Summer is upon us and it means one thing: Madden is almost back. Madden NFL 20 is the latest yearly update to EA's popular National Football League franchise that brings with it a bunch of new features that will try to sway fans to buy the new game. Many of the changes are meant to highlight improved quarterback play along with some other improvements to gameplay, franchise mode, and of course, the updated rosters.

Reach Super Bowl glory

Madden NFL 20

It's time to take over the game by getting into the Zone

It's that time of the year again. Madden NFL 20 is nearly here and ready to get us ready for the new season of the NFL. You'll be able to play as Patrick Mahomes and attempt some of his now iconic moves, including his signature no-look pass.

What's Madden NFL 20?

Madden NFL is an annual football game released by EA. Originally started in a partnership with acclaimed NFL icon John Madden, the game eventually become a massive hit and the only way to experience immersive NFL gameplay. Over the years it has evolved with new features, but through it all, it's still all about playing as your favorite NFL stars.

Who is the cover athlete?

The cover athlete for Madden NFL 20 was a fairly easy choice. EA went with reigning NFL MVP, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It's hard to believe Mahomes is only entering his third NFL season in 2019, but he is already setting the league on fire.

New gameplay features

Superstar X-Factors

The biggest addition made to Madden NFL 20 is Superstar X-Factors. With a renewed focus on the stars of the league, EA sought to better integrate their impact on the game in a palpable way. Now, when a super star gets into the Zone, they enter a new level of impact on the game by unlocking their X-Factor Zone ability.

Zone abilities are a way to measure the impact players have on a game. All told, the new game will feature 50 X-Factor players—including Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Aaron Donald—that will make the biggest impact on the game by activating these new Zone abilities. When a player enters the Zone, you'll be able to tell by the glowing X under their avatar which means they're at their peak performance.

Among the Zone abilities these X-Factor players will be able to access are Bazooka, which increases throwing distance by 15 yards, Double Me, which lets receivers win aggressive catches in single coverage, and Fearmonger, which lets a pass rushers pressure the QB even while engaged with a blocker.

You will need to adjust your style of play to unlock these abilities to put these players in the Zone. For instance, if you want to unlock the Bazooka Zone ability for Patrick Mahomes, a ground and pound gameplan won't cut it. You'll have to air it out to meet the objective list. Early gameplay shows you'll have to complete a 30-yard completion with Mahomes to unlock his Zone ability. Russell Wilson on the other hand, needs three rushes of 10 yards or more to unlock his Blitz Radar Zone ability. Once in the Zone, the defense needs to get a sack or an interception to knock them out of the zone.

It'll work slightly different for defensive players. Khalil Mack, for instance, needs two sacks, quarterback pressures, or tackles for loss to get into the Zone. Once in the Zone, the opposing offense will need to travel 20 yards to knock him out of the zone.

In total, there are over 20 Zone abilities for 50 Superstar X-Factors. There are also over 140 Superstar abilities that Superstar players can activate. However, they aren't as impactful as Zone abilities. Some of the Superstar abilities players will be able to take advantage of include Slot-O-Matic, Pass Lead Elite, Match-Up Nightmare, and Edge Rush Elite.

Face of the Franchise: QB1

The other new gameplay feature added is Face of the Franchise: QB1, which is a new Career Campaign to kick off Franchise Mode this year. You will have the option to select between ten Division 1 schools including USC, Texas, LSU and Oklahoma and begin your career towards the NFL.

After building up the type of quarterback you will be, you will start competing in the College Football Playoff. You'll have to complete up to two full games and your performance in those games will impact your draft stock. Then you'll go through the NFL draft process with interviews with coaches and throwing sessions at the combine.

The last part will be getting drafted by a team on Draft night, which is when the traditional Franchise Mode kicks in, where the road ends with a Super Bowl LIV victory.

Face of the Franchise: QB1 will be replacing the now defunct Longshot mode where you entered a story mode that saw you struggling your way from high school all the way to the NFL.

Gameplay improvements

Madden Ultimate Team changes

Madden Ultimate Team is back and it's updated with a new feature called Missions. Missions is a roadmap that will help you upgrade your squad with the best items in the game. It'll set a path the lets you directly unlock these item instead of taking a random approach. When you start an Ultimate Team, the game will suggest different Missions based on your MUT level. As you progress in the game, more Missions will begin letting you build out your squad.

Gone are Solo Challenges and in their place are Ultimate Challenges. These challenges will now fall into three categories: one, two, and three stars. The more stars, the more diffiult the Challenge will be. This will also impact the rewards you receive. The tougher the Challenge, the bigger the reward. If you want extra stars, you can also complete Bonus goals to get even more than the max three-star reward. Completing bonus goals on the highest difficulty can net you up to five stars.

Speaking of rewards, they were also revamped in Madden NFL 20. Big-time rewards will no longer be associated with winning the last Challenge. You'll now go through a "milestone" program where rewards are distributed as you collect more stars with the Challenges you complete.

Franchise Mode turns to storytelling

Franchise mode has become quite stale of late and the yearly incremental updates have done little to change that. Madden NFL 20 is EA's first big attempt at changing that by incorporating more storytelling. There will now be different storyline scenarios that come up that add depth to Franchise Mode. You'll have to manage the different personalities, players, and coaches and even worry about the chemistry of the team.

