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Madden NFL 20 Review

Madden NFL 20

Madden NFL 20 Review

This year’s iteration of Madden already seems to be polarizing. When you open up the game for people to play on EA Access, you also open it up to reviews and impressions before it’s even “officially” released. Whether or not these impressions are biased due to agendas on both sides of the table become an issue for people who are stuck in the middle and just want to know if Madden 20 is good enough to buy this year. You also have to take into consideration a day-one patch. As with most games nowadays, there is usually a day-one patch. But unfortunately for some reviews, we don’t get to experience that since we are only playing the game before that.

With that being the case, I can only go off what I have played to this point (we’ll obviously also reassess things once patches start hitting). And with what I have played so far, I have to say Madden 20 has made some major improvements in some areas, yet stays stagnant in others.

Across the board, game modes remain largely the same. You have your standard exhibition matchups, franchise and MUT. You also now have the Pro Bowl. But the big edition to this year’s game modes is of course Face of the Franchise. Basically, you start with a created player that you get to customize with a fair number of options — from the standard facial options to even your voice. You also get to decide your archetype. They are Field General, Strong Arm, Improviser or Scrambler. Then comes the coolest part, you get to pick from 10 colleges you want to attend.

Once you make your choice, you are then put into the semifinals of the College Football Playoff. You are then tasked with leading your team to the NCAA Championship without ever throwing a pass before this game. You are put in this position due to the regular starting QB being injured. I won the first game but lost the National Championship. You are then thrown into the NFL combine and get to do some passing drills to show your skills. After the combine, you get a few interviews with NFL teams. You get to choose between a few dialogue options during these encounters. Then you are drafted and the rest is up to you to define your legacy. Overall, I really enjoyed the first few hours of the mode.

As far as the other modes in the game, they all remain familiar, but with some new twists. In franchise mode you have something called the Scenario Engine. These scenarios are basically communications between your coach, teammates and media in no particular order. EA has said it plans on adding new scenarios as the cycle goes on. I really hope EA does because, to be blunt, it’s kind of bland right now. At times you will get phone calls from your team’s beat reporter and have to answer questions. Depending on your answers, you might get an XP upgrade for a player or a group on your team. For example, I was asked which part of the team I thought needed work after the first game of the season, and I responded with defense. My offense got an XP bonus of 300 points — I guess because they got confidence after not being thrown under the bus.

I also had a player from another team text me and kind of try to rattle me about how he’s going to shut me down. You get four options to reply, and again, your reply will make something happen — like add to your archetype. You will also get calls from your coordinators asking about what to do with a certain player on the other team for that week’s game. Depending on how you respond, it gives you a gameplay goal. It does seem a little on the easy end to increase your ratings. This is probably done on purpose because a lot of people don’t want to grind for it, which is understandable from EA’s point of view.

As far as the functionality, you still have the same look and feel as in the past. You have your standard weekly training, big decisions, and so on and so forth. Simulated stats seemed okay, with just a couple weird things. After simulating one season, almost every quarterback had over 30 touchdowns, or at least in the mid-20s — not overly crazy though. Rushing stats were not too unrealistic. Ezekiel Elliot led the league with 1,839 yards, which is high but not unforgivable. From there, most of the top rushers started descending into the 1,300 yards and below mark.

The promise of EA’s commitment to franchise mode is great in theory. However, the studio must be talking about a multi-year plan. Don’t get me wrong, the Scenario Engine is a good start, especially if the developers keep building on it, but the mode as a whole has not improved as much as I had hoped. I would not say it’s bad because it’s functional and fun can be had. But we are still not close to that deep and realistic football experience we had many years ago.

Online functionality is pretty much the standard we are used to. Everything works fine, and I experienced no significant issues.

MUT immediately starts off by giving you a quick sell pack, a special pack if you played EA Access and a gold team fantasy pack. Once you pick your team, you are given a choice of one player from that team out of the players it allows you to select. Now, there is a scheme fit mechanic where you have a scheme fit chemistry slot as well. Challenges are a new addition to MUT this year. This uses a new star-based reward system depending on the difficulty you chose. And, in addition, obviously the rewards will depend on the difficulty you choose. You can also replay all the challenges on all levels. Superstar X-Factors and Archetypes are also part of MUT this year. The rest of the mode is pretty similar for the most part. It does feel like something some players who don’t play the mode might actually enjoy this year. However, I don’t like the pay-to-win formula for MUT. No matter what EA wants to call it, while it’s still possible to field a good team without spending money, it’s a true grind if you go that route.

