August saw one of the highlight events of the year for NFL and gaming fans—the launch of the latest Madden title. As a game that received an average score of 76%, according to aggregator Metacritic, it is certainly one that promises a lot. But what is it really like to play? And is there much difference from its predecessors?
Electronic Arts has released Madden 20 on Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Windows PCs. This continues the support for PC that was reintroduced last year, making Madden 20 only the fourth-ever game to be released for computer gamers. For fans of streaming platforms like Steam, EA won’t be making the game available on anywhere other than its own Origin service.
Who Made the Cover?
The player featured on the cover of Madden games is surrounded by much rumour and speculation every year. The coveted spot this year has gone to Patrick Mahomes; the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was the 2018 NFL Most Valued Player and is the first player for the team to be featured on the front of a Madden title.
Upgrade or Major Overhaul?
Every so often sports titles like Madden get some major new features and changes to the gameplay that make the latest instalment a big step up on its predecessors. Madden 20 is not one of these. The game runs on the Frostbite 3 game engine, as did Madden 18 and Madden 19. This does not mean that the game fails to provide new features and expand the playing experience—it arguably does this more than some previous iterations—but it runs on the same system and, therefore, cannot be revolutionary.
Improvements to Career Mode with College Games
Called QB1, this is an upgrade to the franchise mode, allowing you to play as the main player on your team. You create your own quarterback, choose which college you want to play at, progress through the NCAA to the college playoffs, and then try to work your way into the NFL through the NFL Draft. One downside to QB mode is that your AI teammates can sometimes be more artificial and less intelligent, resulting in their making incorrect strategy decisions during gameplay.
Small details matter; even when they go unnoticed they can make the game feel more realistic and polished. Madden 20 includes several of these, including “signature animations”, which give each player his own unique traits (for example, a no-look pass from Patrick Mahomes, whilst Aaron Rodgers will perform Throw on Run passes). The game will be updated with more of these over time. Another small detail is an improved lighting system that gives a more natural look.
Connection to eSports
Madden 20 will form the basis of the game used in the Madden NFL 20 Championship (the official NFL eSports league). It will feature each of the 32 teams and has been given a different lineup for this season, aligning its main events more closely with the real-life NFL league. Madden 20 players can register to compete in the Madden NFL 20 Championship, with the initial qualifying tournament being held online. Those who are successful will be allowed to represent their chosen team in the next stages. eSports leagues like this are still quite new; despite having big-name sponsors like Pizza Hut and Snickers, the Madden NFL 20 Championship isn’t quite as refined and polished as the real-life NFL League. Evidence of this can be seen in the significantly lower viewing figures (just 34,000 for the final last season) and the fact that bookmakers and betting comparison services like Oddschecker do not currently list odds for eSports like they do for real-life leagues.
Madden fans have been asking to be able to play in the Pro Bowl for years. Madden 20 finally delivers this. It is the first game you can play, as it is available whilst the rest of the game installs. It will also be possible to qualify for the Pro Bowl as part of the franchise mode.
Better Support for New Players
Madden 20 has upgrades to help new players get to grips with the game. Through the on-field trainer, players can learn how to use different features of the game, helping them to progress faster.
Overall, the game makes a bigger step up than some other releases in the Madden franchise’s history. As we are reaching the end of the current generation of game consoles’ lives, the developers are finding ways to push the devices to their limits. This can be seen through things like the improved lightning and the unique animations for individual players. Fans will be happy that they can now play in the Pro Bowl and that it’s possible to play college games in the NCAA.