BY KEVIN MURPHY
Madden 08 for the Gamecube was the single best professional sports video game of all time, with NCAA Football 14 for Xbox 360 being the greatest overall sports game of all time.
These are not opinions, but objective facts.
Much like Game of Thrones, the most recent iterations of Madden have removed key components of the foundation that made it great and replaced them with flashy bells and whistles that look great upon first viewing but totally fall apart when given anything more than a cursory glance.
Madden 20 isn’t actually that bad, I’m still just angry about Game of Thrones.
Anyway, after shelling out $60 for the privilege of playing a video game that I’ll spend hours updating myself after the NFL season is over, I figured I’d give everyone who has better impulse control than me a bit of a breakdown of the game.
Full disclosure, I bought the standard version of this game from the Xbox marketplace as a download and did not own Madden 19. I’ve been a healthy skeptic of EA’s predatory business practices for a while now, so there is going to be some bias here but that’s what the website is named for s, deal with it.
The QB1 mode is like a methadone clinic for the junkies who still crave the sweet, pure rush of NCAA or Superstar mode from Madden’s past.
You begin by customizing your player’s appearance instead of just selecting from pre-made faces or the god awful junk that was the story mode of Madden 18 and 19.
No, EA, a black QB throwing to a white speed receiver is not realistic. The Carolina Panthers are the only team in NFL history to even approach that MLK level of looking at player ability instead of race. (They have a Hispanic coach and their interception leader is a white guy, literally what is that team?)
What I’m getting at is the awful, forced stories of the previous Madden games are no more. Instead, you can customize your appearance to a solid extent — it’s not 2K level and I don’t know why they couldn’t just scan your face, but it’s a huge step up.
You get to choose one of several colleges to commit to — mainly the ones that have had premier QBs taken in the first round recently: USC, Oregon, FSU, Florida, OU, etc. Sorry Midwesterners and northerners, there’s not a single B1G school represented.
After you commit, the story reveals that some stud QB transferred and took your spot, then got injured and the only two games you play in college are the National Semifinals and Championship (assuming you don’t suck ass at the game).
You won’t be able to use your full last name, you have to type a name for the college section that the game is OK with. Among those that the game said WOULDN’T work were Murphy, Murray, Green, Brown, and Jones.
I guess their sophisticated software just couldn’t handle the exotic names I was throwing at them.
I settled with Smith (later on as a pro the game said Murphy so I have literally no idea why that is a feature. Also, there’s no drop-down list of okay names to choose from, you just have to keep putting in random last names until it recognizes one. This game was $60).
Anyway! You play through, meet a Make-a-Wish kid, do combine drills, and get drafted. The combine process was awesome, albeit short-lived. There’s no 40 or actual physical drills to do, or at least I’m assuming there’s not because I’ve never played as a mobile QB. You actually choose responses to interview questions in the game and it changes your personality type, much like the Superstar modes of a decade ago.
The fun part of this mode is the challenge of turning a team around. The not-fun part is that the teams that want to draft a QB are the actual real-life QB-needy teams from this draft, so I’ve ended up on the Dolphins every single time. They are in a full rebuild. I do not play as a mobile QB. All-Madden difficulty is hell.
X-Factor System, Archetypes
Another major plus of the game is the X-Factor system. Instead of the old development system with Slow, Normal, Quick, and Superstar, Madden 20 has Normal, Fast, Superstar, and X-Factor.
X-Factor players are the top 50 players in Madden as chosen by the developers and if you get on a hot streak with them (i.e. multiple passes to the same receiver) they “get in the zone.” It’s actually a very fun way of replicating the real-life impact the superstars of the game have.
Another positive that goes hand-in-hand with this system is the return of archetypes. Again, this was a trait from a decade ago that Madden decided to remove then bring back to “improve their game” but its return is in this edition, so I can’t complain about that for this review.
This archetype system would take too many words to explain here, but essentially it means that coach schemes and player upgrades now follow the more realistic trend of “hey this corner is a good zone corner but is also fine in the slot” or “this outside linebacker is a power rusher so maybe now the computer won’t put Von Miller in a 4-3 and ask him to cover tight ends.”
Hypothetically at least.
The running in the game feels MUCH looser than in previous editions, with jukes actually doing something and running lanes being opened up. It’s still an animation system as opposed to a dynamic physics system (Minecraft has physics in it, Madden is $60) but the animations feel crisper and cleaner.
Hidden Rookie Development Traits
A final positive is that current rookies generally have hidden development traits, and you have to play hundreds of snaps with them to unlock them.
If their dev trait is hidden that means it’s at least Star, but it’s nice that the game actually waits to see the results of a rookie’s play before determining they’re a bust.
Advanced Depth Charts
Finally, this was an aspect of Madden 19 but it’s a welcome return, there are depth chart positions for slot corner, slot receiver, power running back, sub formation ILB, and rushing DL. You can throw your stud pass-catching RB in as a slot receiver and your awesome FS as a slot corner and it makes sense!
Madden Ultimate Team (duh)
Everything about Madden Ultimate Team forever and always.
Fuck microtransactions and the companies that peddle them, EA is awful. I refuse to rant about this so I’ll end it there.
Good lord, this blows.
