Home Madden NFL 25 preview: EA Sports’ flagship gets deep gameplay upgrades

Madden NFL 25 preview: EA Sports’ flagship gets deep gameplay upgrades


  • Madden NFL 25 launches in August with upgraded features across all modes, including new role-playing elements.
  • Enhanced gameplay modeling improves hitting, tackling, and running for a more realistic football experience.
  • New features like "BoomTech" and improved pass blocking aim to balance the game and provide more control to players.

Madden NFL 25 will launch in August with across-the-board upgrades serving all modes, from new role-playing features in its Franchise to new commentary teams and presentational elements making games feel more like a Sunday afternoon flipping channels.

But what really held my attention through a hands-on session was new gameplay modeling that rendered the hitting, tackling, and running of American football in a much more recognizable, truer-to-life way.

Madden and its designers at EA Sports Orlando are known for making this claim year-to-year, to the point that the audience of its global best-seller has become somewhat numb to the promise. Fair enough. All I can say is I could feel the difference.

And speaking for myself, my judgment of each year’s Madden always begins with the quality of its running game, which was the best it’s ever been in last year’s Madden NFL 24 — but it did have moments, here and there, where everything felt a smidge stage-managed, a background dice-roll, to keep things from really getting out of hand.

In Madden NFL 25, the running and the runs after a catch feel a lot more determinative. Defenders arrive to the play with thudding, chest-up hits and shoves just like real life, in a full-contact sport now desperately trying to eliminate head-to-head collisions.

Runners can recover and gain ground from glancing blows instead of being stumbled and slowed into lengthy animations while the defense waits for help to arrive and finish a play whose outcome feels pre-determined. And new capabilities in the game’s pass-catching systems also give players a truer set of risks and rewards that manifest in crisper snags leading to breakaway runs, or a flashy grab that makes a first down but stops there.

Madden NFL 25 has a difference you can feel, from throw to catch to run

“I’m really excited by what we’ve done in catching,” said Clint Oldenburg, a producer and designer on the game for the past 12 years. “The difference you’ll feel on the sticks, when you interact with catching in Madden 25 is going to be a vastly improved experience over 24.”

The quick summary of that is players have access to a new “spec catch” action — basically a highlight-reel reception that is triggered with the L1/left bumper. Though it offers a wider area to make the play — which is also dependent on player ratings, so it’ll be more effective with better receivers — it also introduces more potential for drops.

That said, standard, safer “possession” style receptions will be supported with more animations that can branch out of receiver movement on a single-frame basis, Oldenburg said. All of this should help players extend the play, rather than make the grab, a single move, and go down if they don’t have clear sailing ahead of them.

“We have over 700 new animations in catching alone this year,” Oldenburg said, “and all of them are meant to give you control. You hit the button, and you get the catch you want, and it’s our job to make sure it matches the situation.”

Kansas City's Travis Kelce, aka Mr. Taylor Swift, as the NFL tight end appears in Madden NFL 25
Taylor Swift’s boyfriend is a highly rated tight end for the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

What is Madden NFL 25’s ‘BoomTech’?

It’s all part of something that EA Orlando developers call “BoomTech.” Madden players have heard buzzy marketing words for these concepts before, like last decade’s “Ignite Engine” or the “FieldSense” introduced two years ago.

You really don’t need a catchy name to call attention to this new gameplay, however, because really, it just works. And Madden diehards should keep their eyes peeled for the game’s annual closed beta, and try to get into that to see for themselves.

BoomTech extends to running back skill moves that now involve back jukes to what are basically the runner’s 7 o’clock or 5 o’clock positions. Previously, runners in Madden could juke only laterally (3 or 9 o’clock) or straight back.

The new jukes are very effective, possibly too effective in the early build I saw. They will likely be tuned, said designer Isaac Etheridge, but “obviously, with them being new, they got a little bit of love. If they’re a little too powerful, we’ll walk them back before we ship.”

Etheridge said that the new juke abilities practically forced the Madden development team to reconsider the ability-dependent progression system in the series’ single-player Superstar mode, which was effectively rebooted last year even though it still carried the same progression model from the old Face of the Franchise format in the preceding five years. And so the result — in both career mode, and for highly rated players with “superstar” or “X-factor” attributes in Ultimate Team and other modes, is five or six variations on running movies, of different strength and effectiveness.

But players shouldn’t think that the gameplay changes are all tuned to enhance offensive players’ capabilities. Again, if “BoomTech” allows for recovery from glancing blows and other stumbles, it also means powerful run-stopping defenders can drive runners straight back to finish the play with a Sunday-quality highlight.

