‘Face of the Franchise’ and ‘Superstar X-Factor’ features make ‘Madden NFL 20’ a winner

Video game lets you take a quarterback from college to pros in new mode.

SHARE ‘Face of the Franchise’ and ‘Superstar X-Factor’ features make ‘Madden NFL 20’ a winner
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“Joe Cowley … 6-foot-5 … from Bedford Heights, Ohio … quarterback.” It’s my “Face of the Franchise: QB1” mode. You don’t like it? You don’t believe I’m 6-5? Get your own game. Make your own quarterback.

Welcome to “Madden NFL 20,” the latest installment from EA Sports and maybe the best version of the game in the last five years.

It starts with the new story-driven mode “Face of the Franchise.”

Gone is the clunky “Longshot’’ story that was released in 2018 and never really went anywhere. It was a good starting point at the time but quickly lost steam by Year 2. Instead, EA showed that imitation truly is the best form of flattery, falling back to their “Superstar Mode” and mixing it with the “NBA 2K” concept.

That means creating your own quarterback — and in some rare cases exaggerating his height — and unleashing him into the Madden universe. The whole universe.

It starts with your blue-chip signal-caller picking a big-time college, only to get a quick reality check when you find out that a bigger, badder, bluer chip also has decided to place the cap of the same college on his head.

The story moves ahead to you in Year 4 of being a bench-warmer, until an injury puts the ball in your hands before the two-game college playoffs to decide a national champion. Sink or swim, kid. How you perform in those two games then carries weight into the NFL combine and draft.

Joe Cowley went late in the first round. I took my talents to South Beach and joined the Miami Dolphins.

At that point, the game takes on the feel of “Franchise Mode.” You have to play well enough to win the starting job and pile on the points to improve your Madden rating. Then it’s all about making a run at a title and building legendary status.

Sure, it’s always nice to add some facial hair and a tattoo along the way, or simply demand the Dolphins trade you if you feel the need. But it works, and it’s one of the main reasons “Madden NFL 20’’ works.

The other noticeable change is the new “Superstar X-Factor” feature, in which the best players in the game get to affect the game the way the best players should.

Whether it’s defensive lineman Aaron Donald shredding a double-team or cover boy Patrick Mahomes threading the needle on a sluggo, there are now signature moves for the elite players that have been missing.

Yes, there are knocks against the latest version. “Franchise Mode” is pretty similar to previous models, and “MUT” (Madden Ultimate Team) still takes the slot-machine approach to opening packs and hoping an elite prize awaits. But both have been streamlined for easier navigation.

Finally, no Madden review is complete without the tiresome subject of ratings.

Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin told me years ago, “Players that say they don’t care about their Madden rating? They’re lying.’’

Now there’s a new level. Cardinals rookie coach Kliff Kingsbury made headlines this week by ripping the way he looks in the new Madden.

“Like I’m on ‘The Walking Dead,” Kingsbury said.

For Kingsbury? It’s a video game. For players who don’t like their rating? Get better.

Otherwise, I know a certain 6-5 quarterback from Bedford Heights, Ohio, who just might be coming to take your job.

Grade for “Madden NFL 20”: A-minus.

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