Just in time for football season, Madden NFL 20 spirals onto PS4, Xbox One, and PC on August 2. EA Sports’ flagship football sim is always good and frequently quite great, and there’s no reason to believe Madden 20 will drop the ball. Ahead of Madden 20‘s launch, we’ve compiled all of the news you need to know, from new gameplay features to entirely new modes.
Patrick Mahomes II graces the cover
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II was an obvious choice for the Madden NFL 20 cover. In his first year as a starter, Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 TDs. Though the Chiefs were eliminated by the Patriots in the AFC Championship, Mahomes racked up a number of awards, including NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
The question is: Will Mahomes be able to avoid the pesky Madden Curse? The Chiefs are one of the favorites going into the 2019 season, and that’s largely because Mahomes is expected to continue his ascent. He’s yet to have a legitimately bad game in the NFL, so Mahomes seems to be a prime candidate to avoid the curse.
Face of the Franchise: QB1 campaign mode
For the past two years, EA Tiburon has included Longshot, a cinematic story mode starring Devin Wade and his buddy Colt Cruise. The first iteration of Longshot was wonderful, but last year it took a big step back. EA Tiburon is ditching Longshot in Madden NFL 20 and replacing it with a new career mode called “Face of the Franchise: QB1.”
Face of the Franchise sounds fairly similar to MLB The Show’s Road to the Show and NBA 2K’s MyCareer modes. Mirroring MyCareer, it features a cinematic presentation in the beginning and choice-based dialogue sequences throughout. In Face of the Franchise, you create a quarterback, customizing his look and choosing his play style. You’ll have four archetypes to choose from: Strong Arm, Field General, Scrambler, or Improviser. Additional “Superstar” abilities are linked to your archetype, and new abilities unlock as you gain experience and level up.
For those clamoring for EA’s NCAA Football to return (and we all are, right?), Face of the Franchise will sort of scratch that itch. The Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks appeared in Longshot mode, and now those powerhouse schools will be joined by eight more programs. Here’s the full list:
- Florida State
- Texas Tech
After creating your player, you’ll choose a college team and go straight to the College Football Playoff to play in the semi-final and (if you win) national championship.
Your play in the College Football Playoff will impact your stock in the upcoming NFL Draft. From there, you’ll declare for the NFL Draft and participate in skills exercises at the NFL Scouting Combine, which will further affect your draft stock. An NFL team will select you in one of the seven rounds, and you’ll start your NFL career.
Throughout your NFL career, a new system called the “Scenario Engine” will create playable sequences to shape the story of your career. You’ll play through your QB’s entire career and hopefully win a few Super Bowl rings and get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Franchise mode changes
Face of the Franchise is just one of the ways you can work through a franchise mode in Madden NFL 20. You can, of course, go the traditional route and take control of your favorite team (with the real QB at the helm). Franchise mode has always been a Madden staple, and if you’ve played it before, you’ll likely know what to expect. That said, Madden NFL 20 tweaks the formula in some respects.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the Pro Bowl has returned. EA removed the Pro Bowl a few years back, but this year it will actually be the first thing available to play while the game finishes installing.
You’ll now earn more experience points for each action you complete in franchise mode. So you’ll have more opportunities to increase the overall ratings of your players. On top of that, the ratings system has been adjusted. For instance, EA has said that the “difference between a 90 OVR player and 89 OVR player is now larger.” In theory, this means that each skill point and overall level bump will increase a player’s attributes more than ever before.
Changes to the Development Trait system will also affect how you construct and improve your team. Madden 20 has four different player grades: Normal, Star, Superstar, and Superstar X-Factor. The latter two are new, and will tie into the new Superstar and Zone abilities. Both Superstar player types can use Superstar abilities, while Superstar X-Factor also has access to Zone abilities. Additionally, Development Traits can never go backwards at the end of the season, which is a welcome change.
The new Superstar abilities will also affect how you evaluate draft prospects. While the NFL Draft will hold some Superstar-rated prospects, you will not be able to see which trait these elite players have until the mid-point of your first season. Since only players with Superstar or Superstar X-Factor grades will have their traits hidden, you’ll at least know ahead of time that you have a great prospect on your roster.
While Madden has had mostly realistic contracts for years, EA says that Madden 20‘s contracts will authentically match the NFL.