They’ve made the ratings system more similar to games like FIFA where there are only a handful of actually elite players in the 90s, and everyone else covers a wide range of ratings. That would be incredible, if the wide range of ratings everyone else covers didn’t generally range all the way down into the low 60’s and even 50’s.
I understand that the game is emphasizing the impact that superstars have and the mismatches they create. A higher rating for them and X-factors is enough, though. You don’t also need to break the ratings system and have every team have multiple starters in the low 70’s. This happens even on fantasy draft, multiple teams have starters at like a 73 overall.
Elite players should be in the 90’s, but there are very few players in the upper 80’s. The ratings essentially drop from 90 to 86, and then very quickly to the low 80’s.
PFF grades are actually kinder to many players. Thankfully, this is something that can be fixed with downloadable rosters or self-editing, but it’s about the principle, man.
The throwing animations seem very slowed down. I play on Simulation mode which is the most realistic, so if you want to play in Arcade mode and sling 80 yard TDs off the back foot then go for it. But even in comparison to previous Maddens, the release speed is more sluggish. You get sacked mid-throw a lot, which is super frustrating.
Limited Schemes & Playbooks
I’m honestly a fan of the archetype system in general, but the problem is that system affects how much you can personalize your schemes too much, as well as upgrading.
In previous games, you could tailor-make your scheme to fit with your players. You know, like good coaches are supposed to.
In Madden 20, you get four total options as a coach for your schemes: offensive and defensive schemes, and offensive and defensive playbooks. There’s a chart describing how much of your roster is a scheme fit for these, but you can’t choose and change your playbook for a mobile QB or multiple pass rushing DT’s like you could in previous iterations.
The in-game commentary is like, 90% recycled from Madden 18, much less 19. They have Demarcus Lawrence and Rapelisberger as X-Factors. Are those guys really top 50 players in the NFL? Baker or Watson should be there ahead of the rapist.
THE GOD DAMN DOLPHINS FRONT OFFICE
Also, god damn it why do the Dolphins have to keep drafting me?? They’re just so bad.
The price tag on this game, like most EA games, is absurd. Sixty dollars is the lowest possible price point, and that’s assuming you don’t get suckered into the degenerate gambling pool that is MUT.
I know the NFLPA would never allow this, but there’s still not a rating for how likely your player is to get in trouble off-field. Like, if you want the game to offer the wide range of everything from arcade retardery to realistic simulations, let me see a headline about a player breaking his son’s arm and not getting suspended, or an owner getting a documented happy ending and not getting in any trouble for it, or the Redskins ownership literally human trafficking their cheerleaders as escorts for their liver-spotted cocks while on vacation.
Haha I have such an active imagination, those could never happen in real life, much less in the same calendar year. Roger Goodell rocks!
Anyway, where was I?
The player likenesses are just sooooooo bad in some instances. These aren’t for jock-strap-carrying 4th string UDFA, these are for Pro Bowlers. Catch Phillip Lindsay get a suspension for beating up some gringos next season. Seriously, I get not putting his afro in because you don’t want to trigger the MAGA jersey-burning crowd with any semblance to Kaep, but this looks like Jon Bernthal in the Wolf of Wall Street:
The absolute worst player likeness is Greg Olsen:
Who is this Amish man and why is he wearing a Greg Olsen jersey? Is he even allowed to appear in a video game? I thought electricity was the devil to those people.
“Jeremiah Jebediah Moises Johannas Smithbeard with his third reception of the quarter! This guy is unstoppable!”
He probably celebrates a touchdown by throwing a beet in the crowd and taming a horse. What idiot ruined my boy Third Leg Greg like this? If you add a fedora to this picture he looks like his middle name is “M’Lady.”
The final, absolute worst part of Madden 20 can be summed up in one picture:
These lazy, ethically limp, morally bankrupt, intellectually broken ass goblins didn’t even update the pre-game graphics for the Chargers to say LA. THIS IS GOING TO BE THEIR THIRD YEAR IN LA. THEY MADE THE PLAYOFFS LAST SEASON. YOU CAN ANIMATE AND RE-SKIN ENTIRE ROSTERS AND NEW JERSEYS BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE A SECOND TO UPDATE THE BANNER TEMPLATE FROM THREE YEARS AGO????
This is a team with Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Derwin James as X-Factors. They are in the same division as the cover athlete. They play in the second-most populated city in the United States. They updated their jerseys this offseason and this picture reflects that clearly the game updated to account for that fact.
I paid $60 to get the video game equivalent of copied homework with the wrong person’s name still on it.
There are some specific valid complaints about the ratings system and the animations and the prices, but those level of complaints don’t significantly affect a game’s enjoyment level. They’ve added some great features back and while I liked Madden 18 better just because I had many more hours sunk into a franchise with custom rosters, I probably would have given Madden 20 an initial 9/10 rating due to what they’re going for.
Oh, they added the Pro Bowl back too, but they don’t get points for adding back the NFL All-Star game to the only NFL video game on the market because they monopolized the industry through a BS legal agreement with Roger “Cock Magnet” Goodell.
I might actually have to do something fulfilling with my time until the end of the season when I can adjust the final ratings and while that’s great, for my productivity it sure is a bummer.
Overall, 7/10. Tell the Dolphins to stop drafting me.