to running the ball when you use the precision modifier, as much as it does a chore. While it’s hard to say how precision running will be in the full game, from my early experiences it seems as if it’s only going to be a feature used when you’re in the open field with time to think, or when binded to your mind with power moves (there’s no reason not to use precision truck stick over the normal truck stick at any time, it appears). The idea of a precision modifier I think is a good one, since it has the potential to open up the game much more, but in its first execution it seems to fall a bit flat of expectations. Perhaps this will feel a bit different with a greater variety of running backs to choose from in the full release.

The running game is certainly a lot better in Madden 25, and a lot more fun, but it’s more the result of blocking and player collisions than the enhanced running options at your disposal.

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  • fsda

    I think this was a good, fairly objective review without too much bias for or against EA. Thank you. I am happy about the running game but very disappointed about the pass rush and line interaction in general.

    • GoMadden

      Thanks sir!