Madden 20: All you need to know ahead of E3 & EA Play - X-Factor Players, Ultimate Team, gameplay, trailer, release & more

Madden has been on a rocky road for a few years now, with legacy issues reducing the fun and the depth of the game while making each release feel too similar to the last. What we have heard so far about Madden 20 is a breath of fresh air. With EA Play and E3 just around the corner what do we know about Madden 20 so far, and what are we hoping to hear about it at this years big events?

Cover Star & Release

There is usually some mystery and debate around who should be the cover star of a Madden game. Previous versions have held a fan vote for who should be on the front of the game. That wasn't necessary this year as a young and dynamic quarterback dominated football last year. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the runaway MVP, throwing over 5,000 yards with 50 touchdowns and a crazy number of highlight reel plays. He couldn't quite guide them to the Super Bowl, but he was the overwhelmingly clear choice for the cover of Madden 20.

The game will be released on 2 August, 2019 with early access available via EA Access and the Superstar and Ultimate editions. That is a week earlier than last year and nearly a month earlier than the usual late August release. This will help NFL fans who are already yearning for football to return.

A true career mode

After years of waiting, a real career mode is coming back to Madden. Face Of The Franchise: QB1 Mode allows you to create a quarterback and take him through college football, the Draft, and even diverse and potentially unique storylines and scenarios. This is a massive addition, because while you could create a player and control them in previous franchise modes it really lacked any personality or reason to connect with your player beyond him just having your name.

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Now there is a character, a story, and an arc to follow. You'll play some college football and maybe even win a National Championship. You'll struggle through the grueling Combine and Draft process before finally hitting the big time and trying to lead your NFL team to the ultimate glory. If it works as described then everyone's career could be unique, which also offers great replay value. The inclusion of 10 college teams should be more than enough for some players who have been mourning the loss of NCAA Football games.

Superstar X-Factor

There has been an emphasis placed on making players feel unique this year. In previous versions there was very little difference between a 91 OVR player and an 89 OVR one. One elite player felt very much the same as another. David Johnson could just be Ezekiel Elliott in a different uniform. Someone with a 95 zone coverage and an 88 rating didn't really play that differently. Madden 20 will see that gap extend as they have really put emphasis on making the superstar players standout and making more mid-tier players feel worse.

Within that effort to differentiate superstars, Madden 20 has implemented what they call the Superstar X-Factor this year.

“The team this year wanted to ensure that the superstars of the NFL responded and played differently in all aspects in Madden, just as they do on the field every Sunday – we wanted to make sure the stars felt like stars,” - Seann Graddy, Executive Producer of Madden NFL 20.

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There will be 50 players marked as X-Factors, and they will have special abilities to be unlocked by completing in-game objectives, putting them "in the zone". Meanwhile, a number of players will be gifted with Superstar Abilities that can effect their performance in certain situations. Quite how this will affect gameplay is unknown, and it will be one of the big things we want to see from EA Play this weekend. If this is an OP new mechanic that prevents players from scheming their way to wins against elite players it will be a real shame.

Here is an example of the X-Factor system provided by EA Sports themselves.

Patrick Mahomes – QB, Chiefs

Zone Ability

  • Bazooka – When in the zone, increase maximum pass distance
    • Objective: Complete a TBD-number of passes over 30-yards
    • Knock-Out: Interception or sack

Superstar Abilities

  • No Look Deadeye – Perfect passing accuracy on cross-body throws
  • Escape Artist – Elite speed and agility when scrambling on passing plays
  • Dashing Deadeye – Perfect passing accuracy when throwing on the run
  • Red Zone Deadeye – Perfect passing accuracy when throwing inside the red zone

Julian Edelman – WR, Patriots

Superstar Ability

  • Slot-O-Matic – Excels at route running and contested catches when running routes from a Slot receiver position

That's a lot of abilities, and while Mahomes is likely to be the best player in the game it sounds extremely over-powered. "Perfect" passing accuracy in any situation immediately sounds unrealistic, so Madden 20 will need to prove a quality gamer can still overcome this mechanic in some way at EA Play. If not then they may have created another "aggressive catch" issue that just dominates games and drives Madden away from the realistic sim it should be.

Ultimate Team

One of the most popular game modes every year, Madden Ultimate Team will be receiving an upgrade in Madden 20.

One new feature is Missions. These will provide something of a guide to items and rewards. They aren't themselves giving you a reward, but are instead showing you the way to the upgrades you want for your team. Missions will quickly link you to play experiences so you can hit targets like "Earn 25 Series Trophies" and have you on the road to acquiring the players and items you want.

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Ultimate Challenges

Ultimate Challenges will be the next development from Solo Challenges. In the new version you will be able to choose your difficulty level from one-star (the easiest) to three-stars (hardest), with the intensity and the rewards won changing appropriately. If you complete a challenge at a one-star level you will also be able to go back and try to complete it at a two- or three-star level and still win the extra rewards, again adding some replay value to this part of Ultimate Team. There will also be bonus challenges to earn even more stars, and the more stars you get the bigger the rewards.

No longer will the best rewards come from beating the last challenge in a given set, but instead by reaching star "milestones" within the whole Ultimate Challenges section. This creates some variation in the way you can earn rewards. There will also be a quicker progression from challenge to challenge, with the need to return to the menu screen removed and a prompt to advance to the next challenge included.

Things like Player Archetypes and Chemistries will be carried over and built upon as well, and we are hoping to learn more about these as EA Play and E3 announcements happen.

Defensive Improvements

Madden has often been an offensively dominated game. That is understandable not just from a casual fun perspective but also thanks to the NFL's offensive explosion of recent years. However Madden has always had an odd relationship with defense. Pressuring quarterbacks was nearly impossible but interceptions were simple even with poor linebackers thanks to the "lurking" mechanic.

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The "lurking" mechanic has now been limited to defensive backs and a handful of elite linebackers, while getting pressure on a QB will have a much bigger impact on accuracy while elite pass rushers like Aaron Donald will be far more dangerous. This redressing of the defensive side of the ball should add more realism to the gameplay but also help to improve the impact a defense can have on the game.

What we want to see at EA Play/E3

With Madden 20 now under 2 months away we need to see some gameplay footage. EA Sports have touted a revamped and more immersive game experience, but the key for Madden will always be in its gameplay. The X-Factor powers cannot be too strong and the ability gap created cannot be so large that half of your team is just tripping over themselves and look like they should be in the stands rather than on the field.

For more articles like this, take a look at our Madden page.