We’ve been playing Madden 20 for a little while now, but as much as we’ve seen we’re still not ready to deliver the final review verdict. Until then, here are my impressions of the game so far, from the new X-Factor and Superstar abilities to the QB1: Face of the Franchise mode.
GAMEPLAY & NEW SUPERSTAR ABILITIES
Madden NFL 20 feels better than last year in terms of how players feel – particularly in the running game or in the open field. It’s not miles away from Madden 19, but it feels better making slight adjustments and there aren’t as many jerky movements.
The X-Factor and Superstar abilities add in another layer of strategy that is noticeable but relatively balanced. Superstar abilities are automatically always active for the players that have them, like T.Y. Hilton being better at the double move than your average player or Landon Collins having a guaranteed tackle when hit-sticking ball carriers. X-Factors, however, must be activated by gameplay, like Saquon Barkley getting a better fake-our rate on defenders after he first runs for 10+ yards three times. At launch, there are 50 players with X-Factors (who also have Superstar abilities) and 30 players with just Superstar abilities (and then only a small handful that have two).
In a regular game you might only activate the X-Factor a few times. These abilities are noticeable but don’t overtake the game. That being said, just having the superstar abilities can make guys pop in the gameplay and make you have to account for what they can do. Maybe that’s having one less second in the pocket when Joey Bosa comes off the edge or making sure you scheme to contain Alvin Kamara out of the backfield.
QB1 FACE OF THE FRANCHISE MODE
This new mode is part story mode, part player-focused career mode. You play a quarterback coming off some success in the college playoffs (you can play for one of 10 real college teams) who’s drafted to a team in need of a new signal-caller. From here you build your QB through your on-the-field performance and dialogue decisions in the locker room. The XP system is the same as in recent iterations of Franchise mode, with skill points raising pre-determine groups of abilities based on your overall player archetype.
During the season you’ll get calls from the media, teammates, coaches, and players on teams you’re about to face. How you answer these text-based calls determines if you get morale or XP boosts, and can also affect your teammates. Your wide receiver might want the ball more, or you might be tasked with holding Christian McCaffrey to no TDs for an appropriate reward. These goals give you something to shoot for and serve as a way to get more XP, but they fall short of either being a character-driven story or an engaging career-long journey.
The scenarios you experience in the QB1 Face of the Franchise mode are also present in the regular Franchise mode, but this is the most substantive chunk of new material for the mode. Draft scouting has been tweaked slightly to shake up some of the predictability of previous years, but overall the mode is largely the same as last year. This means free agency, trade A.I., and other mechanics haven’t been updated.
MADDEN ULTIMATE TEAM
MUT’s overall flow has changed in that Missions are now the overriding sorting structure for challenges (no longer called Solos since you can play some in co-op). Either way, all the content and your progression is familiar. X-Factors and Superstars are also in the mode as unlocks on Power Up cards you can activate by spending training points. Once you do that you can have numerous abilities, but only so many can be applied to a player based on a tier system. Furthermore, you can only have three offensive and three defensive players with these abilities on the field during games. Of course, similar to the red chems of previous years, players with an X-Factor and/or Superstar abilities are going to be potential difference makers and greatly influence the market.
Stay tuned for my full review online in the coming days, and until then you can check out the game in action in our recent livestream.