How New Features Are Making Madden NFL 20 the Most Challenging of the Series

EA Play 2019 has come and gone. It saw developers give us a ton of new and interesting information on Electronic Arts‘ upcoming games and expansions. Among those was Madden NFL 20. Their segment brought to light just how different and more challenging this year’s edition will be.  Read on for more…

The Madden series is near and dear to my heart.  It’s been a vehicle for competing with  friends both near and far.  Heck, most of the conversations we have over the phone and in-person is over strategy and building our rosters in franchise mode.  While it’s become something of an pastime, the truth of the matter is that the Madden series has gotten stale.

Before Madden NFL 19, the only difference EA Sports made to the last three Madden games was adding an abysmal story mode.  Outside of that, the gameplay and graphics were a simple cut and paste from one game to the next.  The new rookie class to provide a new intrigue, but it was very much the same game, overall.

Madden NFL 19 helped the series a lot, as it updated a lot of the antiquated features and gameplay the previous Maddens included.  19 featured an updated progression system, team celebrations, more improved catch and run mechanics, and the ability to import a draft class.  It was a major step forward for the series.

But at its core, it was just the same as the others.  It didn’t require a new approach or strategy.  It was simply a football game, but with better mechanics.

Now comes Madden NFL 20 and with it are a ton of new features that make the gridiron into the real-life chess match it is in real life.  In fact, Reality and Chess were actually two big parts of their EA Play presentation.  Throughout the presentation, developers consistently spoke of how these new features enhanced strategy what certain players were realistically capable of.

For Strategy, EA Sports promised to deliver new formations to, otherwise, outdated playbooks.  Furthermore, they announced plans to consistently update playbooks throughout the football year.  Speaking of plays, Madden NFL 20 will see the inclusion of specialty plays like the Super Bowl-winning Philly Special and much more.

However, the more game-changing plays will come in the form of RPOs (Run-Pass Options). RPOs are also a massive part of both real-life football and this year’s virtual football.  EA Sports has included over 200 RPO plays.  That’s insane!

The RPOs are divided into three categories, RPO Alert, RPO Peek, and RPO Read.  RPO Alert is a quick read that will survey the defense to decide whether or not you can make a quick pass to receiver, while faking to run.  A simple press of the button will allow you to switch to a run play, mid-play.  RPO Peek is a lot like a Read Option, but with an option to pass.  Last, RPO Read is more of your Triple Option, and you’ll have a ton of options to run, flip, or pass the ball away, based on the defense.

Madden NFL 20 will also feature much-improved gameplay mechanics with a New Pump Fake and the ability to seamlessly switch between running the ball with your QB and switching to pass it, mid-play.  This should create a more exciting, fast-paced style of gameplay.

While all of these are incredibly important in terms of strategy, the X-Factors are what really bring that chess match to life, while including real-life traits.  X-Factor abilities are divided into two categories, Superstar and Zone abilities.  Superstar abilities are active at all times and could be a deciding factor in a game.

Players like Alvin Kamara, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Aaron Donald have premiere superstar abilities that look downright unstoppable.  Kamara has the Satellite Superstar ability, which highlights his real-life ability to come out of the backfield, perform crisp routes, catch the ball, and break tackles.  JuJu hosts the Double Me Superstar ability, making him near-unstoppable in one-on-one jump ball situations.  Last, Donald brings Fearmonger and his unique ability disrupts any pocket and makes opposing Offensive Linemen look like they’re part of the JV squad.

Contrary to Superstar abilities, Zone abilities require a bit more work, and there in lies some of the new strategy.  For example, if you’re Patrick Mahomes II, you have the unique Zone Ability of Bazooka, where you can throw an 80 yard ball.  To unlock it in a game, though, you first have to complete 4 passes of 30 yard or more.  That’s 30 air yards not RAC (Run After Catch).  Defenders can disrupt this by breaking up passes and forcing turnovers or sacks.

X-Factors are one more thing you can work for, game plan against, and worry about.  It’s a whole new way to play Madden and its why Madden NFL 20 will be the most challenging of the series.  Furthermore, this is the first Madden in a long time that I’m top-to-bottom hyped for.  Compared to all the others in the series, this Madden is truly different and the franchise feels as rejuvenated as it did with Madden 25.

Other notable takeaways from the Madden NFL 20 segment at EA Play 2019 are the weekly Scenario Engine, the return of the Pro Bowl in Franchise Mode, Signature Animations, and that Patrick Mahomes II is going to be a cheat code.

The weekly scenario engine will provide dialogue and challenges between the coach and his star player, entering a game.  Complete the challenge and receive a big reward of experience, which will ultimately make the player better.  The return of the Pro Bowl isn’t game-changing but it’s a fun game to be able to use the best players in the league for a game.  I’m stoked that it’s back.

The Signature Animations will see a player’s quirks come to life in Madden NFL 20.  From Drew Brees’ twitchiness to Zeke’s “Feed Me” gimmick to Patrick Mahomes II no-look pass, it’s a fun add-on that brings these enigmatic characters to light.

As for Patrick Mahomes II being a cheat code, that’s just exactly what he’ll be.  He can throw 80 yards, is accurate in the pocket and on the run, and he’s stupid fast when running away from pressure.  So, feel free to boot your friend from the league or ex-communicate them from your life if they try playing with the Chiefs or trading for Patrick Mahomes II.

Madden NFL 20 releases on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on August, 2, 2019Superstar and Ultimate Superstar editions will allow you to play 3 days earlier.