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Q4 2002



- The wealth of modes is stunning

- Plays quicker and more fluidly than last year’s edition

- Create-a-playbook option for the hardcore fan



- No online play

- Nothing truly revolutionary



Review: Madden NFL 2003 (PC)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Playstation 2)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (XBox)



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Madden NFL 2003

Score: 9.1 / 10


Last 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.  


madden-nfl-2003-gc-1.jpg (34470 bytes)          madden-nfl-2003-gc-2.jpg (143668 bytes)


The 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.


Whether 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.





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Also 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 game.



The 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 progression.


Graphically, 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.


The 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.  


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Finally, 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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