Also On: Xbox One, PC
Developer: EA Tiburon
Are you ready for some football? Get your helmet (that means you, Antonio Brown) and suit up because Madden NFL 20 is here. Luckily this year doesn?t feel like complete deja vu which really brought down my experience of Madden 19, but the lack of competition is just as strong as ever. EA doesn?t change much year over year, or take any chances with new features, but Madden NFL 20 still delivers everywhere it counts even if it flags for facemask grasping way too much (more on that later). Let?s get the coin toss going because it?s almost kick off time.
So let me start with my favorite addition to Madden NFL 20; X-Factor. With Madden NFL 20, EA is introducing a new gameplay mechanic that?s not so new. Superstar players for each team, known as X-Factors, have unique special abilities that they can use once they, ?get in the zone?. Each ability requires certain criteria (throw a 30+ yard pass, intercept two balls, etc.) and once those are met you can then use the advanced ability of that player. Now those abilities could make you throw the ball further, tighten the defense, not throw any interceptions, among many other things, but they don?t last forever. Each ability also has pitfall that will take you out of the zone. This new ability system seems a little arcade-y to me, but it adds some real depth to the gameplay and has to be taken under consideration when you pick your team of choice. You see, each team has players that have X-Factor, but some feature more than others and can be used more to your strengths of playing. If you?re better on offense, it makes more sense to go with teams that have offensive superstars like Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes (ugh I threw up a little in my mouth mentioning both of them), meanwhile if you consider yourself more of a defensive guru, you might want to go with the Bears and Khalil Mack or my Broncos and Von Miller (gratuitous plug).
X-Factor also carries over into the new Face of The Franchise mode. Gone is the Longshot mode, which I wasn?t a fan of, and debuting this season is the Face of the Franchise or QB1. I?m not sure which one EA wants the mode to be known as, I feel like every loading screen said QB1, while the menu option was Face of the Franchise. Nitpick aside this is the story mode for Madden NFL 20. Now you play the role of a created player on his journey from college quarterback that rode the bench nearly his entire time in school to being drafted in the NFL and forging your own legacy. Many of the complaints of Longshot have been resolved, less story and more gameplay. What?s very interesting to me (and this might be a minor spoiler, but it?s in the first 10 minutes of the mode) is that you play multiple NCAA games in the college football playoffs. For those not in the know, EA hasn?t made a NCAA Football game in over six years. The small taste in Face of the Franchise could possibly be teasing the return of the popular franchise, and despite not watching college football, it had me wishing I could play some more of the college style gameplay.
Following your college football run and open practices, you will (hopefully) get drafted by an NFL franchise. Once you make your way to an NFL roster it?s time to build your legacy and become the starting QB. Along the way you will select your X-Factor (which you can jump around with, so you aren?t locked into one), level up abilities, and even interact with other players. How you interact with fellow players will impact what kind of player you become and the attributes that grow as you progress. In my opinion, Face of the Franchise is nearly exactly what I wanted out of a story mode, I don?t want to sit and watch movies and play quick time events, I want to forge my own legacy and pick the way I want to play. While I still stand by my idea of playing through NFL legend?s careers from rookie to retired, Face of the Franchise scratched an itch I wasn?t sure I needed scratched.
Returning of course is Madden Ultimate Team. This year MUT features more challenges and different styles of play. I personally find myself playing less and less of MUT each year but did give this year?s version some extra play so far. While it?s minor, I really like that you don?t need to go back into the menu to continue running through the challenges and you can just continue following a completed challenge. The challenges also have multiple difficulties with multiple rewards based on which level you complete. I found that I had a lot more star players within the first hour or so playing MUT than I had in previous years, and that really helps with the replay value.
As I mentioned earlier, I did have one annoying issue that cropped up rather frequently throughout my time with Madden NFL 20? the dreaded facemask penalty. I have yet to go through even one game without a facemask penalty, which are not even being called on my own team, its flags against the AI. This can and obviously should be fixed via patch, but it was still rather odd to me and even weirder that it hadn?t been corrected post release. You can tweak the penalty slider, but that affects all of the penalties called in the game and not just facemask calls. Again, I realize this is an extremely particular gripe but it can be annoying to see it pop up every game, and sometimes multiple times in a game, with the same ?he went down awkwardly? commentary dialogue. On the topic of commentary, it?s mostly the same as it?s been the past few years and while I don?t mind it, I need to hammer it home (like I do every year); why doesn?t EA use the actual broadcast teams they have the licensed agreements for from NFL Network or ESPN? Outside of the NFL Network broadcasts inside of Face of the Franchise, the game is devoid of any licensed TV overlays that I feel have been lacking for years.
Madden NFL 20 takes a step in the right direction and I really enjoyed the X-Factor additions to the series. While I still think some form of competition would force EA to make more drastic changes, I?m not optimistic with any developers taking a spin with the football genre (maybe the XFL?). If you haven?t caught the pigskin for a few seasons, Madden NFL 20 is the right route to run for this year. With the new consoles coming (most likely) next holiday, I?m looking forward to seeing what EA builds upon from Madden NFL 20 and brings over to next gen. For now I?ll enjoy taking the Broncos to the Super Bowl, while beating up the cover pretty boy, Mahomes (not bitter at all).
Note: EA provided us with a Madden NFL 20 PS4 code for review purposes.