About Madden NFL 20:

  • Developer: EA Tiburon
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, and PC
  • Release Date: August 2nd, 2019
  • Price: $59.99
  • Reviewed On: PC

Well. Here’s Madden (insert number here).

I want to start off by saying that the series hasn’t changed much since the games came to the current generation of consoles. But that which does change, improves the series where it matters. It probably helps that there isn’t any competition in the professional football video game market.

I will note that Madden 20 has some great music for its soundtrack, I felt pumped for each game while listening to the hard hitting tracks.

Gameplay

The gameplay is generally the same as each of the last Maddens’ to release. Which means it’s easy to pick up and the controls are responsive. The animations have been improved drastically; players aren’t locked into certain offensive and defensive movements as often. This was also a part of Madden 18 and 19, but when players would collide/trip/tackle, the “realistic” physics would often have players trapped in wonky positions or have them moving in unrealistic ways. See these gifs below for reference.

Madden 20 no longer suffers from these problems. Hits are still free form, but the player being hit will react appropriately. Running and throwing animations still feel and look great. One thing I’ve noticed is that quicker quarterbacks seem to roll out of the pocket much more smoothly, which feels nice. But I will say, if you run a Play Action pass, and you’re looking to roll out of the pocket, you’ll often be at an impasse with your running back. Quite literally, you’ll be stuck against him until you finally move to the right or left, and by then the defense has already closed in on you for the sack. Fortunately, this is the only problem I’ve ran into while playing.

Another hiccup animation-wise (that doesn’t hinder gameplay) is celebrations. Almost every time I would score, the player that scored would slide across the end zone like his cleats had wheels. For example, if you run the ball to the outside and score closer to the edges of the end zone, your player will snap to the middle of the end zone for the celebration animation. Quite frankly, if the game would cut to a different camera angle right before the animation started, this problem would almost be unnoticeable, but the camera doesn’t change until after your wide receiver/halfback magically learns how to teleport.

The presentation of the game has always been fantastic. But in Madden 20, something feels different. The voice team of Brandon Gaudin and former defensive back, Charles Davis, is as good as sports video game announce teams get (and don’t forget “The Coach!” Jonathan Coachman does a great job with the halftime show). Not only do they call plays correctly, they talk about players’ stats throughout the game (and the season, in Franchise mode). They make references to earlier plays, talk offensive and defensive adjustments that have been or need to be made, and at certain score marks (as well as certain times in a certain quarter) they discuss what needs to be done in order to keep the game competitive. For example, in the last two minutes of the second quarter, the score is 21-3, and the losing team has possession of the ball, the announce team will specifically say that the losing team needs to score on this drive to up the score to 21-10, they say something along the lines of “ If they score on this drive, 21-10 is still a competitive ball game.” It’s little remarks like this that make you feel like you’re actually watching a football game.

A great new addition to the game is the Superstar X-Factor ability list. This makes certain players feel like their real-life counterparts. For instance, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has the Bazuka X-Factor ability, which allows him to throw 15 extra yards on long bombs when he heats up, which requires him to throw a 30+ yard in-air pass. Defensive right end Aaron Donald of the L.A. Rams has the Fearmonger X-Factor ability, which applies pressure on opposing quarterbacks even when he’s caught up in a block. There are a ton of these abilities as well as more basic “Superstar” abilities for most of the other players. Again, this mechanic brings the players to life. It also helps that most of the well known players have accurate face scans.

The last thing about gameplay I want to talk about is the difficulty settings. If you’re familiar with the Madden franchise, of course the easiest setting is like playing a middle school team whose quarterback is only really playing because their parents paid the coach off. Even the intermediate/pro setting is a bit on the cupcake side. The game shines on the second to most difficult setting, opposing defenses have weight to them, but don’t feel like you’re playing the football version of the MonStars. This is a personal preference thing, you may feel the game is more competitive on a lower or higher difficulty.

P.S. They brought back the Pro Bowl, which is great, but should have never been taken out in the first place. Duh!

