Small Ball: Madden 25 tackles free-to-play mobile market with all-new touch controls

Image via EA Sports
Image via EA Sports

I bought a Sega Genesis for the sole purpose of playing Madden, and I’ve stuck with the series through over two decades as the franchise has bounced around from innovative and fun (hit stick), to a fumbling mess (vision cone) and back again (Madden 25 rules!). One version of Madden that’s been historically bad from the jump, however, is Madden mobile. It’s like they tried to simply shove the console controls on my phone, and the results have been failure after failure, with Madden 13 the worst attempt of them all.

But that’s all about to change with Madden 25, as EA Sports has finally included Madden’s mobile team in the same business unit as its console team, and because of this, they are not only collaborating with the core Gen-3 and Gen-4 designers, they are finally getting the resources necessary to make an actual mobile football game designed for mobile users, and not just a sad port of a great console title or a futile attempt at jumping into the social market like last year’s seemingly incomplete Facebook game.

This year, one of the first things fans need to know is that Madden 25 will be free-to-play on mobile devices, with the ability to make purchases in-game. And while the teams and logos will be instantly recognizable to NFL fans, the rosters might not be. That’s because in Madden 25, you pick a team and begin with a base roster of players from that franchise, then as you play and win games, you earn coins that you can then use to buy packs of cards to improve your roster. Anyone who has played Madden Ultimate Team knows the deal here, as your 49ers team might start out with Frank Gore as your running back alongside a few other key players, but after a couple of weeks, you could end up with Tom Brady as your quarterback and Charles Woodson running out on D. This is where the free-to-play becomes not so free, as gamers will be tempted to jump ahead and purchase coins rather than earning them in-game, giving football fans the option to speed up the process through their wallet, At the same time, EA Sports is working on finding a balance in order to give gamers who don’t want to spend a cent just enough cards to keep them happy.

[contextly_sidebar id=”0472fffacc800ce6b950d1d63a557aeb”]But the rosters aren’t the only thing that’s changed about the game, as new this year, Madden ditches the virtual D-pad in favor of more intuitive touch controls. The game designers wanted people to be able to play the game using only one hand, shifting the focus away from the hardcore in hopes that the new controls will make football life easier for anybody with a touchscreen. So now, hand the ball off to Reggie Bush, and it’s a swipe of the screen back and forth to juke and spin, while a simple tap to the screen will change directions. So if Bush takes the ball and bursts up the middle, tap up the field to the right, and the runner will take off on that path toward pay dirt. Passing play are just as simple as now all you have to do is tap on the icon above the receiver to fire off a long bomb his direction. This is a huge improvement over last year where gamers were forced to press the buttons on the lower right of the screen. Too many times, you’d look away from the action in order to hit the correct button due to there being no tactile feedback of where the buttons appeared, and that delay would end up ruining the entire route as by the time you finally were able to throw the ball, you’d either get sacked or your receiver would be out of position.

On the opposite side of the ball, playing defense (versus CPU) is also about tapping the right players at the right time in order to get in the correct spot and deliver the boom, as gamers will be able to deliver hit stick tackles and pick off passes all with one hand tap and swipe controls.

In terms of game modes, aside from exhibition, there will be a solo challenges mode where gamers attempt to win their way through a series of events, leading all the way up to the Super Bowl, with each challenge attempting to mimic real-life NFL events.  And again, the more you play and the better you perform in the challenges, the more coins you’ll earn in hopes of buying more packs and building the ultimate NFL franchise. That’s the key to the game, really, as with every pack you buy, you’ll earn five new players for your roster. Don’t like the players you get? Simply auction them off for more coins in order to buy the players you’re looking for, including legends. Madden 25 also offers head-to-head mode where, unique to mobile, gamers only play offense, switching back and forth like Words With Friends or Your Turn Football, and taking over the reigns once your opponent’s offensive drive has stalled (or worse, scored).

I had the chance to sit down and play an early version of the game, and like I said, I’ve never been into playing Madden on mobile, but this version changed my mind. Not only was it fun, it was something I could see myself playing throughout the season as I attempt to build my roster and collect my favorite cards/players. The new controls really made the game not only simpler, but more fun to play on a tablet or phone, and I appreciate that this isn’t just an attempt to cash in on the Madden name, but what I see as the first real attempt at making Madden mobile a viable franchise of its own.

A must-download for football fans looking to start their season off with a win.

Madden NFL 25 will be available to download exclusively on iOS devices Tuesday, August 27, with Google Play launching later this fall.