What I Like

Gameplay Improvements

Where Madden 20 improves the most is in gameplay. If you are anything like me, gameplay is always the most important aspect in a video game. In a one-year cycle, the folks at Tiburon were able to improve the core gameplay more than they have between any other iteration in years. From the new passing trajectories to the Superstar X-Factors, gameplay feels much more realistic this year. Player movement plays a large part in this. I was not a fan of the player movement in Madden 19. I felt it was too deliberate. What I mean by that is when a player would change direction, he seemed to make it harder to change direction than it should have been. In other words, he would do unnecessary foot chopping to just change direction. This year, the player movement just feels right. It’s hard to describe in words without actually feeling it. Players seem more grounded and turning is much more realistic. There are less suction tackles and blocks. Your ball carriers can bounce off of players and push forward. Also the special ball-carrier moves are better and more realistic as you can’t just spin your way down the field anymore.

As it relates to passing, EA needs to tighten up pass coverage a bit to make the new passing mechanics work as more of a chess match between the best quarterbacks and the best defenders. To be more specific, EA needs to focus on defender reaction times. With the zone defense, defenders sometimes just don’t cover their designated space. With man defense, it just seems like the defenders are too delayed with turning their hips at times and get caught. These are real things that happen and should continue to happen, but it doesn’t always feel ratings-based, and it does feel like offenses end up with the advantage more than they should. It’s not egregious to the point of every play, but it needs to be looked at by EA. Also, some of the late-game AI by the CPU has been questionable in terms of clock management. Sometimes the AI does everything by the book, but it’s rather egregious when the AI stumbles in this regard.

Presentation

When I talk about presentation, I am more talking about what we see on the field more than anything else. I feel like animations also go in this category, not just the look of things like the halftime show or end-of-game presentation. Regardless, the non-animation stuff still needs work. There should be more excitement for winning playoff games and the Super Bowl. Presentations and stuff like that could go a long way in these regards. The opening game sequences are good but get repetitive.

What I really like this year is the addition of signature animations. There may not be a ton of them, but the ones that are there there look great. From Tom Brady’s stance and throwing to Patrick Mahomes’ no-look passes, these add a ton to the game. On top of that, other quarterbacks who don’t have signature animations have improved throwing animations as well. This was an issue for years before Madden 20. Finally, most throwing animations look good.

As an aside, EA has also said we may get striped socks and mouthpieces in a future title update. This would make 90 percent of the world happy (that’s a joke).

Superstar X-Factors

One of the newest and most ambitious features in a while for the Madden series is Superstar X-Factors. The developers knew they had to do something to separate the best players in the game from the worst. They started by stretching out the ratings again, but that had proven in the past to not truly separate the good from the bad. X-Factors help make that gap feel a bit larger. X-Factors are given goals they need to accomplish to activate an ability. Once activated, the player will then reach another level. For example, with Patrick Mahomes the Dashing Deadeye will give you perfect passing accuracy when throwing on the run if you are outside of the pocket. It’s kind of of like getting in the zone in real life. However, every Superstar X-Factor has a counter. So when Mahomes has this ability activated, if you can apply pressure on him, the ability will then deactivate. Unfortunately, offensive linemen, kickers and punters will not have X-Factors this year (with punters and kickers it’s not really a big deal). However, EA has stated that this is on the radar for next year. I think there should definitely be Superstar X-Factors for offensive linemen to counter some of the edge rusher X-Factors in the future.

What I Don’t Like

Franchise Mode

As I said previously, it’s not that it’s bad. It’s passable. But the lack of depth here just brings it down to an average level. Most of the menus remain unchanged, which gives it all an antiquated look. Scouting remains mostly the same, and the draft could even be described as tedious by some. As mentioned above, a lot of tasks are the same as they have been in previous games, and overall the mode just needs a complete visual makeover. The Scenario Engine might shake it up a bit for some people, but just like other fans of Madden, I too wish for a deeper, better franchise mode.

