The Madden video game franchise is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, but on iOS, there have only been 4 editions. Madden 25 for iOS marks the fifth version of EA’s premier football franchise on iOS, and each year has been disappointing to say the least. Last year’s version was the worst yet, and Madden 25 borrows heavily from last year’s implementation. Madden 13 Social introduced turn based online multiplayer as well as a heavy handed freemium infrastructure. Both facets return in Madden 25, and in essence the entire game is the Ultimate Team mode from the console version, but scaled down. You pick your favorite team, and each player comes in the form of a playing card, which you can replace with packs of playing cards that you earn or purchase.
If you played, or at least were assaulted with Madden 13 Social, then Madden 25 is awfully familiar for all the wrong reasons. Off the top, you’re given three different in-game currencies with coins, football bucks, and energy with each one available as in-app purchases. New player packs can be picked up with coins that you earn, or football bucks that you can only buy. Getting new players is essential to the entire game, as your goal is to continually upgrade your roster to play tougher opponents. Every game helps you earn coins and level up, but each game also costs energy which can limit your play time. You can also level up, which boosts your coin stash, and replenishes your energy meter, and new levels come pretty quickly at the beginning. The biggest takeaway is that there are a number of restrictions to the point that the majority of playbook is locked down, and you need to level up to unlock new plays, but even when plays are unlocked they actually costs coins to use.
The freemium mechanic limits your players, plays, play time, and the entire experience. Amazingly, that’s not the worst part of the game as that honor is saved up for the actual football gameplay. This year has a few nuances, but the base at which the developers are building on is inherently broken. There are absolutely no similarities between the console and iOS versions. Nothing exemplifies that point better than watching the opponent punt when they’re on your 25 yard line going into score. Just like last year, the game is too easy to the point that you’re monotonously going through the motions. The difficulty seems to have gone down a notch with the new gesture controls that make for a more passive approach. Your players run automatically, so that you barely tap the screen to make subtle adjustments, or perform special moves. Passing is nothing more than tapping a target on screen, and playing defense is simply swiping upwards. The traditional analog controls are available in the menu, but they’re just poor, rather than simple. In fact the touch controls make it easy to manage the game, but it’s what you’re managing that is the hassle.
The entire game flow feels clunky whether you’re transitioning between plays, or ending a drive or quarter. One noticeable improvement in Madden 25 is that the player animations are improved for more football style movements. The graphics engine is a slot notch upwards, but that’s about it. Through all of the features, the most noticeable aspect is that it doesn’t feel like a football sim, and instead a series of poorly made arcade mini-games. The poor gameplay is emphasized when going through the motions in the head to head mode, which just gives you simplistic offensive series. Another new addition to Madden 25 is the inclusion of a solo challenge mode which offers a couple of quick games with a particular theme to unlock new cards. It’s the one semblance of a quality part of the game, but it’s limited with the same extremely easy set-up. You begin with two simple mini-games, than play two full games with one minute quarters against vanilla opponents. The set-up is a good idea, but the execution throws that idea out the window.
Madden on iOS has seemingly gotten worse as the years have gone by, rather than better. We have seen the Asphalt racing series grow by leaps and bounds, and yet Madden is regressing. The last two versions don’t even include a normal season mode, which would seem to be the most basic thing to include. That doesn’t even get into franchise, true multiplayer, or head coach mode. Madden 10 for iOS was probably the best version of the game, and sadly Madden 25 is more like Madden 13 Social than Madden 10. There are more restrictions than anything else, and the gameplay couldn’t be more bland and boring if it was coded to be. Imagine, if Madden on iOS could at least be at the level of Fifa on iOS, but instead we’re given a game that can’t even be classified as a football sim.
Madden NFL 25 (Free, Universal) isn’t quite as bad as Madden 13 Social, but it’s still a poor effort from EA that is a terrible experience that should be avoided at all costs.