Madden NFL 2000Before we start our review of Madden NFL 2000, let's just take a moment to revel in the simple fact that a commercial football simulation has been released for the Mac. This may not seem like a vast step, but remember that the last such program, XOR Football, pitted teams of plucky Xs and Os against one another on a one-bit gridiron with player interaction limited to calling plays.
Fortunately, Madden NFL 2000 is among the best football simulations currently available on any platform—console or coin-op. The game offers spectacular depth—you can do anything from practicing a spe-cific play until you're satisfied with it to coaching a franchise until the owners fire you (or until the end of 30 seasons, if you last that long). If you really get into the game, you can set audibles, create your own plays and playbooks, and even trade players.
Rich, detailed gameplay is Madden's real strength. This isn't the simplified, seven-man football presented by NFL Blitz, Cyberball, or so many other games. Here, full teams of 11 players compete on a field that (almost uniquely among computer football simulations) accurately represents the 100-yard field's enormity. Play-by-play commentary by John Madden and Pat Summerall generally manages to be both accurate and relevant, with occasionally hilarious glitches (in particular, Madden sometimes comments that the offense should have gone for a field goal, after they've already tried...and failed).
Madden NFL offers increasing levels of complexity, from a somewhat absurd Arcade mode up to a full Franchise mode. Arcade mode removes so many of the game's intricacies that what's left scarcely seems worth playing. In Exhibition mode, one or two players play a simple game with no real context. In Season mode, players compete throughout an entire season, from the initial commentary by Madden and Summerall to the end of Superbowl Sunday. Football fanatics can try Franchise mode, where you control a team for 30 seasons (provided you keep winning). Franchise mode lets you make trades, resign players and hire free agents, pick players in the NFL draft, and generally exercise total control over a team.
The game's greatest weakness is its appalling interface, a holdover from the game's debut on console machines. Even an outstanding console interface feels clunky on a Mac with a mouse and keyboard. The game also has a rich and interesting variety of crashing bugs (Aspyr expects a forthcoming patch), network play between Mac and Windows versions isn't possible, and the control set (originally designed for the PlayStation's button-encrusted controller) tends to crush lesser joysticks.
Madden's graphics are typical of the current crop of 3D games: The graphics are detailed—even the folds where the players' jersey's hang loose are clearly visible. Madden can display at resolutions up to 1024 by 768, but the increase in detail wasn't worth the performance hit on our 400MHz blue-and-white G3. While the animation is smooth enough not to interfere with the game, it remains somewhat stilted—one MacAddict staffer compared it to watching a Beavis and Butt-Head cartoon.
Still, Madden NFL 2000 is the best football simulator we've seen on any platform. Aspyr has finally broken the decade-long drought of Macintosh sports games, and has done it in fine style. Let's hope the release marks a new trend. We'd rather not wait another decade to see more fine sports games on the Mac.