Madden Ultimate Team

I get that this is going to be highly subjective, but MUT is not for me. I know some people make a living on it, and more power to them. I would never tell somebody to not like a mode in a video game. But to me, MUT is kind of all over the place. New additions this year could make the mode even more confusing than it has been in the past with first-time, or casual users. But I’m sure veteran MUT players will like these tweaks. I will say this, as far as functionality goes, it’s perfectly fine. Everything works, and I know people like to get packs because it’s a thrill to open them and see who you get. That being said, there is also the question of the pay-to-win dynamic that EA is trying to make sound like it’s not what some people think it is.

Recap

The best thing going for Madden 20 is its improved core gameplay and Superstar X-Factors. The people who are gameplay-first gamers will want to invest in this year’s game. Or, at the very least, they will want to rent it to get an idea if it’s for you. Even with strong improvement in gameplay and on-field presentation, Madden 20 still lacks what many fans of the series want to see, and that’s depth to franchise mode. EA has admitted it wants to get the gameplay as perfect as possible and then move on to other areas like franchise mode. This is reasonable, but gamers get tired of the promises that are not fulfilled. However, I do think there may be a sense of renewed confidence due to the developer transparency about the game and the fact that EA has mostly delivered on the improved gameplay.

With the combination of improvements brought forth by core mechanics, better animations, and Superstar X-Factors giving much needed differentiation to average and elite players, Madden 20 is a game that plays well on the field. From here, it now needs some major and minor presentation refinements, tweaks to gameplay and a deeper franchise mode in order to be called an elite sports game.

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  1. Review was well written...very balanced.  
    Is the game fun enough to outshine the frustrations?  I hope so, I will be renting it this weekend.
    PVarck31
    Just to clear this up, I didn’t say it was a negative. I said it was one aspect I didn’t like. And also that my take would be highly subjective. I also said that for die hard MUT players they would like it and like the new features. And that it might be too confusing for newer players due to so many moving parts.
    Hope that clears it up.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    My bad. Sorry for misrepresenting it.
    What about the awkward interactions and collisions? The fact that defenders remain flat-footed, and sometimes completely inactive or unaware in zones?  The complete absence of gang tackles—still??  The amount of hit sticks and fumbles that happen in the game for both user and CPU?  The fact there are kickoffs and all the other things that shouldn't be in the Pro Bowl like blitzing and certain formations (they really shouldn't get that much credit for the Pro Bowl)?  And then the minor stuff like the fact that still, only 3 players in the game have tattoos.  They never build on anything they start.  By now, at least two or three players per team should have them.  The fact that all, although they look a little cleaner, some outcomes still look predetermined, especially the WR/DB interactions.
    I would say that the new throwing motions, the new PA announcer, the LB limiting (though that still needs more work in terms of their vertical speed and ability to turn on a dime) and even the commentary depth are some positives this year.
    How can franchise mode be exactly the same as Madden 19? Seriously EA what the FUCK are you doing? You should be focussing on all all aspects of game including gameplay and the game modes. Stop being lazy! Don't give me the reason there wasn't enough time or not enough resources. You make millions on sales of your game each year. Now use some of that money to work on all parts of your game you greedy bastards!
    MelR2000
    Since EA Madden said that there are “teams” that work on every aspect of the game....what exactly did the “franchise team” work on? *
    I do know that they worked on contracts and the scenario engine. One is a positive while the other has the potential to be game changing. Big problem with the scenario engine is that it is really just for the user and not for the CPU.
    If they ever make the CPU deal with the scenario engine as well, we'll have a huge leap in the progression of CFM.
    the focus in gameplay is great. mahomes cant play like a average player.. FRanchise is acceptable , no diference between player make game unplayable, who likes play when you spend alot of time to improve a player and he play like anyone. 
    good review but please bring back a numbers rating. In addition, each topic or feature of a game give that a rating, then give the game its overall average.
    so far with my trial game despite the ridiculous amount of stuttering and freezing on the pc version. Id give the game 7-7.5.
    the organic feel of player control and movement feels awesome.
    as good as the game feels, there is still alot to be desired, and it all has to do with options
    its about time the Madden team starts really giving us options in how we want to play. if I want to play a 20 minute game, stats for an entire franchise mode should reflect 20 minute games. I hate the fact that we still cant customize simulated minutes within a franchise mode.
    with that said its a good game so far.
    steeldee7
    I've seen gang tackles and Pile on tackles. Onetime Big ben was fighting to stay up and the Defender jumped on his back to help bring him down.

