Home Every mode in Madden NFL 25 gets attention, starting with Franchise and Superstar

Every mode in Madden NFL 25 gets attention, starting with Franchise and Superstar

tl;dr

  • Madden NFL 25 launches Aug. 16 with comprehensive updates across all modes, including Franchise and Superstar.
  • Josh Looman returns to enhance role-playing features, adding storylines and player interactions in Franchise mode.
  • New "BoomTech" gameplay, expanded NFL Draft, and improved player creation aim to refresh and balance the game.

In years past, Madden NFL launches often would be criticized because certain modes would seem to be idled, or maintained, rather than be designated for big changes in that edition, simply because of the pressures of developing an iterative game on a year-long development cycle.

But based on what I’ve seen, that criticism really can’t be made of Madden NFL 25, coming Aug. 16 to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, with versions tabbed for for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. This is a comprehensive update with every mode getting significant attention, and that starts with the single-player staples Franchise and Superstar, where something like 90 percent of Madden players spend time.

And a big reason for that push is because longtime developer Josh Looman is back on the case.

Looman, who spent the past four years dabbling in other ventures, spent the preceding 17 at EA Sports in which he led development of Connected Franchise Mode, the career suite that in 2012 finally gave Madden fans to play in online leagues with friends. He brings a very personal interest in delivering role-playing game touches to this sports video game, and with Madden NFL 25, players will see that in both Franchise and Superstar, the narrative single-player career that branched off from Connected Franchise in 2019.

“It’s immersion, that element of surprise that every single time you play the mode, that things are different,” Looman said in a presentation last month at EA Sports’ Orlando, Fla. studio, where Madden is developed.

“It’s the stuff that we did on Head Coach,” he added, name-checking an ambitious but binned NFL management simulation for consoles and PCs in 2006 and 2008. “It’s the stuff we did in [Connected Franchise Mode] in the first year. So I really want to bring that kind of stuff back and have that feeling of excitement every single time you play Franchise.”

Storylines bring depth to Franchise, and make player management more personal

Franchise, in which a player directs the activities of an entire team as its head coach, will bring in storylines that build up over the course of a season and require players to make role-playing decisions that affect an individual player’s progression as well as the team’s. Looman says there are 70 such storylines that can crop up, dependent on a team’s offseason performance and the expectations of its coach and players.

“We’ve got stories like resting your starters, when your team has locked up a playoff berth,” Looman said. “We’ve got ‘changing the culture,’ like the [Detroit] Lions,” he added referencing that downtrodden franchise’s grinding turnaround under head coach Dan Campbell, which put them in a conference championship game for the first time in more than 30 years.

“The goal here is to push the right buttons with your player personalities,” Looman said. “We’ve got personalities in the game right now in franchise mode, but they don’t do anything. So now we’re actually hooking them into the storyline, so you can interact with them, manage them, and know and research every single one of your players and know how they react to things.”

Looman gave an example of a preseason encounter where a player shows up out-of-shape. This begins a dialogue tree where the coach can figure out how to get him locked on and flying right.

Sometimes it takes a hard-ass approach, but with certain other players, especially veterans or free agents new to the team, a softer power is called for. Looman said this is mainly to give agency to the player, context to the off-season, and meaning to management decisions that to date have existed mainly as choices in a spreadsheet-style menu.

Closeup of Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers, in Madden NFL 25
Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers is Madden NFL 25’s cover athlete.

The NFL Draft gets a glow-up in Madden NFL 25

That means the league’s biggest off-season event, the draft of amateur players in April, will take on more meaning in Madden 25, Looman said. “Franchise deserves an authentic draft experience,” he said. It means presentational elements that include NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and his voice, as well as players wearing draft-day suits as opposed to “their weird football uniform that they did last year,” Looman promised.

It also means streamlining the information players have often managed with a pad and paper or other offline methods.

“I made jokes about spreadsheets earlier, but it is, actually, now a spreadsheet,” Looman said with a chuckle. “And they’re useful because now you can sort information and set up your draft board. You can say, ‘Who’s the fastest wide receiver available now in the draft, based on what’s [been] scouted. So that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This will extend to the draft itself where players can keep better track of players, not just big names chosen in earlier rounds, or what divisional rivals are up to, but how they can respond with a selection from the remaining talent pool..

The point is that the NFL Draft will be a centerpiece event in Madden NFL 25 much like it is in real life, rather than a series of menu decisions that many players simply automate. But the real clincher for how Franchise is going to change — and change dramatically — is the introduction of TeamBuilder to the mode.

Fans of the old NCAA Football series will no doubt snap to attention at the mention of that name. This is the web-based, wholesale team-creation suite that let players design their own uniforms, logos, and even rosters, to take control of an entirely customized team celebrating a user’s deeply personal fandom.

In this case, we were shown TeamBuilder screens that had the old Houston Oiler derrick logo among the library. Putting the Chargers back in San Diego is as easy as making an entirely new team for Mexico City. Madden’s Franchise mode has dabbled in team relocation options in the past, but they always felt a little anodyne, if not self-conscious that relocating teams was always more bad publicity than good for the league. Players were strictly limited in the locations, names, and logos — which all looked like CD-ROM clip art from the 1990s — they could choose. Those rules are lifted.

