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Tips and tricks for getting the edge on the gridiron in Madden NFL 20

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Madden NFL 20 is an approachable but deep football sim that also happens to be a ton of fun to play. To help you get started in your quest to become the best video game football player you can be, we’ve put together a Madden NFL 20 beginner’s guide for PS4, Xbox One, and PC users. From choosing your game style to new in-game features such as Superstar X-Factor, here are some tips and tricks to use on the gridiron.

Before we officially get started, we’d like to offer our first tip: Avoid Face of the Franchise, the new career mode.

Choose your game style

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If you haven’t played Madden in a couple of years, one of the first decisions you make when booting up Madden 20 may seem confusing. You have to choose your “game style” from one of three options: Arcade, simulation, and competitive.

  • Arcade isn’t quite NFL Blitz level absurdity, but it is for those who prefer a faster, more action-packed style of play. Arcade takes the realism out of the equation and leads to high scores. Arcade doesn’t factor in player and team ratings, so everyone is on the same, ridiculously good level.
  • Simulation is the default Madden experience that does factor in player and team ratings. If you’re playing as the Browns against the Patriots, well, the Patriots have a bit of an advantage by default. Simulation uses traditional NFL rules and creates a closer approximation to what you see on Sundays.
  • Competitive is for the serious Madden players who like to test their skills online. If you plan on playing ranked online matches or enter tournaments, best get used to playing competitive. A step above Simulation on the realism scale, you must be proficient in stick tackling and stick moves to be successful in Competitive.

Simulation is best for the average Madden player. Game styles don’t replace skill levels, however, so you still have to choose from four difficulties: Rookie, Pro, All-Pro, All-Madden. We have found that certain difficulties match up well with certain game styles, though. Rookie or Pro works well with Arcade, Pro and All-Pro with Simulation, and All-Pro and All-Madden with Competitive.

Turn on Enhanced Playcalling

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Choosing the right play is, of course, a very important part of football. In Madden 20, there are two different types of playcalling: Enhanced and Slim (Madden 19 had a third type, but it’s gone). You can choose your style by navigating to Visual Feedback in settings.

We suggest using Enhanced, as it gives you multiple coaching suggestions, along with an easy way to find plays no matter your skill level and playcalling expertise. In Enhanced, you can pick plays by formation, concept, personnel, and play type. If you know a lot about calling plays, searching by formation is your best bet. But if you just know you want to throw a quick pass, well, you can search for that, too.

Diversify your offense

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It’s easy to fall in love with the long ball in Madden. Rifling deep passes downfield is fun and hey, it can lead to huge plays and quick scores. It can also lead to a lot of turnovers. Thankfully, you won’t be as tempted to pass on every down due to the game’s improved run game.

For Madden 20, EA Sports made improvements to the run game that keep your back on his feet longer. Running into your blockers won’t send you to the turf as frequently and running through smaller creases in the defense is easier.

QB scrambling seems to be much more useful this year. Even when playing on All-Madden difficulty, we were often able to drop back for a pass with the intention of running and pick up at least five yards on almost every play. Obviously, mobile QBs like Marcus Mariota, Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, and Cam Newton fare better at scrambling. However, we tested this out against the CPU with pocket QBs such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. They still picked up a few yards and often more on each scramble.

If you’re playing against a human opponent, you won’t be able to use this technique repeatedly. Smart players will catch on. You should, however, implement the QB scramble into your run game philosophy to force your opponent to try and counteract it. This will open up your offense and keep your opponent on their toes.

With regards to which running plays to use, we had stupendous success

with outside pitches and counters. Basically, any play that takes you to the left or right of linemen. To be quite frank, when playing against the CPU, you can rack up double-digit yards on the ground with regularity regardless of the difficulty level you’re playing on. Relying on outside runs against apt real opponents is probably a recipe for disaster, but definitely work more run variations into your offense.

Use all your evasive moves

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To avoid tackles in the open field you have to make use of your evasive maneuvers like juke, spin, hurdle, stiff arm, and truck. With more realistic player movements than previous entries, mastering evasive maneuvers is needed to score touchdowns on a regular basis.

Here’s how to perform each move:

  • Juke (right stick): A quick move to the left or right that should be used when about a yard away from a potential tackler.
  • Spin (O/B): A full 360-degree turn that should be used similarly to juking.
  • Hurdle (Triangle/Y): Jumps over a tackler that comes in low.
  • Stiff arm (X/A): Extends an arm to push a defender away from you/to the ground.
  • Truck (press right stick): Lets you lower the boom and power through a defender.
  • Hesitation (tap L2/LT): Momentary pause that can trip up the defense and lets you regather yourself.

Most of these moves can be used in any situation. It’s up to you if you want to spin away from a tackler, or push your way through them, or try and leap over them entirely. We recommend mastering all of the ball carrier moves so you can switch it up. If your opponent knows you always spin, guess what? They will start to be prepared for it and bottle you up before you even turn all the way around.

Naturally, different players excel at different things. Speedy receivers and backs spin, juke, and hurdle with more success, while power backs and tight ends are more adept at running through defenders with stiff arms and trucks. Keep your choices varied while also minding each player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Consider your Player ratings

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Historically, Madden player ratings haven’t made as much of a difference as you might expect (save for Ultimate Team). The difference between a 90 overall player and an 80 overall player was negligible when on the field. But with Madden 20, player ratings very much matter. Even a difference of one point can make a difference.

While not so consequential in exhibition matches online, when playing franchise, you absolutely want to hone in on development. At the end of games, you’ll be presented with a list of players who earned enough experience to bump a stat category. Some of these bumps can raise their overall rating. Make sure to put your best roster on the field. It’ll make a difference, no matter the position.

