If you want an honest opinion on whether you should buy Madden 20, this is the review for you.
Gameplay & Superstar X-Factors
Any sports game—or any video game, for that matter—needs to have quality gameplay, but EA Sportscontinues to prove they are unable to create a realistic simulation football experience with the Madden series. The biggest issue is that animations have completely taken over, as it’s become increasingly obvious that luck is more important than stick skill, and after just a few minutes of playing, you could see the same tired animations take away any freedom you might have controlling a ball-carrier or defender.
Of course, ratings need to have an impact on what happen on the virtual gridiron, but it shouldn’t lead to predetermined outcomes. For example, an immediate animation issue I noticed was a running back that looks like he has the corner suddenly getting warped into a tackle where the defender will basically square up the runner and bulldoze him into the ground. Maybe that’s not the best way to explain it, but if you’ve played Madden in recent years, you likely know the animation I’m talking about.
Then we have the Superstar X-Factors Abilities. Just to show I’m not going to be relentlessly ripping the game, there are definitely some great abilities that add a layer of realism to Madden 20. The best one is Tom Brady (perhaps because his game doesn’t rely on speed, athleticism, or a rocket arm), as the “Clutch” and “Pro Reads” abilities make him nearly unstoppable in the fourth quarter of a one-possession game. And whether you love him or hate him, Brady almost always comes through in the biggest moments, so it feels like you are in complete control when he’s your quarterback—or worse, you feel an impending sense of doom when you play against him.
However, the traits that rely on physical abilities seem way too unrealistic. Most notably, cover athlete Patrick Mahomes—for all his talent—shouldn’t be able to throw an 80-yard bomb without setting his feet and loading up beforehand. That’s something that should be left for an NFL Street reboot, not Madden.
I also don’t like the fact that there can only be 50 Superstar X-Factor players at a time. Why is that? If there are 54 players deserving, 54 players should have it. If there are 43 players deserving, it should be 43 players. The rule makes it seem like a gimmick to create social media debate more than anything else.
Overall, there is just too much missing in terms of gameplay. Passing needs a complete overhaul to a timing-based system, catching is based on animations, tackling is still heavily warped, and there is nothing in place to stop the same plays being successfully called over and over again in head-to-head games.
Graphics & Presentation
People have been clamoring for a new scoreboard for a while, but what we got is arguably a step back. Again, Madden is supposed to be a simulation football game, so it makes zero sense to have paint-like streaks be a big part of the presentation in this year’s game. EA might as well be honest with everyone and call it a sophisticated arcade game.
A simple fix would be for the NFL—if they are adamant on handing out an exclusive license to make video games—to demand the television networks cooperate. While it would be nice, we don’t even need Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for FOX or Jim Nantz and Tony Romo for CBS; instead, just give us the scoreboard for FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and NFL Network instead of the generic, colored-pencil one from EA. If the NHL series can have full-blown NBC coverage, there’s no reason for every semblance of it to be absent in Madden.
As for the player looks, some of the face and body models are straight-up laughable. Just do a quick Twitter search of “Greg Olsen Madden” and you’ll see how bad the attempt to create player likeness is. And what the players wear is just as inaccurate, particularly when it comes to arm bands and sleeves (where is the baggy long sleeves option?).
This story about Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury basically sums up Madden: The 39-year-old said he’d seen a bunch of players upset about their rating and didn’t understand why since “it’s just a video game,” but he then saw a picture of himself in the game and apologized to them because he looked like he’s “on The Walking Dead” and understood their displeasure.
Others might not care as much, but to me, having no dynamic weather remains one of the biggest flaws in Madden games every year. It would be one thing if the non-normal conditions (rain, snow) that they do have looked really good, but snow in particular pales in comparison to that of Red Dead Redemption 2 or God of War. Yes, those are narrative-driven, single-player games, but it’s difficult to take snowy conditions in Madden seriously when a step in the snow creates a cheap-looking circle on the ground instead of a realistic footprint.
Most of the realism is based on graphics and presentation, but some of the player ratings are absolutely inexcusable, which further takes away from the experience. For example, Tevin Coleman has 92 acceleration, but it should really be 99 for a guy that looks like he is shot out of a cannon when there’s a crease to run through (to compare, DeAndre Hopkins has 93 acceleration and is in no way close to Coleman’s first step in real life).
But that’s not even Exhibit A for how broken the game is based on ratings, as No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones is a 65 overall, while undrafted quarterback Tyree Jackson is a 64 overall—and Jackson was rated higher before backlash caused things to change prior to Madden 20’s release.
You could go up and down the menus to find all the inaccuracies when it comes to ratings, but some of the most notable are RB Saquon Barkley (91), CB Tre’Davious White (85), MLB Darius Leonard (84), and RB David Johnson (87).
Face of the Franchise
If there’s an addition for EA to hang their hat on in Madden 20, it’s easily Face of the Franchise. Player customization still isn’t quite as deep as it should be, but unlike the years wasted on Devin Wade’s story in “Longshot”, the new career mode is at least centered around you (or whatever crazy character you might decide to create).
So far, the main complaint I have is that the colleges you can choose to play for are very limited—no Alabama or Big Ten schools are available as an option—but it’s better than nothing, Also, unless I’m missing it, you are unable to see current or future attributes for each category before picking your archetype, and I’m interested to know the differences between “Improviser” and “Scrambler” in particular.
Still, having a personality to choose from is a definite plus, and it should keep our character from acting too far off the path that we would like to have for him. I just hope choosing one of the more humble options doesn’t lead to celebrating like a fool for a first down, because it shouldn’t.
I won’t spoil anything for those who want to play (and because I don’t know what happens after the draft because I had to check out other modes), but after your college career is concluded, you participate in the NFL Combine, which—along with questions from the media—will be key in being a high draft pick.
It still has a long way to go, but Face of the Franchise should be the main selling point if you want to buy Madden 20, and it’s a surprise EA didn’t promote the mode more than they did.
Unfortunately, franchise mode isn’t even worth taking time to talk about, as it’s a bare bones mode that has been stripped and repackaged for years. Until they get an option to become a general manager with improved AI logic for other teams when it comes to trades, free agency, and the draft, you’re just wasting your time—which might be by design so people flock to Ultimate Team.
Everything funnels you towards MUT in Madden 20, and EA hasn’t even been shy about it over the past couple releases. Anyone with a Twitter account has probably seen all the giveaways that players, writers, analysts, etc. have done for this year’s game, and it’s frankly just a way to get the game in the hands of more people to hopefully get them “addicted” to Ultimate Team.
On the surface, MUT is probably once again the most fun part of Madden, but if you ever get to a point where you realize how pointless it is, you won’t really miss anything about it other than the holiday cards (but even they declined in quality last year and probably will again in Madden 20).
They’ll never do it because of how much money the mode makes (hundreds of millions of dollars), but if EA really wanted to make MUT the best experience possible, they would get rid of low-rated, watered-down base cards and instead take a page out of MLB The Show’s book by having the base cards be aligned with the ratings of the real rosters.
Score: 6.8 – An improved career mode and some of the Superstar X-Factor abilities make ‘Madden 20’ slightly better than previous years, but animation-heavy gameplay, poor presentation changes, and a lack of depth in franchise mode make it not worth purchasing unless you’re a die-hard football fan willing to spend $60 for an NFL game.