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Madden 20 release date and cover star confirmed – here’s everything you need to know

Surprise! There’s an official NFL game coming out later this year. Okay, maybe that wasn’t that great a surprise. But here’s the salient info, on the back of an announcement made at the 2019 NFL Draft: The newest Gridiron star to go head-to-head with the Madden curse will be Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City, and the official Madden 20 release date is locked in for 2 August.

In February GamesRadar ran a piece charting the community’s Madden 20 features wishlist, and going by details EA Tiburon unleashed over the draft weekend it appears the Orlando dev is listening intently. For instance, the fun-yet-maligned Longshot mode is gone for good, replaced with what sounds like a deeper, more authentic NFL experience Tiburon calls Face Of The Franchise. 

This new career mode begins in an area fans have clamoured for since the demise of Madden’s one-time sister game: the NCAA. You create your own player and initially attach him to one of ten rosters (full list below) for a College Play-offs campaign watched by scouts who then decide on your placing in the NFL draft. Further details are slim, but the general idea is you play season after season in the hope of securing a Pro Bowl berth and eventually being inducted into the NFL Hall Of Fame. 

This year Face Of The Franchise is locked to a single position - quarterback, naturally – but you suspect that if it proves popular it’ll be expanded to other roles, beginning with running back, from Madden 21 onwards.

As promised, here’s that list of NCAA teams you can start the mode with:

  • Clemson Tigers
  • Florida Gators
  • Florida State Seminoles
  • LSU Tigers
  • Miami Hurricanes
  • Oklahoma Sooners
  • Oregon Ducks
  • Texas Longhorns
  • Texas Tech Red Raiders
  • USC Trojans

Eagle-eyed readers (even those outside of Philly) will have spotted two important words above: Pro Bowl. Long absent from the series for a rumoured reason which always felt curious – an apparent inability to render helmets from 32 different NFL teams at once – this year it finally returns in both career and Play Now modes. And going by the tweet announcing it, featuring Saints back Alvin Kamara breezing past Denver’s Chris Harris Jr, those essential, team-unique helmets are present and correct. Fans have rightly questioned EA’s attempt to pass this off as a truly ‘new’ feature, but it’d be remiss of us not to acknowledge its long overdue return.

As EA's focus shifts more towards Ultimate Team with each year it’s franchise mode that suffers most, but the company has made intriguing noises about realigning that balance. Madden 20 adds a scenario engine said to introduce storylines that take things deeper than simply grinding through match after match, in addition to further expanding upon last year’s neat-yet-inflexible ‘scheme fit' system. Further details are due later this week, and GR will have a standalone look at Madden 20 franchise in the coming days. 

A big new feature across the game is something called Superstar X-Factors, which see elite players get a mid-match attributes boost under specific circumstances. How it works is a touch unclear for now, but here’s an EA spokesperson’s attempt to outline it all:

“In total there will be around 50 Superstar X-Factor players and over 30 additional Superstar players. The difference between the two are the Zone abilities and Superstar abilities. Zone abilities are about your style of play and your opponent's style of play. If you want to get Mahomes in the Zone, you need to adjust your style of play to help him meet [a specific] objective list. So, if your play-style is to run the ball you won't have a high chance of meeting that objective list to get him in the Zone.”

TL;DR explanation of Superstar X-Factors: control videogame Tom Brady like real-life Tom Brady – throwing TD passes, protecting the football, telekinetically littering the field in yellow laundry – and he’ll receive in-game boosts to reward you further. Potentially very cool, so long as the devs remember this isn’t NBA Jam.

Madden 20 is released on 2 August. Wondering how Mahomes snared his first front-of-box gig? The check out our look at the fallen runners and riders in the Madden 20 cover vote