Madden NFL 2002 Review
It never seizes to amaze me on the wonderful job the Madden crew does time after time with every new Madden title. Since the beginning of its 12-year life, the Madden franchise has escalated to become the most respected football franchise, as well as one of the most popular sports franchises in videogaming history. Falling behind for about two seasons, the Madden series couldn't keep up with Sony's own NFL GameDay series, which shortly after took a downfall as EA Sports regained its pigskin crown. Releasing their very first next-generation Madden title last year, Madden NFL 2001 put every naysayer out of his misery. Madden NFL 2001 was easily the best football title of the year, despite what any Sega fan boy will tell you (and let the emails begin). While NFL 2K1 was a great title, it was too arcadish and didn't have much sense of realism as does Madden. Let's drop that subject though. Madden NFL 2001 was one of the best -and one of the most revolutionary- launch titles to grace a console in a long time --Super Mario 64 possibly being taking that crown--. Madden NFL 2001's presentation of realism was unparallel; everything from the deep playbook to the fluid visuals made Madden 2001 what it is (or was) now. But as they say; 'here today, gone tomorrow', as is the case with Madden 2001. With the release of Madden NFL 2002, last year's title has been instantaneously replaced by its further improved sequel.
When I first laid my hands on Madden 2001 last year, I kept on questioning myself, 'how can EA possibly make the game look better than it already does?' I guess taking the original and adding a whole bunch of new features into it answered my question. Let's start off light. Madden 2002's athletic detail is much better than it was before. Instead of being round, short and somewhat stumpy looking athletes, Madden 2002's players are now perfect in regard to every single dimension. Not only do they represent their respective counterpart almost accurately, but they now feature their respective face as well. No more zombie looking, beaty-eyed faces that have only one tone of skin color. Madden NFL 2002 now has roughly a dozen of skin tone colors, to represent each and every athlete accordingly. The facial detail has been improved as well. After a completed pass, or a broken up play, the quarterback will show a facial expression, depending on the situation of course. Aside from the QB's reaction, EA has concentrated a little more on the coaches as well. Now from time to time, the camera will pan over and switch to the sideline where you have the bench, media, sideline officials, and of course the coach. While the coaches don't exactly throw hissy fits as they would in an actual game, they do throw their arms down, or make some kind of gesture that is signaling the team to get it together. Basically it's a focus that's far better than it was in the first PS2 Madden.
What about the motion captured animations? Well, what about them? EA has included hundreds of new animations. The sad part is that the dive catches are gone. For as long as I have played the game I didn't see a single superman leap or a ballerina hop for the football, which makes the phrase "he could've had that," a very common one throughout gameplay. An animation I also didn't see in Madden is the slide motion which was present in NCAA 2002, a move I found to be quite handy, and pretty. But maybe I just wasn't lucky enough, then again I did play the game quite frequently, so a matter of luck -or not- seems to be somewhat out of the question. Now the one thing that really impressed me was that the tackles look more realistic than ever, thanks to the improved collision detection. The stadium detail hasn't changed much, but now the game has cheerleaders that are used for team intros, so that the athletes run in between them. The helmet reflections look even prettier than before, and if a hit is hard enough, the helmet may come flying off. Overall, the visuals have changed tremendously, from afar it's not very noticeable, but gander at the game through the replay mode and you'll instantly see all of the new visual features. One question remains: how can EA make Madden look any better? You felt that coming didn't you?
