Madden 20 reviews hit some predictable notes.
At first glance, the latest release from EA Sports makes leaps in the gameplay department. This is especially the case for line play and the overall feel thanks to a new superstar feature.
Modes such as a singleplayer quarterback campaign and Ultimate Team are, as always, a bit more polarizing—sort of like replay reviews and other issues plaguing the NFL itself right now.
As a whole, the Madden 20 reviews swerve in the positive direction with a 75 on Metacritic, which is fitting for a game featuring a player like Patrick Mahomes on the cover. Like the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Madden 20's upside is immense.
Mark Delaney, GamesRadar
Superstar X-Factors are one of the biggest back-of-box features with Madden 20.
And it's not hard to see why EA Sports knew it had a hit on its hands with the idea—superstar players seem to finally matter.
Special abilities have been given to 50 of the league's best players, and these X-factors entirely change the way Madden plays.
Mark Delaney of GamesRadar was a fan while giving the game a four out of five:
"These skills have to be earned by performing certain feats, usually in bunches of three. Once activated, players are in the 'zone' and remain there until the opposition attains cooldown parameters. As X-Factor skills can be wiped out on a single play, the feature seldom feels unbalanced. It might sound like a lot, but as an arcadey representation of sports' fabled and unseen momentum gauge, it works well."
Indeed, this new wrinkle to gameplay not only finally separates the star players from the rest of the guys on the field, it helps contextualize the ever-elusive momentum within games and gives players something to constantly think about while playing.
There is a chance these X-factors will need to be tweaked for online and competitive play once the game is out in the wild for a while, but right now, it's a welcome new feature changing the franchise for the better.
Eddie Makuch, Gamespot
It wouldn't be a conversation about Madden without the topic of Ultimate Team.
And that comes with the good and the bad—though this year EA Sports was clearly trying to eliminate the latter. Mostly, changes in the quality-of-life department have set out to accomplish this task.
Eddie Makuch of Gamespot, while giving the game an eight out of 10, touched on one aspect of this: "There is also a new 'Mission' system that helps you select the right challenges to complete in order to acquire items for your deck. In years past, MUT could feel like a hard-to-parse system that you slogged through waywardly, but the new system gives you more direction, and as such it is more respectful of your time."
This sounds like a small feature in the bigger scheme of things, but a helping hand in the form of an unlocks roadmap pays big dividends. In the past, players could get trapped unlocking things they simply didn't care about, which led to the mode feeling like a slog. Now they can plot a course for their preferred unlocks, be it styles of decks or something else.
Also helpful in this area is the fact players are now free to string together as many challenges in a row as they want without going back to the menus. One could argue some of these changes should have happened years ago, but it is the little wrinkles like this that make Madden 20's Ultimate Team the best experience yet.
Ricky Frech, DualShockers
EA Sports also used Madden 20 as a way to go all-in on a singleplayer element that is clearly a response to player feedback.
While the Longshot game modes of the past two releases were well received for their high production values and simply being a bold leap for the franchise, players still like putting themselves into the NFL.
The response this year was Face of the Franchise: QB1, which clearly took up the majority of the developer's time, leaving the traditional franchise mode to fall to the wayside a bit.
This is something Ricky Frech of DualShockers addressed while giving the game a seven out of 10:
"So, Face of the Franchise is mediocre at best. What's normal Franchise mode got going for it? Not much. There are two additions that could be impactful for long-time players. The first is the scenario engine. Essentially, this is the same texting system from FOTF. You'll get messages from people around the league and need to react to them as you see fit."
Madden 20 uses a scenario engine as a bit of a Band-Aid on both singleplayer modes. It's fun to get texts from players and coaches that alter a certain game's goals or have wide-sweeping ramifications such as whether a player sticks with the team that upcoming offseason.
But for QB1, specifically, the scenario engine being arguably the only new wrinkle after a player gets drafted to the NFL was a letdown. The rest is great: players create a quarterback, dip their toes in college football and the combine, then see their performance reflected in where they get drafted, if at all.
This is where the "upside" discussion comes up again. QB1 felt like an appetizer of sorts this year, but it could truly be something special in the future. The same applies to the franchise mode, too.