Madden 20 — First Impressions on X-Factors, the Rating Stretch, and Face of the Franchise

After about five hours of playtime, Madden 20 seems like a decent package.

Video game fans across the world can rest easy. Madden has finally shown its face, signaling the beginning of the video game release season. Seriously, we just got our review request list for September and there are some absolute bangers. Anyways, I’ve been playing Madden 20 for about five hours and, while I’m not quite ready to give you a full review, I wanted to give some quick thoughts on my first few hours with the game.

Interestingly, the biggest addition to Madden this season doesn’t seem to be some flashy new mode or gameplay innovation. Instead, the player ratings stretch feels like it has the biggest impact on the game. In older games, most star players were relatively easily replaced by their backups. This is because there were nearly 1,600 players rated 70+. In Madden 20, that number drops considerably to just under 1,200.

In practice, this makes franchise mode feel a little more true to life. You can’t just plug and play your low-level backups. The hit you feel when someone like Patrick Mahomes goes down is much harsher than it was in the past, which adds quite a bit to the realism.

Going hand-in-hand with the ratings stretch are the new Superstar and X-Factor skills. A select number of NFL superstars have special skills that greatly impact how they feel on the gridiron. We’ll stay with Mahomes who boasts four Superstar skills in addition to his X-Factor ability. These skills make Mahomes feel entirely different from any other QB in the league.

That’s something they’ve said about Madden for years now, as they’ve added improved player animations and given some stars signature animations. However, this is the first year where I could actually feel it in real-time. Each team has at least one player with Superstar skills, but it’s the X-Factor skills that stick out.

These abilities activate when you reach a certain zone. In my Face of the Franchise (FOTF) playthrough, my scrambling QB has the skill “First One Free”. Once I’ve had three runs of 10+ yards, I’ll enter the zone and greatly increase my chances for success on my next juke, spin, or hurdle.

Each skill comes with its own requirements for getting into the zone. They also each have different ways that you can lose the ability. Much like the real NFL, these feel heavily weighted to the offense in my limited playtime. Once my QB activates his skill, he keeps it until he’s tackled for a loss. This makes it relatively easy to keep. However, I played an exhibition Pro Bowl and quickly got two sacks with Khalil Mack, getting him into the zone. It was just as quickly taken away as you lose it once the other team gains ten yards. Something is off with this, though. Getting two sacks is not easy. Giving up ten yards happens literally all the time.

Madden 20 — First Impressions on X-Factors, the Rating Stretch, and Face of the Franchise

So far I’ve spent most of my time in the Face of the Franchise mode, which is basically a replacement for the Longshot story mode. Unlike Longshot, FOTF lets you actually play football games instead of constantly participating in lame mini-games. That said, the story is so barebones that it almost might as well not be here. Granted, I’m only in the third week of my first year, but, outside of the college football sequence to start the mode, the story is just boring text messages between games.

All in all, I’m enjoying my time so far. I want to get much deeper into FOTF, play some MUT, and soak in more Franchise mode before I post a review. Madden 20 doesn’t seem like a huge leap forward, but the changes the team has made do feel impactful in my limited sample size. Check back in a few days for my full review.

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