A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Madden NFL 20 is the latest installment in the long-running Franchise for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The game attempts to present a realistic simulation of the NFL, and gives players multiple options to tailor and tweak games to match their personal playing style. But thanks to some of the new tweaks to the game system, such as Superstar and X-Factor, it could take a few games to fully understand how all of the adjustments work in this year's game. While there are no language concerns, online play is unmoderated and could expose players to inappropriate comments. Football is a contact sport, so players will see painful hits that could result in injuries to athletes, although no blood or gore is shown. There's a hefty push of promotional content in games, ranging from commercial branding in stadiums and during in-game playback to players using money to purchase content for their Ultimate team to improve their custom-made squads.
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What's it about?
MADDEN NFL 20 tells players to lace up their cleats and take to the field once again for this season of football. Instead of focusing on one side of the ball or another, the game focuses on the elite athletes in the league with the new Superstar X-Factor system, which is included across all modes of play. The more you perform great plays with star players, the more they get into the zone. This boosts their stats and gives them the chance to amp up their play on the field, moving a bit faster or passing more accurately in a match. While there isn't a story mode, there's a new career-based mode called Face of the Franchise: QB1, where players will select a young college athlete and try to lead him to the National Championship before being drafted and playing in the NFL. Depending on how well you play, the legacy you leave could put you in the Hall of Fame. Finally, the popular Madden Ultimate Team has been enhanced this year with new Ultimate Team Missions that put you on a path to earning specific players, items, or boosts.
Is it any good?
While this year's version of football manages to score in some key moments, it occasionally fumbles the ball in surprising ways. Madden NFL 20 targets the majority of its attention this year on the athletes that dominate the action on the field – the superstars of the league. 50 athletes have specific traits, like the ability to break tackles or disrupt passes. As you play games and use these stars to excel at their position, they'll get into "the zone," which gives them a boost to their stats and on-field performance. Of course, this isn't permanent – they can be countered by certain plays from the opposing team, like sacking the quarterback or gaining a certain number of yards on offense. The system captures those moments where a pro athlete just starts to dominate a game, turning their performance into a personal highlight reel. The one hiccup here is that it can be exploited by both gamers and the computer alike, and if one or two players on the same team are in the zone at the same time, they can be almost unbeatable. Otherwise, it adds tension and a rush to the on-field action from down to down.
This year's Ultimate Team also packs more challenges and missions than before. What's nice about this year's tweaks is the fact that you can select a set of challenges and play from start to finish without having to ever move out to a menu screen. That's great if you want to fly through skill tests and boost your squad. It's also nice to see that the new Mission set up gives you more options to pin down exactly what kind of players or items you want, and directs you in how to get them. But if there was a downside to this year's game, it would have to be the disappointing Face of the Franchise mode, which is a replacement for the Longshot story from the past few years. Here, you play a largely forgotten college quarterback that tries to win a National Championship, then triest to make his mark on the league. Along the way, you'll make choices that can define your player's stats and gives dynamic challenges in each week's game. But apart from the initial sequences with the college game and the draft, there's really no story here at all, making it feel like a bland introduction to the franchise mode. Characters introduced here rarely come back and have any impact on your game, apart from giving additional experience for your quarterback. Even your choices are reduced to very tame text options in the locker room. Hopefully this is either eliminated in next year's game, or the mode comes back with a fully fleshed out story. If you overlook the weakness of the career mode, though, you'll find that Madden NFL 20 is a solid chapter to the football franchise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing to kids. Madden NFL 20 packs in lots of advertising and product logos, and even pushes for some in-game purchases, but is this just a way to get more money out of players? Do the advertising and offers make the gameplay feel more like a TV broadcast?
Do you think that Madden NFL 20 could get kids interested in playing football or watching the game in real life instead of sitting in front of a screen? Could the tutorials and lessons found in the game be used in real games of football?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, decision-making, logic, problem solving, spatial reasoning, thinking critically
Self-Direction: achieving goals, motivation, work to achieve goals
Emotional Development: handling stress, persevering
Responsibility & Ethics: making wise decisions
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Electronic Arts
- Release date: August 2, 2019
- Genre: Sports
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptions
- Last updated: March 22, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.