Remember when it was cool to follow American football? Back when it was on Channel 4 interest in the sport was at it peak, since the jump to satellite it has dwindled even though we have a European version but I’ve recently regained an interest. Perfect timing to pick up Madden and see how it plays but why should we care – its another annual EA update?
The attraction of this version is that you can play it on several levels from the practice or exhibition modes to the in-depth franchise option. If you tire of playing a game you can even let the console play it for you and amazingly its just like watching television coverage with no loading times or annoying advert breaks. The franchise option allows you to control a team for up to 50 seasons. In this period you can control the roster, make trades, create players and plays, do the college draft and all while ensuring your team is successful and you keep within the salary cap. All the statistics you will ever need are here but they don’t infringe on the game play.
As this is from EA the presentation is of the highest quality with user friendly menus and a simple control system. All the teams, stadiums, players and coaches tactics are here with another 200 hidden for you to discover as you progress. Graphically this game is very impressive from the resolution and lighting of the players to the animation. This is probably the closest yet we’ve come to a realistic simulation due to the game tackles being calculated on a real physics engine i.e. size, speed and power of players. Unlike previous games, players cannot suddenly change direction at full speed adding to the realism. Injuries can occur and you can take pleasure in seeing your target rolling around in agony, nice. The surround sound is very impressive with the crowd; announcer and player noises creating a realistic match day feel. The commentary is good compared to other sports games that I have played but during the season and franchise modes it can begin to grate if you hear the same Madden quote about you star player for the 152nd time!
To add more depth with a touch of Pokemon, EA have added the clever Madden card bonuses. These cards can be collected and will open up cheats, special options, stadiums etc. They are judged on a rarity value and are bought with points earned during the game, for instance the gain 100 yards running you’ll 10 points but 150 equals 15 and so on. Often during a game you may find you decisions influenced by what points you can earn and certain cards can be played during a game to boost performance. Just like Pokemon the Madden cards can be traded in order to acquire a full set and then used as you see fit.
As with most American Football games the most enjoyable way is to play with friends and here you can play with up to seven others. Although who actually has two multi-taps and a stack of controllers? Don’t expect to win very often if you play against the console but the chaotic mess that we endured was great fun. Once you become more accomplished you can turn off the various Easy play options for passing, running, clock penalties etc.
For all of its gloss there are some annoying faults with Madden that EA should have sorted before it’s release. During games players will often walk through one another and when the action is at its peak the speed will drop. The kick meter is red on a brown background; surely the game testers must have noticed that this is very hard to follow? The 40-second play clock is an important feature if you wish to run down the game clock and avoid penalties but in certain stadiums it isn’t clearly visible or even shown! No doubt Madden 2002 will correct these but the main flaw is that an American Football game can be perceived by the public to be long, boring and complex. Give it a go and you may be surprised.