A guilty pleasure of mine every single summer is football. The only sport that I truly get behind (as I don’t count professional wrestling as a sport, even though I love it), I’ve been playing the video game versions of the gridiron since the Super Nintendo. While I do prefer College Football over the NFL, and more on that a little later, there’s something to be said every year when a new Madden game releases. More often than not, it’s just reskins, roster updates, and minor additions here and there. But something feels different for the 2020 version of the game. While it isn’t the best Madden has ever been, it’s certainly the best it has been in the current generation of platforms.
Title: Madden NFL 20
Developer: EA Tiburon
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: PC
Release Date: August 2, 2019
Game Purchased for the Purpose of This Review
Anyone checking out this review undoubtedly is familiar with American football and knows the ins and outs of the way Madden operates. Football is one of those things where if you don’t enjoy it, you aren’t even going to put eyes on this text because you just don’t care. So from here on forward, I’m going to assume you have experience with Madden and are simply trying to find out if the latest entry is worth your time and money. So I won’t be going into the basics that form every release, just know that it still plays and feels very similar to the way it always has.
When it boils down to it, Madden NFL 20 is a vast improvement over anything we’ve seen in the PlayStation 4/Xbox One generation of consoles. There are a plethora of new animations which makes every game feel somewhat different, instead of just the same thing over and over again as it has been in the past. Some of the blocks, missed catches, tackles, jukes, and celebrations were a joy to see. Granted, you will start to see them repeated as you rack up game time, but there’s enough there where they feel spread out enough to make the game interesting.
The first addition I want to touch upon is the X-Factor status of certain players. EA went out and took the top performing athletes at every position and made them unique in this edition of the game. Having X-Factor players on your team can and will oftentimes swing momentum in your favor when they are in the zone. There’s two types of X-Factors, Superstars and Stars. Superstars are the ones that will change the dynamic of every game, as performing certain actions like completing 20+ yard catches or rushing for X number of plays in a row will slowly get the Superstars in the zone.
Once they are in the zone, they perform at almost a God like level and it’s incredibly fun. It doesn’t last forever, however, and you as the player need to do certain actions to maintain their zone status, like continuing to throw to them at least once every 3 plays, or not let the offense go more than 10 yards for a set of downs, etc. It brings another layer of management into the simulation which opened up a lot of options for big plays and game changing moments. Stars, on the other hand, don’t have anything special and cannot enter the zone. They just have higher stats and can more easily perform certain actions, like trucking, breaking tackles, spinning, and tackling.
Gone is Longshot, which was the story mode from the two previous games, and enter Face of the Franchise. Here, players will be tasked with creating QB1 that you will follow throughout his journey of becoming an active roster member in the NFL. Borrowing certain elements from Longshot and introducing new elements to make it feel unique, I had a bit of fun with this new mode, but it has some issues. For one, the best parts are over way too fast. You start out as a High School student that has offers from 10 different college football programs. It’s up to you to decide where you want to play college ball, and the teams you can pick from range from LSU, to Florida State, to Oklahoma, Clemson, Oregon, and five others. Several big name schools that you’d expect to see represented were not there, and it just makes me miss NCAA Football as a game. This small little section almost feels as if EA is testing the waters to see if they might be able to bring back college football in the world of video games, because the rule sets are different, the atmosphere was different, and it felt like I was huddled around a TV with my old friends on a Saturday night in 2007 duking it out as Ohio State and West Virginia.
After several story scenes and some dialogue options, you take a trip to the College Football Playoffs where you can select the first time you’ll play against. I was playing for LSU, so I chose to go against Oklahoma. We steamrolled right through them with a final score of 41-7, and I almost felt bad for the fictional players on the other side of the ball. Making it to the National Championship game in January is a big deal in real life, so naturally it felt like a big deal in the game. In a funny chance of fate, we had the Battle of the Tigers with the LSU Tigers taking on the Clemson Tigers. This was a much harder game to win naturally, and I feel like it’s meant to be that way, as the AI just felt smarter and played significantly better for this game.
When it came down to the Fourth Quarter, the score was tied 28-28 with under a minute to go, and Clemson had the ball. I was able to stop them and force Overtime, which anyone familiar with college football is aware that Overtime almost always has the potential to produce some amazing plays. After the first Overtime, the score was still tied 35-35. Second overtime led to two field goals, so we sat at 38-38. Enter Third Overtime, where now scoring a touchdown requires you to attempt a 2-point conversion no matter what. Clemson scores and succeeds on the conversion, 35-43. On a 4th and 13 play, I was able to find my way into the endzone and successfully complete the 2-point conversion to tie it back up 43-43.
So I had the ball back entering Fourth Overtime, and was quickly able to score bringing it to 49-43. I screwed up in the 2-point conversion play and did not convert, so I knew I had to do something here or risk losing the game. Low and behold, on the third snap Clemson took, one of my Defensive Tackles broke through and was able to force a fumble, while I quickly switched to another guy nearby and just dove on top of the football to end the game and win the National Championship. It felt amazing, and it’s feelings like that which used to be captured every time playing NCAA Football. Bring the damn game back. I told that entire story just for this point. Do what needs to be done, and bring college football back to the gaming industry.
After you win or loss the National Championship, you enter the NFL Combines, and performing well there will increase your draft stock. Do poorly and you may not be drafted until the later rounds, but do well enough and you’ll almost always go in the first round. I went at pick number 26 to the Denver Broncos, and immediately won the starting position in the Pre-Season games. But that’s where the fun ends. From there, it more or less just transitions to a Franchise mode where you’re player as a Player. There will be a few choices to still make throughout the weeks, but nothing as fun or exciting as the early hours of the mode.
The soundtrack in Madden NFL 20 is about as rap and hip-hop heavy as you’d expect, which I immediately just turn down the volume so I can listen to my own music or, more realistically, some podcasts whenever I play the game. There are a few original compositions to be heard that are all instrumental, and while it’s nice that they are there and I did leave this on if I ever decide to turn the volume up, they aren’t anything special enough to warrant the volume on.
Fans of the NFL and fans of Madden are going to find a lot of enjoyment with this version. There was some significant editions in the X-Factor players that truly can swing a game in almost any direction if done correctly. But the issues with Face of the Franchise, the lack of any new additions to the base Franchise mode, and some technical glitches here and there which Madden always has still holds this back from being better than anything we’ve ever seen from EA. But like I said, it’s still the best it has been on modern consoles, and I don’t expect to stop playing anytime soon.
7.5 / 10