We’re back with part two of our pet peeves series for Madden NFL 20. If you missed part one, you can check that out here.
To give credit where it’s due, coverage in Madden has improved quite a bit in recent years, with defenders showing more tenacity in trying to separate receivers from the ball whether in man or zone coverage. But there are still serious lapses that will happen from time to time, with players not patrolling their zones correctly or failing to hold up well in man coverage. This even occurs with those who are considered elite defenders at their position.
But the most glaring issue that will occur far too frequently in Madden 20 is defenders not making any play at all on a ball that sails right over their head. This means you can call the right coverage and have your guys exactly where they need to be in order to break up a pass, only to watch in agony as they stand there like a statue on a ball where they only need to raise their arms to intercept it.
It’s such an issue, that it’s become known that sometimes the best thing you can do now is throw directly at a defender’s head because they simply don’t animate at times. Of course, you could always try to switch to the defender in question in order to avoid them doing absolutely nothing, but it would be nice to think you can rely on your AI players to hold their own instead of having to worry about always having to do everything yourself.
As with coverage AI, blocking logic has come a long way from where it used to be in Madden. Offensive linemen are now more consistent at picking up blitzers (especially with the correct line adjustments) and opening up holes for your running back. Notably, you’ll now even see wide receivers hustling downfield to make that one last block on a defensive back that might just spring your back for a touchdown.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still the occasional hiccups when it comes to how blockers behave, particularly when you get them out in open space. It still happens far too frequently on screen passes, or when you have a pulling guard escorting on outside runs, that linemen will pass on the opportunity to block the defender right in front of you. Instead, they will favor someone else further up-field that you’ll never even need to worry about because you’ll be annihilated by that guy they completely disregarded before then.
It’s this total lack of common sense that can regularly remind you that your blockers are digital avatars who are victims of poor coding rather than the kind of highly evolved brutes in the real NFL who can be relied upon to make sound critical judgments about who to eliminate in order to make a play work correctly.
This is the closest I will get to going beyond a pet peeve to a larger and much more complex issue. That being said, perhaps the weakest area of Madden 20 remains its reliance on questionable physics to determine the results of each play, an issue that becomes problematic both in how players are tackled and how the ball bounces when contacting anyone.
Remember Backbreaker? It was a last-gen football game that touted entirely unique tackles on every play thanks to the way it generated dynamic animations based on realistic physics. So how is that we are now here one generation of consoles later and yet are still stuck with the kind of canned animations in Madden 20 that often don’t make a lick of sense when faced with variables like the direction a player is moving and the direction and force of an opposing player colliding with him?
If it could be accomplished all the way back in 2009, I’d be inclined to believe that EA can provide the kinds of tackles that don’t rely on seeing the same bunch of animations over and over again. This is a hugely important component of the sport of football that Madden will continue to fumble until it can give us something that looks and feels a little more realistic.
The fact that a football itself is a bit of a weird shape makes it an inherent challenge to re-create how it bounces in the digital realm and Madden has always struggled with this. Yes, there are real-life instances where a ball will bounce off players’ hands, bodies or even heads, but these are neither as frequent nor as pronounced as you see on a regular basis in Madden 20. As it stands, it’s far too easy for a ball to be jarred loose from a receiver and popped into the air in a cartoon-like fashion before bouncing off someone else’s hands only to then be intercepted. Does this happen sometimes in real football? Of course, but not nearly at the rate you see in Madden 20.
Madden has tried many different ways over the years to replicate the realism of someone attempting to launch an oblong ball with their foot through a set of narrow uprights, but it seems like they’ve never really been able to get it right. As in most other years, it’s decidedly far too easy to consistently kick the ball straight, even with the least accurate kickers in the NFL. In real life, kickers have struggled more in 2019 than in recent years, with many of the best ones even missing an extra point from time to time. But this is extremely rare in Madden 20, and that’s because the mechanic used on kicks — a three-click endeavor that has you pushing a button at the end of a bar for power and then hitting the same button again within a small window for accuracy — is simply too easy to routinely execute.
I’d like to see them return to something similar to what they’ve used in the past that challenges players with pushing the right or left stick straight down and up to perform kicks, with even slight deviations from a straight line resulting in the ball being pulled or hooked one way or the other. This kind of mechanic works quite well in The Golf Club 2019 game, where it often sees you missing fairways and greens all because you were slightly off with how you worked the stick. It seems like it would translate rather seamlessly to the kicking game in Madden while also being more realistic than its current state.
While there are plenty of other small things we could pick at, that wraps up our pet peeves series for now.