Review – Madden NFL 20
There is a saying for long running series fans like to use: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This doesn’t really apply to Madden NFL, as there is always room for improvement. Unfortunately, EA Tiburon doesn’t think that because not only did they do nothing to advance Madden NFL, they removed way more than they added. And what they added was so small I honestly can’t believe it’s all that we got in a full year and $60.
This is now my third Madden I have reviewed since joining Way Too Many Games and I typically have some decent things to say about them. They are never perfect, but they usually make as many steps forward as backwards. This isn’t really the case in Madden NFL 20 since there isn’t really anything worth the entry price. If you read my Madden NFL 19 review then you’ll get the gist of this installment, so I’m just going to give you the changes here. . . and fair warning, most aren’t that great.
Now that you went back and read my Madden NFL 19 review, you know I was not the biggest fan of the Longshot story mode. It was about characters I didn’t care about and barely featured any of the sport that you payed to play. I can’t believe I’m going to actually say something positive about that mode, but at least it told a story. Face of the Franchise is the new story mode and I use “story mode” lightly. You are only able to be the quarter back in the mode and while you do get to customize how you look, the models and customizations are not pretty.
There are some meager story lines in place and you conveniently start in the final game to get to the championship game. You’ll go through some dialogue options that essentially choose the type of QB that you’ll be, as well as introduce some characters that will disappear and won’t matter in about an hour. The choices are frustrating because it’s on a timer and if you accidentally pick the wrong one you may get stuck with stats and bonuses you may not want. Whoever decided that deciding on your character stats by using vague dialogue options on a timer needs to be smacked.
Needless to say you win the game, you win the championship, and now the NFL is scouting you. There is a quick part in the combine where you run some drills and depending on how you do it will determine your draft pick, but you’ll always get picked. Once you get on a NFL team it essentially turns into the normal Franchise mode, with a similar layout, dialogue options, training, and upgrades. Unlike the Franchise mode you only need to manage your one player, but the “story” ends there. At the very least Longshot provided a full story even if it was pretty lame and shallow.
Franchise mode largely remains the same with some minor tweaks. Playing as the coach for your team lets you play all positions (if you don’t sim), trade, manage, and level up all your players. I do like having the depth of dealing with trades, scouting players and signing them with keeping an eye on your salary cap, as well as being able to pay attention to all teams if they are having some negotiation problems. Unfortunately, there is still no Create-A-Team mode something that was once featured in Madden.
One of the best features, and the one EA has been advertising to death, is the addition of star players having an X-Factor. This essentially allows star player’s additional bonuses when they play well to make them stand out even more. This system not only effects current stars, but also the characters you level up and grow in the franchise mode. This mode is great, but my cynical side makes me think this is just another way to sell expensive MUT packs that have big star players with the best X-Factor bonuses. Essentially adding to the already Pay-2-Win nature of MUT.
This is essentially where the changes or additions end for this installment. MUT remains the same money grubbing mode that features $199 packs for cards. The mode is fun, but it can become such a grind to buy packs that are actually worthwhile with in game currency. The graphics have received no enhancements and this late in the gen the character models are looking ugly. The crowd still looks like PS2 characters and there has been no changes to the overall presentation of the games.
The sound design also remains mostly unchanged other than having a terrible soundtrack. The general sound effects of pads clashing, crowds cheering, balls kicked are all well done. The voice acting in the few story mode scenes are hit and miss, but is serviceable since it’s not a very long mode. The announcers can sometimes surprise with some astute play calling, but far too often does it stumble. Break out plays often don’t get called upon because they won’t stop what they’re saying to notice the massive breakaway run for a touchdown. Or they will call a first down when really you still have 3rd and inches to go.
Animations and physics also didn’t get any sort of love since the characters look very stiff and hit detection can be wonky. I have had hits trigger that make the player lurch from a completely different angle. I had a Line Backer hit my Running Back, but when the animation started it was a hit you would normally see from a kick off return when players are running at full speed. On top of terrible hit detection’s and physics, the AI is so bad. Especially when you hand it off for a run, they are terrible at reading where the gaps are.
Playing it safe is an understatement for Madden NFL 20. Unless you’re a die hard Madden fan who loves football and doesn’t care about the series becoming better, then I guess no matter what I say could persuade you. However, if you desire more for your $60, I suggest sticking with last years model and just skip this one altogether.
I think this may be the first Madden that hasn’t gotten a graphical upgrade and it’s very noticeable this late in the generation.
Star Factor is a nice addition, but other systems were dumbed down or stripped away. There are also still far too many issues with the AI and physics.
Possibly one of the worst soundtracks in a Madden in years. Various sound effects are well done, but voice acting and the announcers can still be hit or miss.
Playing it safe is an understatement for Madden NFL 20. Of course the one area of the game they didn’t strip back, simplify, or completely cut is MUT. . . but I’m sure you could have guessed that.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Madden NFL 20 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Madden NFL 20 was provided by the publisher.