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Steve (Bane) Rhoades December 6, 2001 Review Feedback

Madden 2002

[an error occurred while processing this directive] 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 strong performance.




Release Date:

EA Sports

EA Sports



Game Details

The 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.

Game Title Stats
A lot of good new ideas. Inclusion of Texans (or custom team) a plus.

The most fun on the electronic gridiron since Tecmo Bowl.
Excellent on the average, but a few glitches are out there.
Commentary is dry and repetitive. Menu songs are terrible.
Replay Value
You can play this one 'til the cows come home.
Turning the commentary down makes this one near perfect.

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