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August 13, 2002



- Excellent football game

- Superb sound

- So Many Options!!!!

- Captured the spirit of the home stadiums

- Excellent incorporation of gamepad into play

- Able to play as all NFL and NFL Europe teams



- Some blocky textures in close views (look at the grilles on helmets)

- Missing the specialized plays for teams

- Some absolutely strange substitutions by the AI

- Scrambling with quarterback doesn’t work particularly well



Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Gamecube)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Gameboy Advance)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Playstation 2)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (XBox)



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Madden NFL 2003

Score: 9.0 / 10


Every year about this time, the Armchair Empire is absolutely deluged with football titles and inevitably the most popular are the EA Sports titles. Fortunately for me, I was able to get my dirty little mitts on the PC version of Madden NFL 2003. Right off, this game is downright amazing – I can’t recall ever being so immersed in a computer sports game in a while. The depth of the options are downright scary; diving right into all of the features will just leave you overwhelmed, so I’d recommend to take a bare-bottom approach until you can slowly add extra wrinkles.  


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Madden 2003 offers the usual variety of game play styles: Exhibition, Franchise, Practice, 2 Minute Drill, and Mini-Camp. The Exhibition mode is pretty much what it sounds like – a game between any 2 teams. Franchise Mode gives you the opportunity to play the general manager and coach for a team; this mode allows you to play with as much depth as you like. (If you feel some perverse need to deal with football nuances like salary caps, contract disputes, injuries, as well as the hiring of personnel it’s available.) The Practice mode lets you work simulated plays against different defenses (with their own specific defensive formations). 2 Minute Drill is exactly what it sounds like – try to bring your team victory with 2 minutes remaining in the game (it’s an excellent way to practice time management and hurry up offenses). Mini-Camp consists of you visiting different cities and practicing specific drills with a team (DB-Swat drills, QB Pocket Presence, QB Passing Efficiency, Trench Fighting, Coffin Kicking, LB Chase and Tackle Drills, and Clutch Field Goal Kicking) – this mode will definitely help the new gamer adjust quickly to the commands and help improve running the game on both sides of the ball (and special teams).





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Controlling the game from the offensive side of the ball can be a tad overwhelming – all of the plays are chosen from one of the five or so base formations (Shotgun, 4 Wide outs, Single back, Split backfield, I Formation, Split I, Twin Wides…) and then from there the specific play is chosen. All of the offensive plays are either passing or running varieties (sorry, they still haven’t included option plays or screen passes). Before the snap, you have the opportunity to take a look at the 


defensive formation and if you are so inclined, call an audible play (you have 5 different audible plays that can be called without changing your formation). Running plays are the easiest to perform; once the ball in snapped and then handed off, you take control of the half (or full) back and try to turn the run up field for yardage.


Passing plays are more complex – you take control of the quarterback once the ball is snapped and you are given a choice of receivers. With the general improvement of the computer AI, passing has become more difficult as the defensive backs and safeties play more aggressively and rarely give more than a step of space (if that). For game pad users, the pressure that you depress the pad with can actually change the type of pass – a hard press will result in a bullet-pass, but a light feathering of the button will give a floating pass (which is preferred when you’re passing over a receiver to avoid the coverage). Normally, one wouldn’t think that the passing speed would be very important, but in this game passing too hard on a dump pass or a short out will result in a drop ball as the pass is rifled hard into a receiver not expecting it. The one thing that you have to pay attention to, when passing is trying to scramble for some inexplicable reason, the quarterback will shuffle until you pass the line of scrimmage, which is a real pain in the ass when you are trying to turn it up field and a linebacker is licking his lips waiting for the hurler to tow the line.


On the defensive side of the football, it starts much like the offense – starting with the preferred formation; you can select a specific defensive play (the plays differ on who will rush, who will fall back into coverage, who will delay or fall into zone coverage…). The formations read like a menu: 4-3, 3-4, 46, Nickel, Dime, Quarter, and so on and so on. Each formation has its own advantages and weaknesses (stuffing the line might keep the run bottled up but it leaves you prone to being burned by the pass), which most football fans will know and understand.


The improvement of the computer AI is really felt here – if you tend to blitz too often, the computer will start relying on short out patterns that will burn you for a ton of yards. Before the ball has been snapped, you can order either line shift or a line backer shift which enables you to exploit a coverage weakness (or try to overload one side of the offensive line). Once the play begins, you can choose to control any specific player and try to prevent the opposition from having too much success.


During the in-game action, the only complaint about the AI has got to be the really strange substitutions that you will see; for some inexplicable reason, the computer seems to love taking the starting quarterback out of the game for a breather – this can be remedied by turning the auto-substitution off.  


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The special teams play is a tad confusing the first few tries, but with some practice using the Mini-Camp drills help explain things and get you on the right path. My only complaint is the lack of team-special formations and plays – the playbooks are completely identical from team to team, and they completely lack those specific plays that teams love to bust out. (I miss my Razor-Red plays, and Convoy 66 runs.)


The visuals of Madden 2003 are first notch – all of the players look pretty darn good and look much like actual football players in their motions and physical ticks (flinching of the defensive linemen, the pacing of the linebacking corps, the motions of the wide receivers as they leap and reach for passes). The only complaint about the visuals is the grainy textures that are visible in the close views of the players (i.e. blocky looking facemasks). The sounds are excellent -- very much like the boom mikes listening to real games. The best sounds though are reserved for the home crowds – there’s nothing more impressive than the chants that you’ll hear in-game. (IN—COM—PLETE in Denver, and the volume and intensity change depending upon the point of the game and the intensity of the situation; that’s UBER-COOL!)


All in all, Madden 2003 is the best football game that I’ve ever played, and is highly recommended for both the casual and hard-core football fans.


- Tazman

(October 7, 2002)


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