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Madden 2002 is hands down the best football game
that I have played since the original Tecmo Bowl
for the NES. That isn't to say that it doesn't have
problems (because it certainly has a fair share), but
these problems are very forgivable in light of the game's
first thing you're likely to do when playing Madden
2002 is to play a quick game. You get right into the
action with some decent (yet simplified) default settings.
This is what I did, simply to get a feel for the game
(this is my first iteration of the series in a few years).
Needless to say, I was rather awestruck by the graphics.
Player models are well drawn, and animated fluidly (though
they look a bit silly when changing direction), and the
overall attention to detail is excellent. Player uniforms
get dirtier as the game continues, most of the time tackle
physics seem realistic, and many of the players (and certainly
the coaches) look like their real world counterparts.
The graphics are customizable to a decent degree, you
can play the game from a variety of angles, though I find
the default to be adequate most of the time (short passes
towards the sidelines are tough). I was happy to discover
that you can choose to have both the first down marker
and the line of scrimmage marked on the field during play
(like the computer overlays when watching games on TV).
While the graphics are generally top-notch, the gameplay
is where this game truly shines. First of all, it contains
a gazillion options to customize the style of game, including
the frequency of each individual penalty being called
(you may want to turn down the frequency of holding calls).
Once the game actually starts, there are a few different
options ahead of you too. You can ask Madden for a suggestion
on any offensive play (sorry, there's no defensive coordinator),
you can flip any play horizontally, you've got hurry up
offense, a variety of different audibles, and up to five
targets for passes (on the five most convenient buttons
no less). Finally, you can call plays based on formation,
or based on the "go to guy." Calling a play based on the
go to guy brings up a selection of plays which feature
the given player (QB, RB, TE, or WR) getting the ball,
be it as a run or as a reception.
This seems like as good a juncture as any to voice me
extreme disappointment in the fact that there seems to
be no HB option in this game. Maybe it's in one of the
playbooks I haven't tried, but I know that Bill Cowher
runs the HB option, and he certainly does not have the
play in his book on this game. It has always been one
of my favorite plays in football, and I am extremely saddened
by the fact that I cannot find it after about 30 games.
Once you actually run the play, there's still a lot you
can do. Before you snap the ball any play can be changed
via audible. An entirely new play can be chosen this way
(out of a few choices), and you can also modify a single
receiver's route via audible, to keep the defense on their
toes. After the snap, while running you can break tackles,
hurdle, juke, and stiff-arm your way past defenders. As
QB, you can switch between running and passing mode with
the press of a button, and you can through your passes
based on the receiver's current direction or based upon
the route he is assigned to run.
The last iteration of this series that I played had a
lot of problems with the passing game (or at least, I
had a lot of problems with the passing game). I am happy
to report that the passing game is much easier to use
in this version, though it will certainly take some practice.
Considering the fact that the two teams I have spent most
of my time playing as are the Steelers and a created expansion
team, neither of which have stellar QBs as far as passing
goes (though Stewart is impressing me this season), I
would imaging passing could be even easier with some of
the other teams. The run game is easy to use (even when
I'm not using the Bus), and easy to stop on defense.
Of course, everything changes when you move up from rookie
difficulty to pro. On rookie, I average about 150 yards
running per game, and my passing fluctuates greatly. I
played a game on pro, and had less than 100 yards total
offense, the opposing team actually outran me (and I lost).
Pro difficulty does seem playable, though gone are the
days of Bettis averaging 9 yards per carry. Fortunately
though, the difficulty levels do seem to actually make
the players better, rather than simply make the computer
succeed more often and you fail more often. Certainly
my completion percentage went down, but it was because
so many more passes were being deflected, not because
my passes were less accurate.
Let's talk a bit about game modes shall we? Madden
2002 includes an abundance of them. We've got the
quick play feature I mentioned, as well as the essential
exhibition, season, and practice mode. Furthermore we've
got the franchise mode (ownership of the team over up
to thirty seasons), custom tournaments, and create a league
features. The coolest two play modes though are "situation"
and "2 minute drill." In the situation mode, you define
practically everything, from the time left in the game,
to the score, to the yard line, number of yards needed
for a first, and the current number of downs remaining.
You then get to play out the rest of the game, and hopefully
achieve victory. In two minute drill, you start off a
long drive with two minutes left in the game, depending
on getting out of bounds, calling time outs, or using
a hurry up offense to score as much as possible in those
two minutes. There is also a training mode, in which Madden
gives pointers on particular plays prior to your running
them, and then you attempt the play a few times.
While we are on the topic of Madden himself, I must say
that one significant downside to this game is how often
you have to listen to the guy. He and his fellow commentators
repeat themselves quite a bit, and much of what they say
is inane--even for a sports commentator. He may not be
your cup of tea, but after a few Madden 2002 games
I am desperately wishing that I could have some Dennis
Miller commentary over my games.
I should also mention that while playing in any of the
various game modes, it is possible to earn "Madden Cards."
Some of these can be played during a game for a variety
of effects, while others unlock hidden teams or stadiums.
There are 350 (or so) of these cards, and you get a random
15 every time you earn enough tokens to buy a pack. Gotta
catch 'em all!
While I touched on the graphics briefly, there's still
a bit more to be said. The game certainly excels at player
animation, and players perform a wide variety of actions
through the course of your average football game. Their
hands move to catch the ball, there is no mysterious skip
from "ball in the air" to "ball in the player's hands."
From diving to blocking to ducking tackles, the majority
of animation sequences are astoundingly lifelike, and
really draw you into the game. However, players changing
direction while running are a bit weak, as they rotate
in a pretty unrealistic way. Furthermore, during the "cut
scenes" between plays, there is usually a focus on one
particular character, while the rest are slightly out
of focus. Furthermore, occasionally the in-focus player
will walk right through one of these other guys, which
is slightly disturbing.
As I said originally though, the problems in this game
are very easy to overlook. They are all relatively minor
problems, and while they may annoy at times, you will
be having such a blast playing this game that you may
not even notice. Add the fact that most game modes are
playable for up to four players, and you have hours of
fun ahead of you. All in all, Madden 2002 is a
stellar football game to keep Gamecube owners occupied
for a very long time.
A lot of good new ideas. Inclusion of Texans
(or custom team) a plus.
The most fun on the electronic gridiron since
Excellent on the average, but a few glitches
are out there.
Commentary is dry and repetitive. Menu songs
You can play this one 'til the cows come home.
the commentary down makes this one near perfect.