I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the freemium model for mobile American football games is doomed to failure.

After enduring Gameloft's NFL Pro 2014, I was really looking forward to Madden NFL 25. You know, since it's a Madden game and those are usually synonymous with quality.

Unfortunately, Madden NFL 25 has almost nothing in common with its iOS forebears. Well, except for the fact that it's ostensibly a game about gridiron.

Put simply, then, Madden NFL 25 is a disappointment on almost every front.

False start

I said "almost" intentionally. Let's start with some positives.

Madden NFL 25 is an officially licensed product, so all of the NFL franchises and requisite big-name players are represented here.

The graphics are crisp and satisfying throughout, and there's a lot to like about the menu navigation. Past these points, however, things start to fall apart quickly.

You have two options regarding control schemes: contextual (tapping and swiping) or a virtual joystick. The default contextual controls work well in theory, but your hand is likely to block your view of the action as you tap and swipe all over the screen.

By comparison, the virtual joystick option works better, but it eats up precious screen space.

Worse still, both control options are sticky and unresponsive - running players often get stuck in one direction and can't be redirected. Plus, it's impossible to ease your quarterback past the line of scrimmage if you see an opening.

The controls pose more of a challenge than the AI does, in fact, as you'll probably have no problem marching up and down the field using the same offensive Long Pass play over and over again.

Roughing the player

This is convenient, for you need to pay to unlock certain plays to expand your playbook, and many plays are further gated by your level and earned XP.

Were this the only instance of the freemium model 'intruding' on your gridiron experience, EA could be forgiven for its trespass. After just two practice games, however, you'll start running into gates where you are forced to either wait or pay.

That's right, sports fans: energy, the frequent bane of free-to-play games, has a starring role in Madden NFL 25. To wit, each game you play requires energy or in-game currency.

Assuming that you're unwilling to pay, this limits you to about two games an hour. This, I suppose, isn't a bad trade-off for the price (free) of the game. To really get anywhere with Madden NFL 25, though, you need to pay.

Moving past this, Madden NFL 25's ugly ties to the recently abandoned Madden Social are soon revealed. You see, you need to purchase virtual card packs to unlock players if you want to add them to your team.

You're never able to directly pay for the players you want or need, as this would disrupt the freemium model, so your best bet for improving your offensive and defensive player ratings is to toss a ton of cash at Madden NFL 25 and hope that it's kind.

This isn't the sort of experience you'd expect from an American football game, and certainly not from one with the Madden name in its title.


Ultimately, Madden NFL 25 just isn't any fun.

If you're absolutely desperate to play American football on your phone, sure, Madden NFL 25 does meet that base requirement. It's just you likely won't find your time with it enjoyable.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the free-to-play model in theory, but when a developer clearly spends more time devising clever ways to get players to pay rather than play, you can't help but feel that the resulting product is an inherently broken one.