Superstar abilities, explained
The aforementioned Superstar abilities will affect how you construct your franchise team in Madden 20, but EA is really leaning into this new gameplay feature throughout all of the modes. In a blog post, EA said that 50 NFL players have the Superstar X-Factor. These elite athletes, such as cover star Patrick Mahomes, are designed to play like the gamechangers they are in real life. The list of Superstar X-Factor players will change over time, though it will never eclipse 50.
EA has provided an example of Superstar X-Factor using Mahomes. His Bazooka Zone ability increases his maximum throwing distance. It’s unlocked during a contest by completing a set number of passes for more than 30 yards. The defense can curb Mahomes’ Zone ability by picking off one of his passes or sacking him.
Superstar abilities are available at all times as innate traits. EA has stressed that these special traits complement overall player ratings rather than artificially inflate them. Here’s a look at Mahomes’ Superstar abilities:
- No Look Deadeye: Cross-body throws have perfect passing accuracy
- Escape Artist: Increased speed and ability when scrambling
- Dashing Deadeye: Throwing on the run allows for perfect passing accuracy
- Red Zone Deadeye: Perfect red zone passing accuracy
While Superstar X-Factor will be limited to 50 elite players across the league, other players will be dubbed Superstars. They will have access to Superstar abilities, but not Zone abilities. Superstar X-Factor players will also have unique animations to make them standout.
Madden’s popular card-collecting online mode, Ultimate Team, will return in Madden 20. EA outlined the changes to Ultimate Team in a blog post in May. The new package-wide Superstar traits and abilities also impact MUT, as Superstar abilities have taken the place of Chemistry abilities. Player Archetypes, typically reserved for franchise mode, will also be available in Ultimate Team.
The next major change is a new goal-oriented progression system called Missions. EA describes Missions as “a roadmap to upgrading your squad with the items you want, with a clearly laid out path of how to earn those items or rewards.” Essentially, Missions will serve as a helpful guiding hand in a mode that can be quite daunting to navigate for newcomers. Critically, Missions inform you how to earn the rewards you’re looking for, but they aren’t the main drivers for actually earning the rewards. You’ll still have to compete in Ultimate Challenges, Squad Seasons, H2H Seasons and more to nab what you’re looking for; you just will have a better idea of what to do to earn what you want via Missions.
Speaking of Ultimate Challenges, that’s the new name for Solo Challenges. Ultimate Challenges let you choose between one, two, and three star challenges. The more stars, the harder the challenge. But the more stars, the greater the reward. Each Ultimate Challenge can be completed three times, once on each difficulty level.
Rewards from Ultimate Challenges will be doled out differently. Milestones track how many stars you’ve grabbed, granting Ultimate Team rewards and items as you reach a set number. You can also earn bonus rewards, and this time you keep trying to grab the bonus reward if you fail. Ultimate Challenges will let you jump around more than Solo Challenges, giving you more freedom to unlock unique rewards.
Madden’s on-the-field gameplay has always been about incremental advancements. In Madden 20, a new major play type will be available for the first time: Run-Pass Options. RPOs will be split into three sub-types: Peek, Read, and Alert. Each RPO play will require you to observe the defense after the snap and determine whether you should hand it off, run with the QB, or pass to a receiver. RPOs have been a staple of college football for years, but have been infiltrating the NFL in recent years.
EA hasn’t detailed microtransactions for Madden 20, but Ultimate Team has always been filled with optional microtransactions for card packs, items, and currency. Expect Madden 20 to be the same.
Pre-order bonuses and release date
Madden NFL 20 launches on August 2 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Three editions will be available at launch: Standard ($60), Superstar ($80), and Ultimate Superstar ($100).
If you pre-order the standard edition you’ll receive: Five Gold Team Fantasy Packs, one Elite player, and one Superstar ability for Face of the Franchise.
Superstar edition pre-orders come with 12 Gold Team fantasy packs, one Elite Player, one Large Training quick sell pack, and one Superstar ability for Face of the Franchise. You also get three days early access, so you can start playing on July 30.
Ultimate Superstar edition pre-orders come with 15 Gold Team fantasy packs, one Elite Player, one Large Training quick sell pack, one Superstar ability for Face of the Franchise, one Past and Present Elite Player pack, and one Madden Championship Series pack. Like the Superstar edition, you get three days early access.
Pre-order standard edition:
Pre-order Superstar edition:
Pre-order Ultimate Superstar edition: