This is a look at Madden NFL 25 on the Xbox One and I won't lie, it's not a good look at all. It takes a trained eye to watch this video—an aborted promotion with ESPN's YouTube channel—and spot actual differences between next-gen Madden NFL 25 and Madden 25 on the Xbox 360. Can you find them?
ESPN had the video above active on its YouTube channel for about an hour late this morning. Then they took it down, and some fake ESPN YouTube site reuploaded it at a hideous 360p quality. What you see above is my capture of the official video while it was still active in my browser but after ESPN removed it from YouTube.
I asked an ESPN representative why it deleted its Madden NFL 25 simulation of tonight's Monday Night Football game; I was referred to EA Sports.
But even if ESPN deleted the video and even if it survives elsewhere at lower resolution, the trailer still does not show anything that's going to knock your socks off when you get Madden in the living room come November. We know this video is taken from next-generation gameplay because of that shot of San Diego head coach Mike McCoy wearing a headset. Coaches don't wear headsets in current-gen Madden for some reason.
After that, good luck telling me what's different.
Every animation I see in that video I've seen in the existing Madden NFL; the action is zoomed in and sped up, annihilating any lifelike quality gamers expect from sports on the next console generation. The replay camera does appear to be different, slowing down and rotating at key moments. But the close-up angle means we can't see next-generation improvements to the AI, such as the pass blocking.
That's an official trailer from EA Sports showcasing next-generation Madden gameplay. There's not a lot of attention paid to pass-blocking in it, either, and some of the animations look the same, too, but it damn for sure looks different than current-gen Madden.
ESPN ran simulations of its Monday Night Football matchup for the first three weeks using current-generation Madden, then used gameplay from Xbox One Madden to highlight the New Orleans-Miami matchup in week four. The reaction to that video was overwhelmingly negative; nearly everyone saying the game looked no different from the Madden everyone is playing right now. Madden catches more unwarranted, knee-jerk flak than any other video game, but this wasn't coming from the usual rabble-rousers waving the bloody shirt of NFL 2K5.
ESPN's Madden feature then skipped week five of Monday Night Football, before returning today. ESPN uploaded not one but two versions of this video, for some reason, then quickly took down both. The way these videos have been handled, and the reactions to them, were enough that I called down to EA Sports and left three voice messages, asking if ESPN was really using gameplay from the next-generation version of the game. I received no replies. Then early this afternoon ESPN re-uploaded the video you see above, with the same next-gen tout in its description.
I realize that I've chastised sports video games for pushing out heavily manicured next-gen trailers that show nothing of the games as actually played by real living people. Then ESPN goes and offers a full minute of standard gameplay for next-gen Madden, and I'm now saying that's not good enough either.
But if EA Sports thinks this partnership is showcasing any revolutionary next step in its flagship series, it's badly mistaken. If next-gen Madden is actually more visually distinctive than this, then EA Sports needs to get with ESPN and find a way to draw that out before it tanks core gamers' expectations by Week 12.
And if this really is the next-gen Madden we're getting in a month ... well, that would be even more reason to pull the plug on the promotion.