Those who have just wandered into the world of 128-bit gaming and never played Madden 2001 for PS2 will need a little adjustment time. As for those who've torn the first PS2 Madden apart, you will feel right at home. The playbook seems to have remained the same, but this time around the gamer is finally able to challenge plays himself. Unlike Madden 2001, where the chance of a Coaches Challenge would be almost nil, Madden NFL 2002 now has an option for you to use, which is a big plus. Some obvious changes were made in Madden 2002. The inclusion of more modes is now apparent, modes such as Two-minute drill, Create-a-team, Training mode, and Game Situation mode. For those wondering, Game Situation mode is a very cool feature that allows the gamer to choose from two teams (Away and Home), set the quarter, clock, score, and down. So for example, I picked the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. I set the quarter to 4th, the time remaining to 2:15, the down to 3rd, possession to Vikings, and the score 55-41 (Titans adv.). Now, as most of you have guessed it, I begin the game and this leaves the Vikings 2:15 seconds of game time to score two touchdowns, in order to avoid shame. I can guarantee that the Situation Mode will be the more popular mode in the game.
As always we have the Franchise Mode, Season mode, and Exhibition game. The Franchise mode gives the gamer full control over his dedicated team, including drafting and trading, while on the way to pigskin supremacy. The season is a straight shooter mode that takes you through 15-16 games, but unlike the Franchise mode, it isn't as deep. And of course the Exhibition mode, for a quick game with buds, or just for practice, this mode is always around for you. This being a 2002 title, Madden also features the most up to date rosters, jerseys, statistics (excluding the stats for the classic teams, those are out of whack) and stadiums. The Houston Texans are the newest franchise in the NFL, and are available for selection in the game as well. My one disappointment with the game is that there is no Classic Madden mode (play 16-bit Madden), like there is one in the PSX version. Aside from that little nick, you all know what to expect from, well... the best football game of the year hands-down. Granted, this may not be the most in-depth review, but Madden is Madden, and it speaks for itself. Just go and get the game.
Oh yeah fellas, you read right, 3.0 for sound, and if the next Madden game has the same audio as 2002, expect a 0.0. That's a guarantee! I'm tired of Pat Sumerall's snooze fest commentary, and I'm sick and tired of John Madden's "shut the hell up already" commentary. I generally love commentary in every EA Sports title especially FIFA titles, such as FIFA 2001. But Madden's audio has been declining very steadily, and I find it to be some of the most redundant game audio around. On top of that the rap music is extremely cheap, it's terrible, it's...something I could come up with in 5 minutes. While I'm not a fan of rap, I could tell what song took hours to write, and which one took minutes. It may say John Madden on the cover, but EA, try to explain to Madden that he needs to make his commentary sound more professional, or try stealing Dennis Miller away from the Disney/ESPN folk. Before I wrap this up, I should mention that the crowd chanting is awesome. Playing with the Titans, I heard "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie," countless times, and playing with the Jets I heard "J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!" quite frequently as well, and I liked that.
The controls are still as solid as ever, the game runs smooth on two feet, and frame rate is not an issue. The controls have remained pretty much the same as Madden 2001, which is excellent because I loved the controls in Madden 2001; they were extremely precise. I believe my exact words for the controls were: "Oh wow, did I get a bang out of the controls. The precise movements make it so much more comfortable to pull off running plays that it leaves other games in the dust. Using the analog and viewing your runner, you will notice that EA Sports has really struck gold with the accurate movements, thanks to the more advanced motion-capturing techniques that they now use. The controls for passing and running plays have remained the same, except stiff arms are now sensitive to how hard you press the L1 and R1 buttons, big points for that one. The Dual Shock has a lot of great power to it and every tackle can be felt with full force." Yeah...that pretty much sums it up. The controls in Madden are tight!
While to the very few, Madden 2002 will feel like the 'same old same old' (those people deserve to be hit with bricks), all in all Madden NFL 2002 is a substantial improvement in the series. The controls have remained untouched, the visuals have received a major overhaul, and the gameplay has been reinvented all over again. The sheer amount of new modes, and the overall depth of this game is unrivaled. It's very interesting to see if Sega will be able to compete with their PS2 version of NFL 2K2 next year. Indeed, the fight for virtual pigskin supremacy has officially begun. Madden NFL 2002 is a highly recommended purchase.
9/3/2001 Arnold Katayev