Madden 21: Release Date, Lamar Jackson Cover and Ultimate Team Details

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2020

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson works out during an NFL football camp practice, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Considering Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is likely the one superstar most Madden NFL 21 players will want to use online, in Ultimate Team or otherwise, it's fitting he's the cover star for the upcoming release. 

The 23-year-old made waves last season en route to a historic MVP performance, completing 66.1 percent of his passes with 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns against six interceptions, with another 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns on a 6.9 per-carry average on the ground. 

EA Sports didn't take long to reveal the cover of the game featuring Jackson, included in the announcement video: 

Lamar Jackson @Lj_era8

Blessed is an understatement…I hope you all enjoy 🙏 @eamaddennfl #Madden21 #EAathlete #Truzz https://t.co/nPoc4AVRl8

Fittingly, one of the biggest upgrades for the upcoming release seems to align with Jackson the player quite well. The new Skill Stick enables a player better control over offensive playmakers, as well as more control over what moves pass-rushers bust out while working against offensive linemen. 

And besides wide-sweeping upgrades and changes, it wouldn't be a strong Madden release without plenty of attention thrown at Ultimate Team. 

Madden NFL 21 expands on past improvements to the popular game mode, especially in areas such as Abilities. While there are still three allotted X-factors on each side of the football, the special Abilities feature has been revamped via Ability Caps. 

Simply put, Ultimate Team is going more of an almost traditional RPG route with player abilities. A team will have an allotment of ability points to spend and will have to pick and choose wisely while staying under the cap. EA Sports could end up changing what the actual cap value is based on the online meta (and more powerful abilities cost more points toward the cap), but it's just another smart way to help players strategize. 

Ultimate Team this year also comes with a revamped UI to help feed the player more information in a digestible manner. Accessibility is also a theme once again, including a new player onboarding process called Rivalz, as explained by EA Sports

"Rivalz is the name of the first main experience you’ll jump into upon entering Madden Ultimate Team. This series of Challenges is meant as a nice onboard into the mode consisting of all Arcade game style and basic end conditions. Completing these Challenges will allow you to choose an 85 OVR Ben Roethlisberger, Zach Ertz, or Jaylon Smith."

From there, Ultimate Team includes many of the expected features, which is a good thing because players can play how they want to play and choose what to grind for over a variety of modes. 

Players who want to hop online and play others can again find a host of ways to do so. NFL Epics challenges also makes a return and honors various big-name stars with specific unlockables. Same story for MUT Master, which features its own set of challenges. 

A Team Builder series with its own ecosystem of unlocks makes it into the base game as well. And perhaps most notably, largely due to player feedback, Team Diamonds returns and offers players a chance at earning some superstars who haven't been on the virtual gridiron for a long time, further diversifying the player pool in online matches. 

As always, it's impressive to consider Ultimate Team is just one mode within the grander scheme of things for an upcoming Madden release. Yet the content, variety of modes and options scale to the point of it almost seeming like an entirely separate release. 

To that end, it's again encouraging to see player onboarding, accessibility and ease of use are again a focus for this year's game alongside the expected wealth of modes.

Ultimate Team will again be a massive highlight of a Madden release, this time with Jackson on the cover when the game launches worldwide on August 28.