Madden NFL 20 Hands-on Preview
EA Sports Madden franchise has comfortably found its sweet spot with this generation of consoles. There isn’t a ton of groundbreaking innovation coming from the franchise lately and the gameplay has largely remained the same. Aside from the usual Twitter grievances and gripes, Fans seem mostly satisfied with the product on the field. Madden has a massive fan base and there is just no way EA’s prepared to re-write the playbook at this stage. I get that, so it’s hard to fault the developers for not exactly reinventing their beloved gridiron game.
Last year, the Madden franchise once again inched forward making more incremental changes. They tweaked the running game, brought back the single player mode with Longshot 2 and made the usual glut of tweaks and enhancements. Critics seemed happy and the fan base all returned in droves. It was smooth sailing for the franchise with 19 and there is no doubt Madden NFL 20 will once again be that consistent experience we can all count on.
While at EA Play 2019 this weekend, I had a chance to get some hands-on time with Madden NFL 20 and I also chatted at length with Mike Young, Madden 20’s Creative Director. After my play session and chit chat with Mike, I am happy to report Madden NFL 20 looks and plays fantastic. Yet, I cannot get over this feeling that Madden 20 is merely more of the same. Almost too much the same, but there is an “X-Factor” and it could potentially have a massive impact this year.
The Studs Will Shine
The big new feature the team in Orlando is promoting in Madden NFL 20 is the indeed called X-Factors. The idea behind this new feature is to showcase the NFL’s top stars, the league’s elite athletes. Players like Maholmes, Gurley, and Donald are all studs and at times during the year, they become unstoppable. They can all dramatically impact the result of any game. No ability rating can capture some of those intangibles that these players bring to the game. When these superstars get in a zone, it’s incredible to watch. As a result, the Madden devs are encapsulating what makes these players so incredible with X-Factor abilities.
There are 50 players in Madden 20 that will be equipped with these special powerful X-Factor abilities. I didn’t get a full list of the players that made the cut but naturally, Aaron Rodgers is on the list. I had a chance to go hands-on with him and the rest of the Packers at EA Play.
At first, everything felt familiar and it wasn’t long before I connected with G. Allison, who broke a tackle and scampered for a long touchdown play. On the second drive, I successfully triggered the Rodgers’ X-Factor and he became unstoppable. Now, he didn’t move any faster or throw any harder but his passes were deadly accurate and the defense was unable to intercept any passes. I even made a couple of really bad throws into coverage but my receivers came down with them. The X-Factor played a large role during my subsequent touchdown drive.
I certainly like the idea behind X-Factors. There has to be a way to capture some of that magic we see on a weekly basis in the NFL. Yet, I do question how much of an impact these players will have during online matches. Sure superstars can take over a game at times and there should be occasions they dominate online but I would hope X-Factors doesn’t become some kind of online exploit for players.
Creative Director, Mike Young made a point by stating that these abilities are not ratings boosts or modifications. They are behaviors, characteristics, and situational outcomes, that compliment a superstars ratings, not modify them. Mike also indicated that players who underperform throughout the season could get bounced from the top 50. Likewise, players who emerge during the season could get included with Superstar X-Factors.
With these abilities comes new animations. Aaron Rodgers, for instance, has some of his signature throws in the game. The way he throws on the run with that little jump or flicks some of his tosses is very Rodgers like. Madden NFL 20 does a really nice job capturing all his little nuisances.
Like every year, there are several new animations. New superstar animations are certainly the more noticeable ones but I also noticed new blocking and sack animations in the game I played. There are many more additions but those two stood out during my short playtime.
I am disappointed Longshot mode is gone. I am not surprised because I don’t believe the mode was well received at all last year. I could be wrong but it certainly wasn’t Madden’s most talked about mode. It has; however, been replaced with a new career campaign where there is more emphasis on gameplay and your experiences with the player. It is less guided than Longshot. Here you’ll create a college player who begins as a star quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. You’ll play in the college football playoffs and hope for a high NFL draft pick. I look forward to hearing more about this mode in the coming weeks.
So does Madden NFL 20 bring enough new this year? Well, time will tell but so far Madden NFL 20 looks, feels and plays awfully similar to Madden NFL 19. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and those that poured hundreds, maybe thousands of hours into Madden 19 should be happy. They will be able to pick up right where they left off. Yet if you are looking for sweeping changes this year, you aren’t getting any. X-Factors will be a fun little addition and should make games more entertaining but it remains too early to tell if this will have a dramatic impact on the franchise moving forward.