Madden 20 review: EA Sports brings the X-Factor back to their NFL franchise

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Madden Season has arrived early this year. 

EA Sports chose to drop their annual title on August 2, the earliest release since 1998 - way back when John Madden himself was on the box art.

Fast forward 21 years and it's now Patrick Mahomes who graces the cover and given the style of this year's installment, he's the perfect man to do so.     

Madden 20 has promised big changes to gameplay, franchise mode and Ultimate Team, building a lot of excitement ahead of release. 

But just how much of that has carried over into the game? Well, GiveMeSport have been given a chance to find out and here's everything you need to know. 

Superstar X-Factors and Zone Abilities

EA's flagship change in Madden 20's gameplay has been the introduction of Superstar X-Factors. 

The biggest stars of the NFL, including the likes of Mahomes, Todd Gurley and Julio Jones, can be brought to life with special abilities - similar to the ones they showcase in real life.

Just 50 players in the game are capable of 'getting in the zone' and unlocking powerful performance boosts. 

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To do so, gamers must achieve certain objectives throughout each game - whether that be completing passes with the quarterback, catching them with a receiver, or stopping the play while in control of the defense. 

Once these objectives are complete, an X-Factor icon lights up underneath the player, signaling that he's in the zone and unlocked special abilities.

To name a few, Mahomes' 'Bazooka' X-Factor allows him to throw further than anyone else in the game, while Gurley's 'First One Free' ability gives him a higher fakeout rate on ball-carrier moves.    

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On first impressions, it seems easier to get players into the zone on offense rather than defense, but EA have struck a good balance on both sides of the ball, to ensure these elite players are not overpowered.  

If you really want to see X-Factors come to life then we recommend playing a few games with Arcade settings in order to maximize their effectiveness.

Other gameplay changes 

Madden 20 makes a number of changes to the gameplay too, with the introduction of new plays.

Run Pass Option plays allow for a more exciting offense, while the introduction of new team-specific concepts and trick plays like the Philly Special can also blow your opponents away. 

Signature Animations for elite QBs and top running backs have also been added, allowing more realistic passing animations as well as better Juke, Spin, Hurdle, Truck and Stiff Arm moves. 

Gameplay Rating: 8/10 

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Face of the Franchise

QB1: Face of the Franchise replaces the Longshot story mode we've seen in previous two Madden's. 

You begin as a highschool quarterback picking one of 10 NCAA teams to play for, with the likes of Clemson, Florida and LSU included in the game.

Picking a college actually feels like a tough decision and it's refreshing to have that kind of opportunity in Madden. 

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Once you've made your choice, the game fast-forwards four years to 2019 - and the playoff semifinal game. 

As with Longshot, there are some very nice cutscenes along the way to help immerse the player into the dynamic storyline, but Face of the Franchise really shines on the field. 

We won't give too much away but the aim is, as you can probably guess, to make it into the NFL.

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That means you'll need to impress throughout the college playoffs, make your way through the combine to the draft - and then progress through your rookie year. 

Every decision you make on and off the field affects the storyline.

Interacting with reporters, your coach and your teammates help your personality traits grow, while your performance in games will change the outcome of your season - and your superstar abilities. 

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Play well and you could end up in the Super Bowl, but if you don't live up to expectations, you'll end up cut from the team.

It may not be Longshot, but this new story mode will have you immersed in your own personal journey from college to the NFL for hours on end.   

QB1: Face of the Franchise Rating: 8/10

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Ultimate Team 

An awful lot has changed in Madden Ultimate Team this year. After loading up the menu, players are hit with the 'missions' tab.

These replace objectives and offer you a greater chance of achieving different rewards. Most missions require you to pass in-game solo challenges - but these have also changed since MUT 19.

Gamers are now rewarded stars for completing a challenge. One star is earned for passing on easy difficulty, two for medium and three for hard. Some challenges have up to two bonus stars to earn too.

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By earning stars, you progress towards tiered rewards, ranging from coins to packs and players. It seems this year, Madden Ultimate Team is built on working towards the rewards you want, which is a nice change for returning players, and a good way to start for newbies.

More challenges and missions will be added periodically, as they were last year. After you complete one, you can load into the next without backing out to the main menu, which is a nice touch that really speeds things up. Be warned though, it can be addicting! 

Online head-to-head and coop modes make their return, but it does seem that this year, Ultimate Team is more geared towards those who want to play solo.

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Oh and don't worry - Superstar X-Factors carry over, meaning you can build a team of elite NFL stars with special abilities, adding to the fun. 

Ultimate Team rating: 7/10

EA promised us big changes this year and they really have delivered. With improvements to gameplay and Ultimate Team, plus the debut of Face of the Franchise, Madden 20 really does have the X-Factor. 

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Overall Madden 20 Rating: 8/10

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