Aside from Mario, no other portly guy has appeared on as many N64 boxes as John Madden. And now with Madden 2000, EA Sports brings back Fox TV's top football analyst for the new millennium. Fans of the series won't be disappointed by this year's model. The Madden name has been a consistent winner, and this one is no exception. With the next generation of consoles already in our living rooms, this might possibly be the last great 64-bit football game.
Graphically, the folks at EA are at the top of their game. While M2000 is made to be used with an expansion pak, even without one, it's still playable. (Compare that to NFL Quarterback Club 2000, which, without the extra juice, moves about as fast as Nate Newton through an all-you-can-eat buffet line.) With the added video power, though, this is one sharp-looking game.
There are some solid improvements over last year's effort. I would list them in order of coolness, but they're all pretty neat in their own way--so I numbered them, put them in a hat, and pulled them out at random.…
The player sizes are scaled to position, so everyone doesn't look the same. It's just a lot more realistic when the offensive linemen are actually bigger than the quarterback. Albeit, everyone including the place-kickers still have those giganto steroid-induced arms, but at least the general size is almost right. (I believe George Orwell put it best in his review of Madden 2000 when he said, "All players are huge, but some players are more huge than others.")
They've also added that weird, phantom, yellow first down line. On TV, it looked goofy at first, but we grew to accept it. (Just like Conan O'Brien!) Here, it's more than just a high-tech novelty. It's nice to be able to tell exactly where on the field you have to get to for a first down--especially on third-and-long or fourth-and-inches. The netting that goes up for field goals is also a nice new touch.
And there are finally some guys on the sidelines. Maybe it's just me, but it always seemed creepy that there was no one else around. Now, there are a bunch of celebrating, high-fiving players on the sidelines, so it no longer looks like a game being played by two low-enrollment high schools with eleven two-way guys on their rosters. The coolest thing would be to have somewhat realistic-looking head coaches, but maybe 128-bit technology would be required to accurately render Bill Cowher's Dudley DoRight/Jay Leno chin.
Sound-wise, EA has also kicked it up a notch. For a game that's supposed to be an outlet for one of TV's most opinionated analysts, M99 was pretty sparse in the commentary department. M2000 has much more of a televised game sound to it. Either Madden or Pat Summerall has something to say after every play. And while some of the commentary can get kind of repetitive, a lot of the time it's your own fault. In other words, if you're sick of hearing "The defense filled all the gaps and the runner had nowhere to go," maybe you should stop trying to run that same lame off-tackle so much.
Gameplay offers something for everyone. New players can learn the basics using the one-button mode. Here, instead of having to pull off a semi-dexterous three-button combination to complete a pass, you just have to keep pounding on the A-button. But unless this is the very first game you've ever played or you're training for a career in Morse code telegraphy, you'll be getting bored of this almost immediately.
Less serious football fans might also like the slightly tweaked Arcade mode. It's now a lot looser and full of bigger plays. It's not as over-the-top insane as NFL Blitz 2000, but there are still a lot more breakaways than in a regular sim, and every once in a while someone gets popped so hard a helmet goes flying. The very un-Maddenesque, smarm-city announcer, though, deserves to be blind-sided by Warren Sapp.
Hardcore fans and gamers will appreciate the more realistic Exhibition, Season, and Tournament modes. The AI here is pretty solid. Blockers and linemen hit who they're supposed to hit. Corners and safeties cover the guys they're supposed to cover. For the most part, if the defense gets burned for a long play, it was because the guy you were controlling went to sleep.
Fantasy Football fans should also get a kick out of the Franchise mode. It lets you be the head coach/general manager of a team for up to 30 years. And the best part is that it doesn't actually take 30 years. You control the on-field and off-field activity of a team. You get to draft players, negotiate contracts, and sign free agents. You'll either be known as a dynasty-builder or "the dude that wallowed in mediocrity for over a quarter of a century." The thirty year aspect is also good because now we can finally find out if the crop of graduating college seniors in the year 2016 is as strong as ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is saying it is. Of course, in a true Fantasy Football world, John Madden would look an awful lot more like Jennifer Love-Hewitt.
There's a lot to like in M2000. The graphics are top-notch. The audio gives it a real TV feel. And gameplay is strong and can be adjusted to suit newbies and die-hards. For those waiting before making the leap to 128-bits, Madden 2000 is as good as football gets.
- For big numbers, play as an untested, high draft choice. Ricky Williams is a monster.
- Switching the default defender from a lineman to a LB or DB frustrates most QBs.