It’s understandably getting lost in the shuffle of this week’s “Madden NFL 25″ release on Xbox 360 and PS3, but EA also has a version of the game out on the iOS App Store. And while it’s nowhere close to being a full approximation of the console game, it’s at least closer in the sense that you can play football with real NFL players on your tablet or smartphone—and it’s free.
Unlike last year, when “Madden NFL Social” was really its own entity, EA is trying to position the mobile edition of “Madden NFL 25″ like it’s an extension of the overall brand. It’s actually a scaled down Ultimate Team mode, as your goal is to earn coins to buy more packs of player cards and build the best possible team out of a wide selection of current and former NFL players. There’s also an auction feature so you can bid on individual athletes you really want.
That you can take your team onto the field and play both sides of the ball is the new development this year, although much of the single-player gameplay requires you to complete challenge before you unlock full games. The developers clearly put some thought into how to translate football onto touchscreens, but the tap and swipe controls are a bit of a mixed bag. There is an option to switch to a virtual thumbstick, but neither control scheme really captures the feel of playing “Madden” on a console.
For head-to-head play, the game uses Facebook integration where you can set up asynchronous contests where players take turns conducting drives on offense. Matches can also be set up with random players whose teams have around the same overall rating.
How does mobile “Madden NFL 25″ make money? Through microtransactions of course, and this might be the area that leaves the most bitter taste in the mouths of gamers. You start with only a handful of plays available on offense and defense, unlocking more as you level up. Paying for in-game currency can speed up the process, and a few plays can only be acquired that way. Obviously EA is hoping people get tired of running HB Dive and HB counter right 15 times a game.
Then again, you have to give up something when you’re getting the game for free. “Madden NFL 25″ on iOS isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking it’s a console port, but it’s at least a little closer. Maybe by the 30th anniversary…