With the Madden 20 beta now wrapped up, it’s time to look at some of what was going on with the gameplay over the weekend.
Let’s start off with the player movement. Last year, the folks at EA Tiburon introduced a new player movement system they called Real Player Motion. And while it was something different, it was a bit wonky and limited in how players could move. The developers have not mentioned anything about player movement this year being a refined version of Real Player Motion, so it looks like they may have abandoned this moniker and aren’t really dubbing player movement with some fancy marketing name. But to be honest, they could if they wanted to.
I feel like player movement is the best it has been in years. A lot of people were a little skeptical about the new faster player movement and gameplay overall, but I think I can put those fears to rest as these changes seem to be just what the game needed. Everything feels smoother. Animations seem to have been improved, with a lot of new ones added. I really like the signature quarterback throwing animations as well. Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and others look great. Even the quarterbacks without a signature throwing animation seem to have better looking throws.
Speaking of quarterbacks, the passing game seems to also have been substantially upgraded. Ball trajectories were in need of a serious adjustment and this year we got it. Passes can now be floated with more control, and this creates more time for a receiver to get under the ball and make a play. And the best part of the whole thing is that we can finally throw the ball over the linebackers covering the middle of the field It really feels a lot like NFL 2K’s Total Control Passing.
Adding RPOs this year really brings a new strategy to the game. Having to know whether to get that quick pass off or let you running back keep the ball makes it more of a chess match. Sometimes you can fool the defense and make a big play, but they definitely aren’t overpowered. And if you wait too long, you sometimes get an illegal man downfield penalty, so it’s good that they put that in the game. You always need checks and balances. Overall, I like what Madden 20 brings this year with the passing game.
One of the worst things about Madden in the last few years has been the running game. This applied to both human and CPU players. From what I, and a lot of others have seen, the running game also seems to have been improved at least a bit. In all the games I played — and there were many — I loved the running game. It’s not too easy, but it’s not too hard. It feels like the perfect balance. And when it comes to the CPU running game, it also seems to be much better. I’ve seen the CPU running backs perform up to their skill level in most games. Players like Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara put up strong numbers. CPU running backs don’t just run into their linemen anymore either. Instead, they hit the holes and use special moves. I’ve gotten my ankles broken many times by juking running backs.
I also need to mention Superstar X-Factors. I’ve mostly been playing as the Browns, and Myles Garrett and Odell Beckham Jr. are beasts. Once you get their X-Factors activated it’s pretty fun watching them dominate. I know that not everyone likes this new addition, and I respect that opinion. So when I say I like it, and how much fun it adds to the game, this is just my opinion. But I do feel like it adds a new dynamic to the game, and since you have to worry about top players now, it becomes a bit of a chess match when it comes to how you have to game plan to stop them. But one thing about this new addition to the game that is unfortunate, is that no offensive linemen have any Superstar X-Factor abilities. Maybe this will be added in via patch, or maybe we will have to wait until next year.
I also feel like playing defense is more fun this year. And again, I go back to the Superstar X-Factors. Playing with guys like Aaron Donald feels like playing with someone of his skill level now. It’s not the same as playing with the 78-overall defensive tackle on any other team. I get more “wins” and get to the quarterback faster in most cases, but not all cases, so I think there is a balance there. You can’t just blow the blockers up every play. I hope EA keeps it this way and doesn’t make any of the Superstar X-Factors any more powerful than they already are. (I noticed some reports about how pass rush changed throughout the beta this past weekend.)
In terms of the pass rush overall, I think there is variety. I feel like I can generate decent pressure on defense with higher-rated players and Superstar X-Factors, but with lower-rated players I seem to get stonewalled a lot. When I’m playing offense, I feel like the time to throw is pretty much close to reality as I don’t expect it to get the same amount of time on every play. It varies for me from “got to get rid of it right now” to getting some nice pass protection and time in the pocket. We’ll see how EA handles it going forward.
I also notice the zone and man coverage are a little better this year. While still not perfect, defenders seem to play the ball better and make the right reads more often than not. It feels like when I beat the defense, I did it with user skill by finding a soft spot in the zone or taking advantage of a one-on-one mismatch go route rather than by exploiting bad programming. I’m not saying we won’t see that at times — it’s inevitable — but any improvement in this area is a welcome change.
So after playing many hours of the beta, in my opinion, Madden 20 has taken a step forward to this point. It’s not a giant leap but a solid step. In short, it feels more like football than it has in a very long time. But this is the beta so things are going to change between now and release. Let’s hope the changes are positive and the good parts get even better, and the things that still need work need less work by the time of release.
Madden 20 has my attention. For me, I think the beta is enough to warrant a purchase day one. How about you guys?