Madden Ultimate Team

The Ultimate Team mode returns yet again in Madden 20, and to no surprise, is just about identical to previous versions. MUT is basically a card collecting mode in which you try to collect the best rated players at each position to play and win against other players. EA has an Ultimate Team mode in each of its sports games, including UFC 3. This is common in sports games, even NBA 2K and MLB The Show have adopted a variation of this game mode. This mode is also Madden’s main “money-maker”, in that it’s packed with micro-transactions (it’s EA, what do you expect). They even incentivize you to buy Ultimate Editions of the base game with MUT points, the game mode’s currency. Casual players will definitely have to buy the points to keep up with serious MUT players. Now, I’m not saying the the micro-transactions are predatory, because that’s far from the truth. The game doesn’t push them in your face as often as, say a free-to-play game would. Which is great, but imagine a level playing field, where you had to work for the Tom Bradys or the Odell Beckham Jrs. I, personally, will never purchase MUT points, but that’s speaking to my playing preferences. Many players DO buy them, which is fine. As long as they know what they are doing (most of them do). I know players who buy Madden exclusively for Madden Ultimate Team. My one real problem with the game mode is the pay wall for the MUT Draft, which is my personal favorite part of the mode. MUT Draft essentially lets you draft players from a short list each round. You can then use the team you drafted to complete challenges or play against others. Aside from that, Ultimate Team has a bit to offer. Various challenges for your MUT team (Ultimate Challeges and Missions), head to head, and MUT draft all are incredibly enjoyable to the right audience.

Franchise Mode

Again, Madden’s Franchise mode is the same as before. You pick your role (Owner, Coach, or Player), pick your team, and try to win the Super Bowl each and every season. Franchise mode allows a lot of creative freedom as well. You can load in player created draft classes, customize them to your liking, and scout them in hopes you’re able to draft them. I will say, the most satisfying part of playing the game mode is scouting that diamond in the rough player who’s predicted to be a late round pick with first round talent. You can pick merchandising price points for jerseys and other memorabilia, as well as change your parking and ticket prices. You’ll occasionally answer media questions, and have the chance to relocate your team all while building your legacy score.

Trades in Franchise mode are useless, downright laughable really. In my own game, I tried to trade an 84 overall running back and TWO first round draft picks for 82 overall Leonard Fournette, but apparently the deal wasn’t sweet enough. I then put that same player on the trade block only to be offered one late round draft pick for that player, from multiple teams. There isn’t a ton to say when talking about Franchise mode, given that if you’ve enjoyed it in past games, you’ll enjoy it now.

Face of the Franchise: QB1

The Face of the Franchise mode starts off as very promising. The character face creator is much more in-depth than in any other Madden game. The story is good, and tells a great movie-esque sports plot. You get to pick between a small variety of college teams to play for, and you even get to pick your opponents. The best part of it is, you’re able to play the game on both sides of the ball, and aren’t locked to just the quarterback role. The unfortunate part is, there are only two college games to play (which just makes you wish for NCAA Football 20). The story is short-lived as well; as soon as you finish your college games, you head to the draft combine, and then you’re off the be drafted. That’s cool though, right? Eh, cool the jets. After you hit the field as a pro, the game mode is exactly like Franchise mode in every way, with the occasional text from teammates and opposing players. This is very disappointing, Madden could benefit from an expansive “My Player” mode like in NBA 2K, or at the bare minimum like EA’s own NBA Live.

Quick note: Some last names cannot be used in the beginning of the game mode, so for anyone with the last name Harris, if you were looking forward to naming your player after yourself, sorry pal. Weirdly, after the story is over you can use any name you want.

Summary

Madden 20 has a lot to offer gameplay wise. The game itself looks and plays the best it ever has. The presentation and commentary of the game is comparable to real NFL games, from the announce team to the halftime show. The only real problem with the gameplay is the occasional animation whiff. The game modes are lacking though; while fun, there are only three of them, which would be fine if they were jam packed with a variety of things to do. Unfortunately they are not. There’s no real reason to play the game constantly, unless you only like football games or like to grind it out in Ultimate Team. It’s getting laughable how little sports video games change, and I believe it may have hit rock bottom. Apart from the few gameplay changes, and the new “Story Mode”, the game is identical to Madden 19, 18, and so on. So many people would say “it’s just a roster update.” They are wrong, EA does make good changes to the games, they just aren’t plentiful enough between each iteration of the game. Buy (or don’t buy) this game based off of your own informed decision, because there’s a lot to love about the gameplay, but the rest is more stale than a depressed single guy’s box of crackers that have been sitting in his cabinet since the break-up . . . that was two years ago.

F.Y.I. If I was basing the score solely off of the gameplay, I would without a doubt give this game a 9.5/10, but since the rest of the game is too dull, I must give this game a…

7.5/10

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