EA’s long running football franchise, Madden NFL Football, finally reaches a happy medium with all of the various game modes and adds something that could signal a return of a fan favorite feature. The “X-Factor” player attribute system adds to the already stacked superstar players in the game. Madden 20 is this year’s latest iteration in the franchise about slinging the pigskin. Madden has reached a point in the series’ life where it’s more about small incremental additions and updates to the game-play rather than sweeping huge scale changes. The game-play starting in Madden 17 has been largely unchanged besides increased focus on the defensive backs and defensive play in general.
The long and the short of it is that the game-play is just like the real-life counterpart that it’s trying to simulate (or if you’re into more of an arcade experience that’s like the Rams-Chiefs game of last year, Arcade mode lets you juke endlessly and throw Patrick Mahomes style bombs to your receivers). What this means is the game gets tweaked slightly. In general, this is the same football you’re playing the past couple years. This isn’t a bad thing because EA has refined the game down to a science.
A New Single-Player Experience
Madden 20 adds a couple changes to the multitude of game modes that add to the experience greatly. Starting off with the single-player game mode “Face of the Franchise”. This new mode is the next iteration on the “Longshot” modes of the past two games. Instead of following Colt and Devin, you’re a high-school QB who faces adversity along the way to the College Football Championship Tournament, the NFL Combine, and even starting for the NFL team that drafts you. This game mode is more enjoyable to me than Longshot was. Longshot was less Madden gameplay and more mid-2000’s quick time events. This made playing it like one of those FMV games from the Sega CD instead of an Xbox One game.
Adding to this mode is the ability to play in the National Championship Games for the NCAA. This marks a huge step forward for people that were fans of the old NCAA Football games that were discontinued. It means that there might be a market for those games to make a return sometime soon. What makes this really fun is challenging yourself to the best of your ability and trying to get that number one overall draft slot. I messed up in the championship game and threw two interceptions which dropped my draft stock a bit. I’ll definitely have to replay the mode to get that number one spot and the corresponding achievement.
X-Factor=God Mode Activated
The single greatest improvement made in Madden 20 though, is the overall smoothness of the animations of players. In past games there was just a weird sort of robotic motion to the players especially when doing cut or juke moves. Now, when you juke a defender, not only do you feel like Antonio Brown doing it on a Sunday, you can see it perfectly. The team at EA definitely went into the film room to replicate most of the major players motions and mannerisms on the field.
The “X-Factor” players are a new addition to the superstar trait in the game. Normally you would just have, Aaron Donald, for example, and he would be a 99 overall player and be good at rushing the QB. In Madden 20, if you meet certain in game criteria like, swatting down passes, tackles for loss, or sacks, your player basically gets “on fire” like the old NBA Jam games. While they’re like this, it takes two offensive lineman to stop them or throwing the ball faster than normal. It adds a wrinkle and pressure to game-play to try to stop them from reaching that goal.
Franchise Mode Neglected Again
If there’s one part of Madden where I spend most of my time, it’s franchise mode. Taking a laughing stock like the Jets or the Dolphins and sticking it to Tom Brady and the Patriots is always fun. But for the past few seasons, Madden 20 hasn’t really made sweeping changes to Franchise. This game is no different. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, but it’s definitely a mode that people are clamoring for change to. Some changes I’d like to see are changing the trade algorithm to match closer to real life. EA should take some pages out of their previous Madden games. This would include sound bytes from ESPN or Fox Sports analysts to lighten up the somewhat silence of the game mode. Franchise mode used to be the flagship of Madden, EA should rectify that.
The focus of the game now is in the online features including Madden Ultimate Team. Complaints have been levied against this game mode for being too micro-transaction focused. I can tell you this is true, but to a lesser degree this time around. I’m not the biggest Ultimate Team guy, but it’s a fun way to play around with a team fantasy football style. For those that love the mode, it’s there for you, for others like me, it’s a fun break from online and franchise play.
This Looks Nothing Like Me Doc
One area that EA and Madden can go for is the depiction of players that are a step below the superstar level. If you look at Tom Brady in this game, he looks exactly like his real-life counterpart. Coaches are hit or miss with a lot of them. The second tier players are where it gets fuzzy. If you watch football a little bit, you know that Greg Olsen looks nothing like this screengrab. It’s in this case that Madden 20 breaks the realism that it strives so hard for.
The final thing about Madden 20 that makes it a little irksome is the commentary. Commentary in Madden games has definitely come a long way but it would be nice for there to be a larger variety in the phrases and player anecdotes used by the team. It’s a small thing but hearing the same phrase after a couple games makes me just want to mute while I play.
Final Thoughts on Madden 20
The long and the short of Madden 20 is that it’s a great game in the franchise that’s on a console generation nearing it’s end. The Xbox One and Playstation 4 are going to ride off into the sunset soon and EA and Madden have gotten the game-play down perfectly. The new animations make the game more fluid to play. Franchise mode will definitely need some work in future games. They can really work on player models for second tier stars. This doesn’t take too much away from the Madden experience, though. You’re surely going to want to get this version of the game if you love Madden or have missed out on the past couple years. I highly recommend it for lovers of Ultimate Team and football alike.
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All images courtesy of EA and Madden 20.