How player ratings still factor into Madden NFL 25’s performance

“If all things are equal, we have a physics-driven solution,” Connor Dougan, a gameplay design director, explained. “But then we use player ratings to increase the force of particular players, to ensure that [Christian McCaffrey, the Madden 25 cover star] plays like CMC, Roquan [Smith, the Baltimore linebacker] plays like Roquan.” And he showed a sequence in which Smith blew up Kansas City runner Isiah Pacheco — a powerful but straight-ahead runner who even has new running animations specific to that style — in the backfield to stop a highly rated player for a loss.

Passing mechanics, for the most part, carry over from the previous two seasons when Madden’s developers introduced the ability — for skilled, risk-taking passers — to throw into windows of opportunity or pinpoint the ball’s location. But passing gets support in Madden NFL 25 with improved offensive line blocking, plus tool sets that streamline information for quarterbacks before the snap and allow them to adjust blocking, including taking big risks with the play itself, more intuitively.

“My favorite feature is pass blocking, obviously,” said Oldenburg, who is well known as a former offensive lineman for both Colorado State and later in the NFL. He joined EA Sports under an internship program in 2012 before going full-time.

Though his work as a core gameplay developer has touched all parts of Madden, it can most be felt in steadily improved offensive line blocking that has taken the game from an all-or-nothing, going down on first contact style of American football to something where the option plays and spread offenses of the ever-evolving league are in fact viable and fun to execute.

Pass blocking now shows “targeting lines” of which lineman is going where to take his block, basically the direction of the play. With streamlined pre-snap controls, players will be able to make “half-slide” adjustments to hedge against the defense, or pull the line in the other direction entirely — “roll the dice” as Oldenburg said, leaving one side completely unguarded but gambling that maximum protection on the other is going to spring the receiver for a huge play. Or it could blow up in your face should the defensive line (AI or human) guess right.

Madden NFL 25 screen showing the renovations to Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, got a big renovation that required a lot of work from Madden 25’s stadium artists.

Stronger offensive line play helps Madden designers balance the game

“If you played Madden for any length of time, and you played online, inevitably, you’ll run up against someone who found a blitz that we just can’t block,” Oldenburg said. “And that is just the nature of AI in today’s world; it is limited, not’s not human. So we would spend a lot of time updating those in title updates to keep replayability fresh. This year, we’re adding these new mechanics, we’re giving you authentic pass blocking schemes — a half slide left and right, full slide left and right — in addition to the ones that were already there. And on top of that, we’re showing you the targeting lines.”

Players should also see passing pockets set up more naturally, or at least more according to what they observe in a real NFL game on television. Oldenburg said that offensive line pass blocking has been tweaked so that the AI linemen don’t immediately recognize an edge rusher from the defense and go to take him out, which is one reason true pass pockets have had a hard time developing in Madden.

It also is a concession to players on defense, especially if they have strong defensive ends and know how to use them. I know that in my turns at defense, I’ve usually taken a defensive tackle or a run-stopping linebacker and just slammed him into the middle of the line because the blocking AI was almost automatic at countering my moves from the edge of the line.

Players will also see more contextual animations and moves that don’t require a specific prompt but do deliver a more instinctive use of the controlled player’s physicality. Oldenburg was careful to note that these contextual animations “should not change your direction,” it’s more about what happens as the player is traveling straight ahead and meeting contact. (Obviously, moves like the truck and stiff arm remain available.) But players will see their ballcarriers fling out their arms to brace for contact, or to maintain balance through a sharp turn.

Live-service playbooks should add depth and distinction to Madden’s teams

Supporting this play is another renewed focus on the Madden NFL playbook, which some find intimidatingly deep whereas elite players have found it somewhat rote or even indistinct team-to-team. Madden NFL 25’s designers are taking a live-service approach to the game’s playbook, which not only helps them balance the game for multiplayer, it also means they can be more responsive and reflective of the innovations that NFL fans see on Sunday in real life.

“This is going to give us the ability to give players more control, more authenticity, more strategy, because we can live update every playbook in the game,” Oldenburg said. “We want to bring unique play-call trends so that no matter which team you’re a fan of, you have something to embrace. Could be Miami motion, could be deep crosses in Houston, could be the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning corndog play.”

Madden NFL 25 launches Aug. 16 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X with verisons also available on PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC via the Microsoft, Steam, and Epic Games Store storefronts.

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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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