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Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: October 12, 2001
It’s only a matter of time before computer and videogames become totally indistinguishable from live television. I remember playing the laser disc arcade game Dragon’s Lair many years ago and thinking its smooth graphics were the apex of interactive entertainment, but seeing the latest influx of next-generation console titles, that’s obviously not true. I point specifically towards Sega’s football releases for the Dreamcast and EA Sports’ Madden series for the PlayStation 2. I was tempted to go out and buy a console system just for the realism of these offerings, knowing that despite my computer’s comparable (if not better) hardware, sports releases for the PC always seem to lack the same playability and fun found on consoles. With EA Sports’ latest entry in the Madden NFL series for 2002, however, the company is attempting to bring back the fun console experience for computer gamers.
Madden NFL 2002 marks the thirteenth year of former Raiders’ coach and football commentator John Madden’s signature computer game series, dating back to the Apple II version in 1989. This year’s improvements include an updated graphics engine, an option to create your own teams and customize their appearance, more stable Internet play, an enhanced franchise mode, and the addition of the new expansion team, the Houston Texans. Many of the features from the 2001 version remain unchanged, such as the practice mode to perfect your offense and defense, the coach-specific playbooks, as well as classic “Great Games,” allowing players to recreate history on the gridiron.
Like last year’s release, Madden 2002 includes several game modes to experience the physical chess that is American football. Players interested in a quick match-up can play in Exhibition mode, pitting two teams in a specific stadium during certain times of day under different user-defined weather conditions. There is also the option to play an exhibition match under any given situation set up by the user, allowing you to back up your claim to friends that you can beat them with the Redskins while down by 49 midway through the third quarter. Many of the game mechanics can be customized in the gameplay settings screen through a series of sliders, allowing you to adjust such elements as quarterback accuracy, pass knockdowns, punt accuracy, and tackling ability. Every match is announced by commentators Pat Summerall, John Madden, and Lesley Visser, further serving to add a sense of realism to the competition.
In order to prepare for Exhibition matchups, Madden 2002 also includes a Practice mode that allows you to perfect all aspects of the gameplay, from kicking field goals, to running offensive and defensive sets. This mode allows you to recreate practically any field situation, moving the ball to a particular spot or placing players in a set formation. Players with enough confidence and experience can also tackle the Great Games mode, which allows you to commandeer various teams in historical NFL match-ups. Each one of the 35 Great Games offers a challenging scenario which, when won, unlocks the teams involved so you can use them during Exhibition, Franchise, or Season games, and makes the next scenario available.
While exhibition and practice sessions may be fun, the focus of this title is on its powerful and comprehensive Franchise mode. Football fanatics will no doubt drool over the many features, which allow participants to act as General Manager and Head Coach as well as a player on the field. You can play through a full NFL season in this way, or build your own football dynasty through multiple seasons. While Season mode recreates the drama of 20 weeks of pigskin madness leading up to the Super Bowl, Franchise mode goes a step beyond, taking into account elements relevant in the post season. You can participate in the player draft, negotiate contracts, waive players, and sign free agents, all while noticing last year’s players aging and retiring. Rotisserie league fans may enjoy the Fantasy Draft option when creating a new league, a feature that allows you to form teams from the entire pool of NFL players. Once a league is in place, players can choose to play their teams’ games personally or quickly simulate them from the Play Week menu. Team and player statistics are plentiful throughout, updating themselves to reflect a new season in progress.
Madden 2002 also features an Online Franchise mode, allowing gamers across the world to compete in custom seasons. This is essentially an interactive rotisserie league, where human players can go through a draft, propose trades with each other, send messages, and actually play out competitions. Finding players is aided by Electronic Arts’ EA Football Net, a free service that keeps track of user statistics and facilitates online leagues. Large online leagues may require a commissioner to maintain it, a role anyone involved can fulfill.
On top of everything, this year’s release includes the ability to custom design new teams and players for inclusion in Franchise and Exhibition play. Using a series of buttons and sliders, you can create new players and define both their physical and play attributes. Gamers also have the option of designing new teams for a custom league, choosing a coach name, a playbook, team name, and location. There is a large selection of uniform types and colors, and it is possible to import new graphics into the program using an included set of templates and an external paint program.
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