EA kicks off its annual season of sport-themed videogames with Madden NFL 20. Out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, there is little doubt it’ll sell well – but are the new features worth the money? We checked out the game on Xbox One.
Madden 20 marks the 7th release of the Madden franchise on the Xbox One, the first one being the somewhat confusingly named Madden 25 (SO curious what they’ll do in five years). While FIFA reigns supreme in Europe (Madden was pretty much nowhere to be seem at Gamescom last week), Madden continues to be extremely popular in the US and both franchises made the leap to a new graphics engine during this current console generation – making them two of the best-looking sports games out there.
Madden NFL 20 doesn’t present a leap forward in the visual sense, but I wasn’t expecting it to – I suppose we might see that happen when the new console generation arrives (next year, in a delayed release after the one for Xbox One and PS4?). That doesn’t mean that this year’s game comes without its own set of improvements though, and it includes a new game mode.
The “new stuff” is spread rather thin though, since it’s a fairly familiar package outside of the “QB1: Face of the Franchise” mode. I can touch on a few improvements to the core gameplay, but the original franchise mode is largely unchanged. You’ll notice a few optimizations during games though, which includes a more polished running and passing game. The biggest change comes from the new “X-Factor” moves though, which luckily have very little to do with any kind of talent show. Instead, they’re more that are reserved for a few star players, and only come up as an option very sporadically. Because it’s not overdone Madden 20 doesn’t suddenly turn into something like NBA Jam, and it makes the highlight reel a bit more interesting – although some might argue these ‘super moves’ can feel unfair.
The biggest draw in Madden NFL 20, besides the obligatory roster update, is the QB1 franchise mode mentioned earlier. Here, you get to create your own character who you get to take through a college career in order to get to the NFL. It more or less replaces the cinematic story mode from last year (which featured a lot more cutscenes and a pre-defined character), and whether that’s a step forward or backward is a matter of taste. I like the cinematic approach and don’t particularly enjoy creating my own character, but there are plenty of people who feel otherwise.
Once you’re in the mode, it feels like there is an emphasis on your college years, which is a good thing because it allows you to organically grow into what is more of a regular NFL season once you hit the big leagues. When that happens, there are fewer events and cutscenes to concern yourself with, really bolstering the college career as being a formative one.
While there isn’t too much that’s radically new in Madden 20, there is still plenty to enjoy. The game plays a great game of American football and the presentation is absolutely top notch, especially when the action shifts to one of the many TV style cameras. Madden fans won’t be disappointed, just as long as they’re not expecting anything revolutionary.