Game Reviews
Madden NFL 2000
by EA Sports/Electronic Arts

For PC football fanatics, Madden is THE name in computer football. This long-running series has kept fans busy for hours at a time - managing teams and playing out the games. Has it really been ten years since the series began? Madden 2000 keeps up the tradition of excellence in football sims and adds some new features as well.

For those who played Madden 99, you have some idea of what EA Sports has done with the graphics. They are every bit as wonderful this time around, with even more player animation to spruce things up. Some of the movement is a little jerky, especially when a player switches from run mode to tackle mode. The play doesn't always simply flow through as well as it did in Microsoft's NFL Fever 2000. Viewing the game takes place from any of eight pre-configured camera angles, each of which may be tweaked to anyone's personal taste. The stadiums have also been recreated very well, with many of the unique features of the different ones shown off.

Sound effects are very well done; you can almost hear the bones crunching. Grunts are placed in all the correct places and the players' voices are audible and clear. The music is modern and very original; the opening track itself is worth a few smiles for amusement value. Commentary is a very important part of any sports game, and Madden has perhaps the most recognizable of all. Play by play is provided by Pat Summerall and John Madden (who else), the lovable combination that makes it all the more realistic. Some of the commentary is a little wooden, lacking some of the emotion and spontaneity present in many other sports games.

The gameplay element of Madden has been a standard in the PC football genre. It's just enough of a cross between a simulation and an action game to be very entertaining. The action comes fast and furious and the AI gets better each time around. While still not perfect, the AI does some remarkable things and provides an excellent challenge. You need to be extra careful if you want to succeed since the AI will run the ball successfully if you don't play good enough defense. Their passes are also more accurate, requiring you to be right on the target if you don't want them to slip through your fingers. Off field, you will find a wealth of options - some that existed before and some that are new. Free agents, salary caps, limits on roster, and a player creation utility are all there for your tinkering pleasure. The ability to use "super players" is limited by the fact that his salary demands will rise, effectively limiting abuse. Madden is still an action game at its heart, but seems to be becoming a more and more serious simulation with each incarnation.

As is the case with most football games, control is best left to the gamepad, then to the keyboard, and lastly to the mouse. I'm still waiting for someone to develop a good mouse interface for a football game, on par with what NBA Inside Drive 2000 did for basketball, Triple Play 2000 did for baseball, and what EVERY golf game does. Madden 2000 doesn't even get the off-field interface comfortable. While playable, selection is rough and doesn't even recognize mouse button presses half the time - either that or there is a really annoying delay. Of course, you can have patience with the off-field stuff, it's on-field that you need to make the quick decisions and run patterns. Things are just fine with a gamepad and to a lesser extent, the keyboard.

Madden 2000 is one of the best football titles on the market. Each new version seems to get better and better. While this edition is the best so far, but there is still room for improvement. Player animation could be a bit smoother, especially when it comes to takedowns. The off-field interface could be more responsive and easier to navigate. A decent mouse interface could be implemented on-field. However, these are all minor concerns. They would be very welcome tweaks, but that still doesn't take away from the fact that this is an excellent football game, the best Madden so far.

Overall Impression

Bottom Line: Improved graphics and animation. AI has been increased - you need to be on your toes or the opposing team will run rings around you. The interface needs work both on and off field, but a gamepad will suffice while on.


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