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Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: December 6, 2000
The Madden series has been integral to the EA Sports collection of games for more than a decade, and Madden NFL 2001 marks a new territory for the franchise as it makes its debut on the PS2. This year also posts a new challenge for the venerable series; many have considered the Dreamcast’s NFL 2K1 the best football title available for a console to date. With the new power of the Emotion Engine backing up the proceedings, though, this year’s Madden hopes to remind Dreamcast players why the series has so many championship rings from years past.
Madden NFL 2001 offers players a comprehensive football experience by letting users set up virtually any conceivable scenario. In addition to exhibition games, coaches can lead a team through a full sixteen game season, or extend their control over the long term by following a franchise. Common to most sports titles released this year, the franchise option includes off-season control of a team. New players appear in the draft each year, replacing those who may retire between seasons. Even a team’s coach may decide to throw in the towel and resign during the off-season, changing the team’s tactics to reflect a new guiding influence and a different playbook.
Each team has historic counterparts included for use in exhibition play. While it may be anachronistic, long time fans of a franchise will appreciate the opportunity to resurrect the rosters of the past. Identified by the team name and year, the line up includes recent stars like the ’98 Falcons or ’96 Panthers, but also looks as far back as the ’67 Packers and the ’57 Lions. Also included are “All” versions of each team, which pull together the best players from the history of each franchise. Players will have to brush up on their statistical knowledge to fully appreciate these special teams, however, as only the statistics and jersey numbers for each character have been imported, leaving their names blank.
Aside from the teams, several other aspects of an exhibition match can be customized. The game can take place in any of the NFL stadiums across the country; and time and weather conditions may also be specified. By default, games are played during normal daylight, but dusk and night can affect the lighting conditions on the field. Similarly, precipitation and temperature controls allow for rain and snowfall, affecting receivers and overall traction on the turf. Even fog can become a factor, blanketing the field in a thick mist that can aggravate passing games even further.
The ubiquitous player creator appears in Madden NFL 2001, allowing users to put themselves in the game, or promote their favorite college players to the NFL. Aside from individual touches like eye black, facemasks and gloves, the player’s height and weight are accurately modeled. This means the hulking behemoth you assemble in your laboratory will tower over the opposition, but most likely turn with all the agility of a clumsy iceberg. Once crafted, they enter the league as a free agent, meaning they may be signed onto a team and subsequently traded or released.
One of the most unique features in Madden NFL 2001 is the collection of Madden Cards, a form of reward system that circumvents the typical cheat modes found in sports offerings. Each team has a set of special goals they must accomplish if they participate in the Madden Challenge, along with a wide assortment of tasks common to all teams. Typical goals include returning a kickoff for a touchdown, successfully completing a 40 or 60-yard pass and sacking the QB three times with the same player. Since it is a type of sub-game, the Challenge rewards skilled plays with a type of currency known as tokens. The amount of tokens rewarded depends on the difficulty of the task and the level of the opposing AI — meaning that 60-yard pass against an All-Madden AI is worth far more than a sack on Rookie. As the tokens are accumulated, they are saved as part of a user profile and can be stocked up from game to game. As noted, tokens are a currency, and they may be spent on virtual “packs” of Madden Cards which work much like booster packs common to collectable card games. Each booster costs one hundred tokens, and contains fifteen cards.
As the cards are collected, they are added to the appropriate profile’s collection, which is represented by a multi-page binder that can hold the complete set of 297. Each card is rated by quality, value and duration, having an overall value denoted by bronze, silver and gold. When played, these cards can temporarily boost player statistics, unlock new stadiums and even activate cheat modes that can narrow your opponent’s uprights or give your team five downs to make ten yards. Any card that affects play will usually be used up when activated, and even then they are limited to a maximum duration. Using multiple profiles or memory cards will let players trade otherwise useless cards from their portfolios. Optionally, these bonuses can be put on the line whenever two players go head to head, with the spoils going to the winner.
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