Change in sports games is something that we don’t see too often. When it comes to the Madden franchise, change often comes in many shapes and forms, but Madden NFL 20 has tried its best to truly affect the way people play. Where Madden NFL 19 didn’t do much to improve upon itself, the newest entry to the series strives to go for it all and keep players entertained all at once. While they may have missed the mark on some aspects, it’s an admirable effort.
As is the case with every year, the first thing you’ll notice upon turning on Madden NFL 20 is that things look very good. Players once again continue to look even more realistic, the presentation is very close to the actual NFL product, and animations for certain players mirror their real-life counterparts. While you might not be able to see big differences in the graphics department, the actions, and movements of players have all been tweaked, making room for more lifelike actions instead of the more “arcadey” aspects of years past. Players like Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara shed tackles as they do in real-life, and quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes sling the ball on the run as well as they can on Sundays.
As far as gameplay goes, things are mostly the same when it comes to Madden NFL 20. The biggest change comes in the form of throwing the ball, which will no doubt see tweaks throughout the year. Instead of being able to run around and throw the ball however you want, quarterbacks have it a bit rougher this year. If you’re not playing with a quarterback who can throw well on the run, you’ll be seeing passes sail out of bounds or well off target, and if a defender is in your face, the ball will also be thrown inaccurately. It’s an admittedly annoying change at first, but does add to the realism and makes it feel like you’re actually trying to control a quarterback.
More control over things has been given to the players, with specific defensive hot routes and RPOs being added onto each side of the ball. Outside of that, however, not much has been changed when it comes to operating your team, and any player of Madden’s past should be able to jump in and have a fun time. Thankfully, I only experienced a handful of glitches in my time with the game, but there have been reports of major ones existing, as is the case with seemingly every rendition of Madden.
The newest gameplay addition to Madden this year is the Superstar X-Factors. This ability is only reserved for the truly elite players in the game and will be added or removed as the season progresses. X-Factors act as slight boosts to a player, allowing superstars like Aaron Donald or Aaron Rodgers to elevate their game once they’re in the zone. Getting in the zone often requires meeting a few requirements, such as getting three sacks or completing consecutive passes.
Once you unlock the X-Factor though, the reward is well worth it, as you’re able to tilt the field to your advantage. Aaron Rodgers’ X-Factor, for example, makes it nearly impossible for CPU defenders to intercept him, meaning any poor throw you make has way less of a risk. It’s a neat concept and one that helps highlight what makes the NFL so special: its stars.
Madden NFL 20 also added a slightly new game mode this year in QB1: Face of the Franchise. Replacing the Longshot campaign from the past two years, this mode adds some story elements to Madden’s created player system. In it, you’ll be taking over as a quarterback and playing him through his trials in college, all the way up to the NCAA National Championship. While the NCAA football series doesn’t exist anymore, this mode does partner with some schools and allows you to play for teams like Florida, Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon, and others as you chase for glory.
After winning the championship, it’s off to the NFL Combine, where you’ll once again take part in small drills before being drafted. From there, it’s the basic Connected Franchise from years past, where you’ll be leveling up your character in NFL games. Unlike in past years, however, the challenges and interactions in this mode are a bit tweaked. Things like texting coaches and other players before games – thanks to Madden’s new Scenario Engine – unlocking hidden skills by leveling up, and completing challenges to earn more XP are all available, making it a somewhat more detailed and well thought out mode.
Unfortunately, the story that’s told in QB1 isn’t all that engaging and isn’t very believable either. While I did enjoy it more than Longshot, and while it was fun being able to play as college teams again, it does need a lot more work if it’s going to make it back in next year’s game. What’s also a downer is that the “story” mode is exclusively for QB’s, meaning if you want to create any other position player, you’re stuck just going through the motions. Perhaps more attention to the mode will be paid next year, but for a brief filler, before you take off in Franchise mode, it isn’t too bad.
Madden Ultimate Team – known as MUT to most – is also back, and is more or less the same. Players will still be collecting cards and completing challenges, and much like every other year, microtransactions are a big part of the game. It’s unfortunate, but this is the biggest mode that Madden offers, and while it’s totally possible to grind through solo challenges and compete online for rewards, the easiest path to a great team is by spending actual cash.
Thankfully, there has been some quality of life changes to the mode, with players now able to move on to the next challenge immediately after completing one. It’s a great change that should have been in the game for some time but will allow for grinding to be that much easier. There is also a new milestone system included in MUT, which lets you earn tiers of rewards depending on how many stars you earn per challenges. The harder a challenge is made to be (by changing the difficulty of it), the more stars you earn, and the closer you get to earning a reward. If you’re looking to not spend any extra money, this will be your best bet to getting players, and it isn’t too hard to come away with some solid rewards.
Madden NFL 20 may not be the game-changing title that many want it to be. When it comes to football games, there isn’t much you can do to really stray from the formula. However, with a deeper focus on realism in the trenches and in the passing game, they’ve done enough to make things feel fresh. Combine that with a more approachable Madden Ultimate Team, a new story mode, and Madden NFL 20 is a must-buy for any diehard fan of football.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Madden NFL 20 for the PlayStation 4 provided by EA Sports.