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Game review: ‘Madden NFL 20’: Superstars stand out in dynamic on-field play in newest franchise installment

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. 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.

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?

"Madden NFL 20" targets the majority of its attention 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.

This year's Ultimate Team also packs more challenges and missions than before. 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 tries to make his mark on the league. 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. 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.

RATING AND CONTENT

Recommended for ages 9 and older

Quality: 4 out of 5

Educational value: 3 out of 5

Positive messages: 3 out of 5

Positive role models: 3 out of 5

Ease of play: 4 out of 5

Violence: 2 out of 5

Sex: 0 out of 5

Language: 1 out of 5

Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5

Consumerism: 4 out of 5

GAME DETAILS

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

Price: $59.99

Developer: Electronic Arts

Release date: August 2, 2019

Genre: Sports

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.

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