One such scenario that could play out is if you don't throw to Antonio Brown enough. In the revamped Franchise Mode, he will now voice his displeasure with the quarterback, putting the team's chemistry into question. It's eerily similar to the way things ended for him with the Pittsburgh Steelers in real life. A few other scenarios that could play out is a player being unhappy with being franchised tagged instead of hitting free agency or team moral suffering because you cut a popular team veteran.

The Pro Bowl has also returned to Franchise Mode. In fact, you can start a season with the Pro Bowl, taking advantage of playing with all of the main NFL superstars.

EA also tweaked the way player ratings work with more spread out ratings. EA says the difference between a player with 90 OVR score and one with an 89 OVR is now larger. Teams will also carry players with scores in the mid-50s, which was not common in the old Madden ratings system.

The way the draft works, contracts, coach's mode and more have also been improved.

Play like the stars

One of the most welcomed changes to the new Madden is enhanced and personalized Signature Animations. With every year, EA tries to get the likeness of a player down to the smallest detail. Well, this year it made a note to improve the Signature Animation it added to last year's game and deliver even more accurate representation.

Now you will see Drew Brees' fidgeting motion of pulling on his shoulder pads and licking his fingers after every throw. After a long, powerful run, Ezekiel Elliott will now do his "feed me" celebration. EA has also showed off the animations for Aaron Rodgers' quick release and Patrick Mahomes' stuttering follow-through, but many more players get these Signature Animations as well.

EA says it will continue to add more animations, celebrations, and throwing styles throughout the year.

Since this is a quarterback cover year, extra attention was paid to improve QB controls and they come in two ways: Pull Down Mechanics and Pump Fake to Specific Player. The first lets a quarterback run and activate running controls—juke, stiff arm, spin—while behind the line of scrimmage. Past Maddens only offered the turbo functionality while a quarterback scrambled. While running with a quarterback, the throwing icons will now hide letting you act as a running back, but when you're ready to throw, they'll re-appear and you can throw the ball to the open receiver. EA hopes this leads to a better scrambling experience with the quarterback.

The second is improved pump faking. Instead of it just being one single motion, Madden NFL 20 lets you pump fake to a specific player by double tapping their button. A reticle will quickly pop for the pump faked player and then you can pass it to the intended player. This will prove to be especially useful on things like double moves.

RPO is incorporated

After first bursting onto the scene last year, the RPO, or running-pass option, is making its way to Madden. The concept was carried over from college football into the NFL throughout the 2017 NFL season and truly caught on when the Philadelphia Eagles rode it all the way to a victory in Super Bowl LII. Now you can do the same.

The RPO implementation will break down into three categories: Alerts, Peeks, and Reads. Let's start with Alerts, which is a simple pre-snap read where you just see the coverage the defense is in. The play will be a basic hand-off, but if you see something you like, you can always branch out and just tap the receive you want to throw at and you'll toss a pass.

Peek is just like a read-option. You'll just have to read the defensive player covering the intended target. Taking a peek at the player as the ball is snapped, you'll either choose to throw it because he bit on the run-fake, or hand it off to the running back if he stays with his man.

The last one, Reads, is more complex. You'll have to read two to three defenders after the snap to decide whether or not you want to attempt the pass, stick with the run, or even take off with the quarterback. In total, EA added over 200 RPO plays.

In conjunction with the RPO, EA also added some new concepts that branch off that with trick plays. The most famous one it added is the Philly Special which the Eagles used in Super Bowl LII to throw a touchdown to quarterback Nick Foles. It's basically the quarterback faking some pre-snap adjustments before he takes off to the right side and the running back takes the snap, darts to the left side, tosses it to the receiver cutting across back to the right before he passes it to the quarterback-turned-wide-receiver.

There are many more plays like this. The Chiefs' Jet Sweeps and Rams' End Arounds are also incorporated. It's an all-encompassing take on misdirection plays. Throughout the year, EA will continue to update the playbook to incorporate more RPO and other misdirection plays.

Pre-order bonuses

You can pre-order Madden NFL 20 today. If you do, depending on the version you get, you are in line for some sweet bonuses. If you pre-order the standard edition for $60, you'll get 5 Gold Team fantasy packs, one of 32 elite players, and one unique Superstar Ability for the player you create in Face of the Franchise: QB1. Pre-ordering the game for PlayStation 4 also gets you a free Madden NFL 20 theme.

If you want to get the Superstar Edition for $80, you'll get even more bonuses with 12 Gold Team fantasy packs, one of 32 Elite Players, one large training quick sell pack, one unique Superstar Ability for the player you create in Face of the Franchise: QB1, and a three-day early access period starting on July 30.

When can you play it?

Madden NFL 20 launches August 2, 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. That's just in time to get you ready for the NFL season which kicks off its 100th season on September 5.

Reach Super Bowl glory

Madden NFL 20

It's time to take over the game by getting into the Zone

It's that time of the year again. Madden NFL 20 is nearly here and ready to get us ready for the new season of the NFL. You'll be able to play as Patrick Mahomes and attempt some of his now iconic moves, including his signature no-look pass.

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