Two years after debuting Longshot, a single-player story mode heavy on cinematics but light on player agency and true Madden gameplay, EA Tiburon went back to the drawing board with its career mode. It was the right call. While well-acted and well-directed, the Longshot story curiously veered too far from the superstar storylines that captivate football fans to instead focus on the trials and tribulations of simply cracking an NFL roster. While it makes for some interesting, honest moments about how hard it is to realize the dream of suiting up on Sunday, this isn’t the power fantasy most people want to experience in a career mode. With Madden NFL 20’s new career mode, Face of the Franchise: QB1, the focus shifts to a football dream fans can better relate with – becoming a dominant starting quarterback.
Face of the Franchise essentially plays out like the stories in NBA 2K’s popular career mode. Early on, the mode delivers story beats via cinematics in-between actual on-field games where your stick skills define the direction of your career. After the prologue of your NFL career plays out, the narrative focus shifts from a reliance on cinematics to a more dynamic story delivered mostly via branching dialogue. During this phase, the mode looks at your accomplishments (or failures) and builds a story around them. “Choice is so important, and that’s probably the key differentiator between a Longshot and this,” says Madden NFL 20 creative director Mike Young. “This is about personalization.”
Here’s a breakdown of how Face of the Franchise: QB1 plays out:
Write Your College Legend
Unlike Longshot hero Devin Wade, your journey doesn’t start under the Friday Night Lights. Instead, you are the unheralded backup quarterback of a college powerhouse who gets thrust into a starting role during the College Football Playoff, a similar situation to the one Cardale Jones found himself in with Ohio State during the 2014 season.
After customizing your face and choosing one of the three voices available for your character, you can pick one of 10 colleges in the game – Clemson, Florida, Florida St., LSU, Miami, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Texas Tech, or USC. Then the hard work of building up your draft grade begins.
Before your high-pressure debut, reporters pepper you with questions. When they ask which NFL legend you look up to, your choice will lay the foundation for your quarterback archetype. When they ask you how your high-school teammates would describe you, it helps define your personality type.
If you flame out in the first playoff game, you can kiss your dreams of being a first-round pick behind. Lead your program to the national championship with a commanding performance, however, and your draft stock naturally rises.
Participate In The Underwear Olympics
Once the playoff run is complete, your gunslinger heads to the NFL Combine, where you must perform a series of drills and answer some tough questions from NFL GMs. Combined with your on-field performance, your numbers in the Underwear Olympics and how you conduct yourself with league decision-makers will determine where in the draft you are likely to land. “It’s about immersing you in the 2019 draft class, so we want to make it feel like you are competing right now next to Kyler Murray and Drew Lock,” Young says. “You’ll get cameos from them throughout the story.”
Your performance in college and the combine will land you anywhere from a high first-rounder, low first-rounder, mid-rounder, or late-round pick. Sorry Kurt Warner fans, you can’t go undrafted. Even if you chuck enough pick-sixes to set the college single-game record and post a Jared Lorenzen-esque 40-time, some wayward team will still see you as a diamond in the rough. Maybe John Elway has you circled on his cheat sheet…
Draft Day Drama
After the combine whirlwind wraps up, it’s time for the NFL draft. If you’re projected to be a high first-round pick, you don your most stylish outfit and head to the NFL Draft. Sorry, fashion aficionados, EA opted against giving you control over your off-field wardrobe à la FIFA’s Alex Hunter, but the good news is you have more gear options than previous years. Sadly, tattoos are still noticeably absent.
During the draft, you will rub shoulders with other highly touted prospects like Joey Bosa on the red carpet. If you aren’t a highly touted pick, you miss the pageantry and watch the draft on TV with your agent by your side.
However your draft day experience plays out, don’t expect to end up on a team that already has an established young star on the roster – you won’t be unseating Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. “We tried to make it really realistic and reflective of the teams that actually need quarterbacks that might draft you,” Young says.
If you don’t like the team that drafted you, EA said there’s a way to strongarm your way to your ideal team.
Crack The Starting Lineup
Once you crack an NFL roster, then the journey transitions from a heavy dose of cutscenes to a branching dialogue system similar to NBA Live 19’s The One mode. “Unlike a Longshot, this is meant to be about you getting into the league, and then handing it off to our new Scenario Engine where the story doesn’t stop,” Young says.
Once you’re in the league, the Scenario Engine (which also powers connected franchise mode in Madden 20) takes over to deliver storylines that may be new each week or extend into the season. You interact with a wide assortment of people, from coaches and teammates to trainers and reporters. Not all of your conversations are peachy. If a stud receiver is being starved for touches, he’ll tell you to get him the damn ball next week. You get to decide the number of touches you promise for the next week, and if you don’t meet that threshold, his morale will take a hit. If it drops enough, depending on his personality he may request a trade. This is just one example of the types of storylines that can play out.
“During the whole first season, it’s going to feel like there is a storyline, and the hope is that everyone will feel like they had a different storyline, both by how they played in Face of the Franchise mode, or just the different decisions, and their record, and who is on their team will trigger different events throughout the season,” Young says.
Other players may challenge you to rise to their level during the course of your career as well, which could allow you to earn one of their superstar abilities, a new feature in Madden NFL 20. Think of these like interchangeable skill powers you can swap in and out depending on the game scenario. Some give you straight up ability, like the Bazooka skill that lets you throw up to 80 yards in the air when you’re in the zone. Others are more about being a savvy field general, like the Hot Route Master skill that gives you four additional hot routes to choose while making pre-play adjustments. You can earn up to seven superstar abilities in Face of the Franchise, allowing you to experiment with the skills that best match your play style.
“It’s not about getting to 99 [OVR] anymore, it’s about trying different loadouts,” Young says. “It’s a lot more like an action/adventure game where you’re unlocking different abilities and maybe this one suits the way you play more and it’s what you like.”
Occasionally during your career, you will be asked tough questions from reporters. Coming off a loss, an ink-stained wretch may ask, “who let you down tonight, your coach or offensive line?” If you take the Aaron Rodgers route and criticize your coach. your coach will lose confidence in you but your line will get a boost for the next game. If you take the Jay Cutler route and throw the line under the bus, they’ll play worse the next game but your relationship with your coach may improve.
Overcome these seasonal obstacles and put up strong numbers, and you may earn a spot in the Pro Bowl, which finally returns to Madden this year. Since the career mode runs on the Connected Franchise Mode system, you can play up to 15 seasons and write your NFL legacy, with new scenarios popping up throughout your career.
If you aren’t interested in being a signal caller and would rather play another position, Madden NFL 20 makes that option available to you as well. You won’t have the college, combine, or draft day experience going that route, but the Scenario Engine will still sprinkle story threads throughout your career.
Madden NFL 20 ships for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on August 2. To learn more about the game, read our in-depth breakdown of the superstar abilities, proposed fixes to gameplay issues, and franchise mode changes.