How to use Superstar X-Factor and Superstars

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Accentuating the player ratings significance are Superstar X-Factor players and standard Superstars. EA chose 50 elite players and awarded them the Superstar X-Factor moniker. Superstar X-Factor players have inherent abilities and one X-Factor perk that can be unlocked by meeting a certain condition. For example, Tom Brady gets the “Pro Reads” ability by completing two passes in a row for five-plus yards. That’s not a challenging feat, and once earned, the first open receiver will be highlighted. Get sacked and Brady will lose the perk.

Each X-Factor player has anywhere from three to six total abilities. Only QBs have more than three, though. All other positions on offense and defense max out at three.

Even more players are marked as Superstars, with each one having one to two innate abilities (QB Superstars are the only ones with two).

To be clear, these abilities, even the X-Factor ones, do not make you invincible. In fact, we don’t recommend devising your strategy around these abilities. Sure, it helps to have Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes II under center for obvious reasons, but you shouldn’t focus too hard on getting the ball in the hands of a “Superstar,” especially on offense. Your offense will become one dimensional and predictable if you keep slinging it to a star receiver over and over again.

On defense, however, taking control of one of the Superstars can pay dividends, especially if they happen to be defensive linemen. Playing as the Browns, we found tremendous success controlling Myles Garrett, who has superior edge-rushing capabilities.

Use schemes to your advantage

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Schemes, which return from Madden 19, are incredibly useful for those who intend to take a team through multiple seasons. There are eleven offensive and 12 defensive schemes.

Offense:

  • Run and Shoot
  • Air Raid
  • Pistol
  • Spread
  • Vertical Power Run
  • Vertical Zone Run
  • Multiple Power Run
  • Multiple Zone Run
  • West Coast Spread
  • West Coast Power Run
  • West Coast Zone Run

Defense:

  • Tampa 2
  • 46 Defense
  • Base 4-3
  • 4-3 Under
  • 4-3 Cover 3
  • Multiple 4-3
  • Base 3-4
  • Multiple 3-4
  • 3-4 Under
  • 4-3 Quarters
  • Disguise 3-4
  • 3-4 Storm

Schemes are a cool and helpful new system for racking up experience points for your players. If a player on your roster matches up with your selected scheme, they will earn bonus XP both in practice and during games. The bonus XP can be more than double what they would earn if they didn’t fit the scheme. The little puzzle piece beneath a player’s overall ratings denotes scheme fit.

In the schemes menu located under “My Coach” (or My Owner if playing as an owner), you can switch both your offensive and defensive schemes as frequently as you want. Generally, you should use the scheme your roster is the most compatible with as your default. As you cycle through each scheme, a scheme fit percentage will show up. Below that, you’ll see a list of player types that make up the scheme and how many of those player types you have on your roster.

You can take schemes one step further, though. Instead of just going with the best fit as it stands, you can continuously switch your schemes to develop specific player attributes. If you have a speedy running back that already has a high elusiveness rating, you may want to boost their power running instead. In this case, you could pick a scheme that emphasizes power RBs. With a power running focus, earned and spent skill points can be used towards improving that running back’s power game.

Of course, you can also focus on each player’s inherent strengths. Just remember that the more well-rounded each player is, the more schemes they will fit. That means increased XP for a bunch of players on both sides of the ball.

Don’t neglect practice

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You might not always have time to play a full game. With six-minute quarters, a game of Madden NFL 19 takes about an hour. So a full season, if played entirely, can take 20 or more hours if you make the playoffs. And that’s not even counting the time spent in the menu systems and training sessions.

Each time you enter a game throughout the season, you can choose from four different options: full game, offense only, defense only, and “play the moments.” We honestly have no idea why you’d only want to play defense, but hey, it’s up to you. You still earn experience when playing just one side of the ball or “play the moments,” a variant that drops you into crucial situations and the final two minutes of each quarter.

Whatever ever you choose, you should always practice. Before each game, you choose position groups to put through training exercises. You gain experience for these sessions whether you play or simulate them. But you should really try to play all of them because solid performance nets you increased experience points that you can’t earn through simulating. And if the players you are training fit into your scheme, you can earn even more experience points training than you can in the actual game. So, yeah, practice is important in both real life and in Madden NFL 20‘s franchise mode.

Use contract negotiations and scouting

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There’s a reason why contract negotiations and scouting are listed above the next scheduled game in the franchise menu system. Both are integral to your team’s long-term success. Throughout the season, looming free agents will be eligible for contract extensions. You won’t go into these blind, as a fair offer is always listed.

You can offer whatever you’d like, but keep in mind that if you go lower than the fair offer, the player will often reject it. You have several weeks to re-sign players, but once their negotiating period passes, they will become a free agent at the end of the season. Of course, you should prioritize your signings of impact players and starters first.

You’ll also get scouting points throughout the season. These can be used to unlock letter grades for players in the upcoming draft class. The game automatically creates a “big board,” a ranked list of players by position, but don’t assume that the number one ranked QB is necessarily better than the number five ranked QB. Your scouting may prove that the number five ranked QB is an early first-round talent while the number one ranked QB is merely a second-round talent. The only way to know for sure is by spending those scouting points.

With the new Superstar X-Factor traits, some high-level players will have hidden traits that won’t be revealed until they develop more. This makes the scouting process a more scrupulous process that has some of the risk-reward that NFL teams deal with in real life. Do you gamble on a player who could become special or take a surefire solid player? It’s up to you, but we recommend never wasting your scouting points. You lose some unspent points with each week that passes, so make a habit out of scouting either directly before or after your weekly contest.

Steven Petite
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven is a writer from Northeast Ohio currently based in Louisiana. He writes about video games and books, and consumes…
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