    same here, I dont know why someone said there arent any. I see plenty of gang tackles, especially when a rb gets going.
    tril
    good review but please bring back a numbers rating. In addition, each topic or feature of a game give that a rating, then give the game its overall average.
    so far with my trial game despite the ridiculous amount of stuttering and freezing on the pc version. Id give the game 7-7.5.
    the organic feel of player control and movement feels awesome.
    as good as the game feels, there is still alot to be desired, and it all has to do with options
    its about time the Madden team starts really giving us options in how we want to play. if I want to play a 20 minute game, stats for an entire franchise mode should reflect 20 minute games. I hate the fact that we still cant customize simulated minutes within a franchise mode.
    with that said its a good game so far.

    I don't think it's his decision or choice on whether or not to give a numerical rating to the game.
    Scores on reviews are the devil. All they do is generate the worst discussions among gamers that use reviews in their fanboy wars. They don’t care what an actual review says, they need a simple number to use as weapon.
    It used to be good to read reviews by those that disagree with you. Now, mostly due to social media, reviews exist to be called out. Review scores are nothing more than a label that identifies a reviewer as good or bad, based on what we think the score should be.
    Get rid of scores, and you have more good conversations and less dick swinging.
    Two people tackling one ballcarrier while the the other three or four defenders collapse to the ground because they can't interact with the play is not gang tackling.
    MelR2000
    Since EA Madden said that there are “teams” that work on every aspect of the game....what exactly did the “franchise team” work on? *

    Big- and medium-ticket items only:
    - QB1 and everything associated with it (it’s a glorified cinematic introduction to Franchise player mode, and as such it absolutely counts as part of Franchise mode on top of obviously being its own thing.)
    - Scenario Engine and everything associated with it
    - Added ability to progress / regress Superstar and Zone abilities to support X-Factors in Franchise
    - Rebalanced progression / regression and rookie generators to account for ratings stretch
    - Rebalanced player contract demands for long-term gameplay balance improvements
    - added playable Pro Bowl to Franchise mode
    The obvious theme here is that all the major additions and changes to Franchise had to support more than one gameplay mode to get into this year’s game.
    There’s still work to do to get all the hardcore mechanics we want in the mode and the mode needs some more dynamism, but Tiburon absolutely did more than the nothing to Franchise mode people keep accusing them of doing.
    Agent89
    Two people tackling one ballcarrier while the the other three or four defenders collapse to the ground because they can't interact with the play is not gang tackling.

    ok I get this. always hated this about Madden. but I have seen 2 or 3 maybe 4 people try to bring down a rb.
    JayhawkerStL
    Scores on reviews are the devil. All they do is generate the worst discussions among gamers that use reviews in their fanboy wars. They don’t care what an actual review says, they need a simple number to use as weapon.

    Agreed. Sports games try to cater to so many different audiences these days, overall scores don't make much sense. A game might have a great dynasty mode and do horrible with the online UT mode. To a dynasty only guy, the game is a 9 while to the online guy it is a 3.....and to the guy that plays both the game is a 6.
    What's the point of a review? It's Madden... Madden hasn't changed in 15 years. Similar gameplay, updated roster. Same boring *** franchise mode. Some gimmick features and updated MUT.
    Peter_OS
    How can franchise mode be exactly the same as Madden 19? Seriously EA what the **** are you doing? You should be focussing on all all aspects of game including gameplay and the game modes. Stop being lazy! Don't give me the reason there wasn't enough time or not enough resources. You make millions on sales of your game each year. Now use some of that money to work on all parts of your game you greedy bastards!

