Madden NFL 2003
Score: 9.1 / 10
year’s edition of Madden was a great game.
As feature rich as any game in recent memory, Madden 2002 kept me
playing right up until the review copy for Madden 2003 arrived in my
mailbox. Now, after having
an opportunity to put Madden through its paces, I can honestly say that
I’m likely to play it up until the release of Madden 2004.
It is simply that good and deep.
wealth of game modes is Madden’s strongest feature.
Like last year’s model, Madden 2003 features a huge selection
of modes. These modes range
from the expected (exhibition, season, franchise) through the sublime
(two-minute drill) to the ridiculous (the new mini-camp mode).
On top of these modes, the option to set up any imaginable
situation (field position, time on clock, down, possession, teams) and
play it to its conclusion means that there is an almost infinite amount
of play in Madden 2003 even if a player never plays a full game.
playing a two-minute drill or a franchise mode game, players will notice
a number of game play tweaks over last year’s model.
The most exciting tweak for the hardcore fan is clearly the new
create-a-playbook option. Casual
fans need not apply, but the more dedicated player can design an entire
team playbook right down to the route ran by the receivers or
positioning of the defensive secondary.
It is the kind of depth and “tweakability” usually reserved
for racing sims and role playing games.
different for this year’s game is the slight downgrading of the
momentum model. Last
year’s battle between Madden and NFL2K was often discussed as the
battle between real-life physics and arcade physics (an assessment
unfair to NFL2K, by the way). I
haven’t played the new NFL2K, but I can tell you Madden has come
toward the middle a bit. At
times last year it could seem like the players were playing in six
inches of molasses. This
year, players move a bit more freely.
Momentum is still a factor, and players can’t jump ten yards to
make a tackle, but it is certainly more free-moving than last year’s
franchise mode hasn’t change much from Madden 2002, so I won’t spend
much time discussing it, but, again, Madden offers the deepest, most
tweakable, franchise mode of the next-gen football games (though NCAA
2003’s Dynasty mode certainly gives it a run for its money).
The Madden franchise includes seasonal drafts, scouting of
rookies, handling of player contracts, off-season training to improve
player abilities, free agency, and the ability to import players from an
NCAA 2003 team. The player
imports from NCAA are improved greatly as the players now come in at a
decent level and are actually playable as rookies after pre-season
Madden remains a fine looking game.
Importantly, the player models have been improved over the
previous edition. Linemen
are noticeably less squat and corners look less like toothpicks.
Still, the faces slapped on to the bodies are scary and
zombie-like. It is the one
graphical area where Madden really lags behind the other sports
franchises. Hopefully, next
year will see an improvement to this are which will leave little to
complain about graphically.
audio commentary has also improved slightly over last year with the
addition of Al Michaels (and Melissa Stark on the sidelines).
Matched with the highly polished graphical presentation, the
commentary and sound effects really do a great job of making a player
feel like they are part of an NFL telecast.
worth noting is the new Mini-Camp mode.
It is clearly designed for the casual gamer who might not have
time (or inclination) to devote hours to a videogame.
The Mini-Camp mode offers a good selection of mini-games that are
pretty fun and addictive. It
is perfect for when a player needs a football fix but doesn’t have an
hour to devote to a full game.
Despite the improvements, I’m going to assign Madden 2003 the same score that I gave Madden 2002. The changes are nice, but none of them mark a truly great leap over last year’s game. Additionally, while other games are going online to increase the value of the product (including even Madden 2003 on the PS2), the GameCube edition is, sadly, missing this feature. With online play Madden 2003 would clearly be one of the best games on the GCN, without it, it remains a fine game that will suck up hours of most player’s time.
- Tolen Dante
(September 14, 2002)
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