So it’s remarkable that the league’s license managers are acceding to this level of player customization. TeamBuilder, which will also be a feature of the EA Sports College Football game launching in July, could end up being a YouTube scene-stealer depending on how creative or traditional fans want to get with it.

What’s on deck for Madden NFL 25 Superstar mode

Superstar, the other mode that a great majority of the Madden player base ends up spending at least a season in, is getting a bit of a smaller recondition a year after EA Sports brought it back under its old name. That said, it’s going to see changes in presentational elements that will showcase the player avatar, as well as player progression changes that not only refresh the mode but also account for a Superstar character improving his teammates.

“Sometimes your teammates can really just tick you off,” designer Isaac Etheridge said. “Like ‘What has just happened here?‘” As a player deepens his skills in a particular area, for example receiving passes, it can deliver a bigger contextual benefit to his teammates’ ability in the same department.

Significantly, how well a player runs passing routes (if they’re not a quarterback, obviously) is going to have a benefit on experience-point generation and player progression whether or not the ball is thrown at them (or even if the pass is caught), where it didn’t matter in the past. “We never cared in the past how well are you running your route,” Etheridge said. “Now we can grade you. If you get open and you catch the ball, you’re still going to get points, but if you run your route, get out and open and catch the ball, it’s much better.”

Progression also gets a remake simply because new skill moves, as outlined in the gameplay preview, mean more badges players can earn to define their superstar’s traits to make him stand out. Etheridge acknowledged that Superstar’s perk tree in Madden NFL 24 was largely unchanged from what it was in Madden NFL 21. New skills means new progression opportunities, and therefore a new perk tree to give the mode a refresh.

The difference, Etheridge said, is players might sense that their rookie star is not as powerful as past years. That’s intentional. “We’re starting you a little bit lower,” he said. “In the past, we started you, maybe a bit too good. Don’t get me wrong, I like starting as a really good player. But the downside is you couldn’t always feel progression.”

Closeup of Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, as he appears in Madden NFL 25
Lamar Jackson is a previous Madden NFL cover star and a dynamic player coveted in the Ultimate Team mode.

How the NFL Draft will enhance Superstar in Madden 25

The thumb on the scale will be an expanded Draft Combine experience where the created player runs through a larger set of skill-based events in order to arrive at a scouting grade for the team that takes him, as well as nudge his attributes to get a leg up in year one.

Certain drills will be standard to all positions, such as running a 40-yard dash, or bench presses, but a set of 26 mini-game type drills — again, not every player will perform each of them — will help flesh out the star and deepen the role-playing experience.

“Our players who play this mode, last year, spoke to us, and they were loud and clear that, eventually, things start to feel a little bit stagnant,” Etheridge said. So while “quests,” in which players get game-to-game or longer-term goals are still part of Superstar, delivering XP bonuses, they’ll now be threaded into storylines and other decision-making, role-playing events to give players a little more of a payoff for completing them, or at least the sense that they really do matter to the career.

Presentationally, Madden NFL has been at a disadvantage with its single-player mode because the player is cloaked in a huge set of pads and a helmet, which can render him practically anonymous unless the user is going deep into the replays to take screenshots. Mike Mahar, the Madden series’ senior producer, acknowledged this but said Superstar’s cinematics are going to emphasize the player’s personality more, with more helmet-off cinematics, celebrations, and outside-the-lines sequences.

Player creation gets more options, and gives players a bigger space to shine

To that end, the avatar creation is also getting an overhaul with vastly more face and body options than the rigid set Superstar has seen going back to its Face of the Franchise days. And going further, that extends to the player’s archetype, whereby they can choose a certain body build that’s designed to be a load-of-bricks power runner or a gazelle-like defensive back, but they can also nudge height and weight traits, with attendant attribute gains and losses.

“We want players min/maxing,” Mahar said. “We want players to create things that we cannot imagine. We expect there will be some balance issues, but that’s what we want. We want people experimenting with the game and doing things that we can’t think of.”

In sum, Madden NFL 25 will be largely served by feature upgrades that serve all modes — a new coat of paint in the game’s broadcast presentation, which will include three, yes three, broadcast teams — also touch more persistent modes of play like Superstar and Franchise.

Not only does the standard team of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis return (they’ve anchored the game since 2016) but NBC’s Mike Tirico and Greg Olsen join the production, for marquee Sunday-night style matchups. Additionally, Kate Scott teams with former quarterback and current Fox Sports analyst Brock Huard to deliver more variety to regular-season Franchise and Superstar games. Scott, as one of the first women to broadcast NFL games, also highlights the inclusion of creatable female coaches in Franchise mode for the first time.

The bottom line: Madden NFL 25’s core modes themselves are getting significant adjustments and changes, with the goal of making sure no fan’s favorite way to play is left behind.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Owen Good
Gaming Editor (US)

Owen Good is a 15-year veteran of video games writing, also covering pop culture and entertainment subjects for the likes of Kotaku and Polygon. He is a Gaming Editor for ReadWrite working from his home in North Carolina, the United States, joining this publication in April, 2024. Good is a 1995 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 2000 graduate of The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, in New York. A second-generation newspaperman, Good's career before covering video games included daily newspaper stints in North Carolina; in upstate New York; in Washington, D.C., with the Associated Press; and…

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