    If people really want to see a change to Franchise. You should quit buying the game. It's not going to change. EA doesn't want it to change. They'll sell you on some gimmick BS features like "situations" or whatever they are calling them and hope you buy it in. But they want you to get bored with it. Why? They want you over there playing MUT. Spending your $$$ on upgrading your team.
    If they truly delivered a solid Franchises, their sales would take a huge hit.
    Kid OS
    I do know that they worked on contracts and the scenario engine. One is a positive while the other has the potential to be game changing. Big problem with the scenario engine is that it is really just for the user and not for the CPU.
    If they ever make the CPU deal with the scenario engine as well, we'll have a huge leap in the progression of CFM.
    What's the scenario feature?
    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
    Spitfirex007
    What's the point of a review? It's Madden... Madden hasn't changed in 15 years. Similar gameplay, updated roster. Same boring *** franchise mode. Some gimmick features and updated MUT.

    Hasn't changed in 15 years? Possibly the most ignorant post made in OS in 15 years. That's quite a feat, congrats.
    Biggest sport license in america but the worst AAA sportsgame out there. Look @ MLB The Show. San Diego Stuidios have less ressources but they made a better game overall.
    I'm wondering why the NFL is not interested to sell a good & passionate product. Fans who buy every year madden, tickets and merchandise deserves more respect!
    Removed speed control - Check  Still no QB Avoidance control - Check  Removed Referees from the field - Check
    Ball clipping through objects on the field - Check 
    Advertising about QB release points that 2k5 had, and then cleaned up for 2k8 - check oh, by the way, double tapping the receiver icon for a pump fake - now thats original! lol. X-factors? Gee Whiz, if you are going to snatch ideas from 2K and rename them, why don't you just snatch the whole damn engine!! At least it would make for a better gaming experience. 
    I will see this game when it drops to under 30 bucks or I might just wait until EA Access drops it in the Vault. Unless they create some sort of miracle through patching, I don't see the point in buying this years version. This will be the first Madden I have not purchased - EVER!!!
    Once College football ended, as did the ability to draft your classes to Madden ended, the whole charm of Madden ended. Trying to relive that magic through different mode attempts has landed them flat on their faces. I still play Madden 25 and NCAA Football 14 and I haven't really experienced a better madden feeling yet. I keep searching for that feeling but it's just not there. 
    I'm already waiting for a patch because I know (hope) they can fix many of the issues I have with the game... at the same time, guess that says something about the games current state.
    So I'm going to give Madden 20 a B-, it's far from perfect, ie..deep passing ball camera- you can't track the ball in the air like in 2k, you have to locate the spot and guess when it will drop or the lack of pass rush moves manually selected by the user(power and finesse vs actively selecting spin, club, swim ...Also the game speed is way too fast it needs to be slowed down or have the ability to do so. But it's a decent game, I say the most of the foundation is there.  Also I'm a admitted 2k football fanboy that haven't played a football game in years, the current franchise mode is new to me. So it lack of change I can't really comment on. But the ratings adjustment opening up ratings where you can have starters in the low 70s and are a huge A+ for me. Seems a little more realistic at least to me. But it definitely not without it's cons-;no refs on field, no real time injuries, real time penalty flags, no franchise type sports center, also the lack of an option for defensive match ups, where you can assign Jalen Ramsey to Shadow Julio Jones whenever in man coverage or just double him is disappointing.
    Playing this for the past week and have to say this has to be the most frustrating Madden in years.
    - So many bugs, so many broken pieces and half-baked modes.
    - Scenerio engine is just clutter and redundancy. People keep saying “there is so much potential” But no, when they showed it as just text messages, we should have known it would be a weak implementation
    - FoF is terrible. Short, bad cut scenes, ridiculous plot, cancer? Really? The worst way to do a superstar mode. Only thing good is you can play as a few college teams
    - the play on the field is better, but still just so many problems and broken aspects. And what’s worse is they cut the huddle and refs ...
    Gameplay is now full on designed for MUT. Way to Arcady
    I’m thinking this game is suffering from all the leadership and product changes at EA and it shows. Not enough development into this game this year at all.
    4.0 out of 10. And only because the graphics are good.
    The thing I love most about madden season is the period two weeks after release when more people have finally gotten the game and all of the negative posts start coming in. It blows my mind how many people who don't enjoy this game that just keep playing and posting about it. When things that I do start to bother me I stop doing them. Pretty Simple solution to your problem really. Is this years madden perfect? No, absolutely not. But I it is a fun experience most of us are enjoying playing. If your going to just keep pushing your "game is trash" narrative without any constructive feedback or completely off base and asinine assertions like "this is the same game as last year", take that **** over to the EA forums. This isn't the place and I'm getting a little tired of it. This forum was really in a good place from EA access up until a few days ago:
    I think it's important to voice things that are wrong with this game and to point out things the devs should take into consideration, but all of these "this game is trash" and then listing the various reasons why it is so without any constructive feedback as to how they can be improved are getting a little out of control. I am noticing it's the same 10 people who just stumbled back into these forums a couple of days ago after a year of being away, and are just in multiple threads with the most unconstructive and negative posts.
    Therebelyell626
    The thing I love most about madden season is the period two weeks after release when more people have finally gotten the game and all of the negative posts start coming in. It blows my mind how many people who don't enjoy this game that just keep playing and posting about it. When things that I do start to bother me I stop doing them. Pretty Simple solution to your problem really. Is this years madden perfect? No, absolutely not. But I it is a fun experience most of us are enjoying playing. If your going to just keep pushing your "game is trash" narrative without any constructive feedback or completely off base and asinine assertions like "this is the same game as last year", take that **** over to the EA forums. This isn't the place and I'm getting a little tired of it. This forum was really in a good place from EA access up until a few days ago:
    I think it's important to voice things that are wrong with this game and to point out things the devs should take into consideration, but all of these "this game is trash" and then listing the various reasons why it is so without any constructive feedback as to how they can be improved are getting a little out of control. I am noticing it's the same 10 people who just stumbled back into these forums a couple of days ago after a year of being away, and are just in multiple threads with the most unconstructive and negative posts.
    This has been my exact thoughts these last few days. Its ridiculous
    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
    Therebelyell626
    The thing I love most about madden season is the period two weeks after release when more people have finally gotten the game and all of the negative posts start coming in. It blows my mind how many people who don't enjoy this game that just keep playing and posting about it. When things that I do start to bother me I stop doing them. Pretty Simple solution to your problem really. Is this years madden perfect? No, absolutely not. But I it is a fun experience most of us are enjoying playing. If your going to just keep pushing your "game is trash" narrative without any constructive feedback or completely off base and asinine assertions like "this is the same game as last year", take that **** over to the EA forums. This isn't the place and I'm getting a little tired of it. This forum was really in a good place from EA access up until a few days ago:
    I think it's important to voice things that are wrong with this game and to point out things the devs should take into consideration, but all of these "this game is trash" and then listing the various reasons why it is so without any constructive feedback as to how they can be improved are getting a little out of control. I am noticing it's the same 10 people who just stumbled back into these forums a couple of days ago after a year of being away, and are just in multiple threads with the most unconstructive and negative posts.

