For EA SPORTS, a rather large risk was taken with Madden NFL 13. The vision of what the company felt a career or franchise mode should be was there, but could they afford to take the risk to overhaul a key component of the game and lose a few features in the process? Some of the best decisions we make are the toughest, and proved to be true for EA SPORTS last year with Connected Careers.
Fans lashed out at the lack of a “franchise” mode, but most didn’t realize that Connected Careers was exactly what they were looking for in Madden NFL 13. Combining both Superstar and Franchise mode, EA SPORTS gave gamers the online franchise that they were looking for while finally giving the mode an “end-game”. Players were able to set records, win championships, and ultimately earn their place in history via the in-game Hall of Fame and legacy score. The mode wasn’t without its issues, however, as many features that fans had grown familiar to had been removed to achieve a new foundation for the mode’s first year. EA SPORTS promised that Connected Careers would lay the foundation for a better experience and those features would return, and they’ve delivered on that promise.
One of the most beloved features in the long history of Madden has been Owner Mode, and you’ll be happy to know that it’s returning this year. Rather than just rehash what we’ve seen in the past from the mode, new features and ideas have been brought to the mode in Madden NFL 25. Want to relocate a franchise? Move that team to one of the pre-selected cities within the game. While some fans may be frustrated that you just can’t move a team to any city in the world, EA SPORTS went with a quality approach to keep you immersed in the mode. Various cities have been selected by EA SPORTS as what are considered possible destinations for NFL teams, and each includes their own region-themed mascots and logos. You’re able to move teams to Los Angeles, Chicago, London, and quite a few others as well. This pre-determined approach helps the commentary use your team name to avoid dull moments such as the “away team” or “home team” during your games.
Not every team can be moved at any point, however. Choosing a team like the Cowboys won’t allow you to build a brand new stadium or move your team right away as you’ll need to satisfy a few requirements. With the stadium in Dallas being essentially brand new, you’ll have to wait until your stadium degrades quite a bit before you’re able to move. Teams like the Vikings, Raiders, or Browns are able to move right from the start of the season, or you can simply begin the process of building a new stadium instead. If you’re looking to relocate a team, a process of steps will be involved throughout the season to mimic real-life decisions. You’ll have to choose a city to take your team and you’ll be presented with how likely a team is to support you, what type of fans you’ll have, and more. As you progress through the weeks of the season, you’ll be asked to choose mascots, stadium types, and to choose from one of the pre-determined jersey styles in the game. You’re presented with three different jersey types that allow you to take a more traditional approach or to learn towards a more modern look for your new franchise.
All of these things cost money, however, and that’s where you need to balance your budget. Buying a new stadium, upgrading your stadium, or relocating your team will come out of your pocket. Places like Los Angeles, however, might assist you a bit when you’re relocating your team because they’re desperate to have you. To earn money, you’ll need to set jersey, food, and ticket prices for your fans. Set them too high, and fans will lose interest and your support will dwindle quite a bit. Even better, a fan-themed Twitter feed will be present on the right-hand side of the finance menus that let you know what your fans think. Cities like Cleveland that are notorious for fans that complain about everything will still find ways to complain when you’re doing fairly well, adding a great personality for each NFL city.
If you’re an owner, you’ll still be able to play games. Think of it as the “God mode” for Madden NFL 25 allowing you to control all aspects of your franchise as well as play the games. Not a fan of balancing finances or have no interest in upgrading a stadium? Don’t worry, being a coach allows you to just focus on your personnel and playing the game. Just want to dominate as a player and keep things all about yourself? Be a player and rise through the ranks of the NFL in your chosen position.
Being an owner will even let you comment on your team’s performance, and make predictions for their success or failure. Guaranteeing the Super Bowl might have your fans incredibly excited, which will lead to them buying more jerseys or more tickets to your games. Start losing games or don’t keep that promise, and you’ll see a backlash that could affect how successful your team is from a financial perspective. Being able to comment on how much trust you have in a player, coach, or your team in general brings a whole different aspect to Owner mode.
While the mode features quite a bit big features and upgrades this year, EA SPORTS is paying attention to the small details as well. Issues with progression and regression have been paid attention to for multiple positions. NFL running backs rarely last past the age of 30, and EA SPORTS is using real-life logic to help players fade out of the league. Tired of Michael Turner dominating leagues and breaking records well into his mid-thirties? As players get older, they’ll struggle to keep their ratings up high unless they have a high development rating and are able to produce great numbers in each season. Father time will catch up to players, but it’s a matter of how quickly that will happen this year rather than “if” if will happen. In numerous simulations of the game, I found certain running backs drop in speed and acceleration as they hit the 30 years old mark. This puts a greater emphasis on drafting rookies as you’ll need them when players don’t produce or are getting too old to be dominate in your offensive or defensive scheme.
Last year, it was apparent that middle linebackers were one of the toughest positions to actually develop due to the high numbers required for tackles. The team has looked over the requirements for each position, as well as backups, and retooled the tuning to ensure that the numbers make sense. While it’s not going to be easy, you now have the opportunity to have breakout players throughout the seasons. Players having seasons like Russell Wilson or Doug Martin are now a reality in the game due to the new algorithms applied to the progression system.
Gone from last year was well was the ability to keep tabs on the transactions throughout your league or season. EA SPORTS has added back an improved transaction log that will help you keep tabs on trades, signings, releases, and other important transactions with each season.
A feature that may not receive a ton of publicity, but well warrants it, is the return of a full 32-team offline dynasty. Players are able to create one owner, coach, or player for every team in an offline dynasty and easily switch between each option using the right-analog stick. It’s a great way to try out multiple positions or to try and feel how different teams can work out using various schemes.
NCAA roster import is back
One of the more beloved features in the NCAA Football series roster import/export option wasn’t available last year. Though EA SPORTS added a fantastic list of hand-crafted fake rosters for players to use with unique stories, fans ultimately wanted the ability to draft players from their Dynasty within NCAA Football. That feature is back this year and will be available to use within both online and offline dynasties.
There will not be, however, the ability to have the stories that we saw for college players with imported college rosters. It’s something that the team at EA SPORTS wants to do, but it’s a rather large undertaking and would have sacrificed the feature this year had they tried to add it in.
For a series that releases yearly, there’s a ton to be excited for this year. The question that ultimately lies ahead is can EA bring together Owner Mode and core gameplay to deliver the definitive Madden title as the next generation consoles are on the horizon? They have a few months to tune and get everything right, but EA SPORTS is on the right page and fans have a reason to be excited this year.
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