    Yup every single year. But I hate that users in this forum that get to play the game early act like it’s the best Madden game ever...every single year.
    Now I like this Madden better than any so far this gen, or last gen for that matter. But Madden games on PS2 are still superior, imo.
    This year during the beta, the gameplay jumped out as a big difference from 19 for a lot of us and I still give the game a 7.75 until they fix some glaring issues.
    Last years beta had some issues with RPM and the game finally started playing well in January or February.
    It's weird, I haven't even noticed the disappearing fg meter, yet. I am probably jinxing myself.
    Earl1963
    Yup every single year. But I hate that users in this forum that get to play the game early act like it’s the best Madden game ever...every single year.
    Now I like this Madden better than any so far this gen, or last gen for that matter. But Madden games on PS2 are still superior, imo.

    For me, I would say this year's rendition is the best on-the-field Madden I've ever played. I've been playing Madden since SNES days. I loved the PS2 era, I really did. But I remember the stuff that used to make me want to throw my controller through a window.
    Now that being said, I'm a franchise mode guy through and through. My favorite part of Madden is the off-season and everything that leads up to it. So I was pretty bummed that the draft saw no real improvement and continues to be subpar (IMO). The entire draft experience just sucks. I can't even easily see who was drafted DURING the draft. Moreover, I am NOT a fan of the constant OC/DC interactions weekly. I find them annoying. I also find the constant player conversations obnoxious. RB breaks his foot in the 1st quarter and tells me after the game he's frustrated he didn't get enough touches. :P
    On the field? Best Madden I've played. Off the field? Oof, there's work to be done.

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