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Q3 2002



-Tight, enjoyable game play 
-Plenty of game modes and options
-Mini-games are awesome
-The passing game gives the gamer infinite control
-Improved franchise mode adds replay value



-Poor defensive back and overall defensively AI
-Too many shootouts
-The highly touted commentary is average
-The entire audio package is nothing to brag about
-WR sideline awareness needs some work



Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Gamecube)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Gameboy Advance)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (PC)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (XBox)



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Madden NFL 2003

Score: 9.0 / 10


No sports game on the PS2 has a bigger reputation than the Madden football series.  With the promise of online play and the supposed "biggest year-to-year" improvement the series has ever seen.


I hate to use a cliché, but the number of game modes in Madden 2003 are mind-boggling.  Aside from the standard exhibition, season, franchise, and tournament modes, there are the 2-minute drill, practice, Football 101, and newly added online and mini-camp modes.


I haven't had a chance to try out the online play, but the mini-camp is almost another game.  The best thing about them is that they help you hone skills needed for the actual game.  For example, in one game you work on passing accuracy, on another pass rushing, and another field goal kicking.  There are different difficulty levels and you are rewarded with Madden cards.  The one drawback is that as you travel from mini-camp to mini-camp (you actually travel to the NFL city) you can only use the player from that team.  I would have liked to try and use a Kurt Warner in the accuracy segment or Marshall Faulk in the running back one.


The franchise mode was given a much face-lift in the draft process.  The best game feature that EA Sports has in any of its games is its recruiting process in NCAA Football.  EA has tried to incorporate some of that into Madden by providing a rookie scouting option.  You basically get to choose 15 prospects and get a more detailed scouting report on them.  This gives drafting players a more intimate process instead of the bare bones feel of looking at numbers in years previous.  You can import a draft class on the PS2 and since I have been playing NCAA in conjunction with Madden, it only adds to the replay value.





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Madden's graphics are once again the best in the sports genre.  I have played all the PS2 football games except for Sega Sports' college football game and Madden looks the best - hands down - over the rest of the competition.  The player models have the most realistic shape to them and the faces look like the real-life counterparts.  The stadiums are done pretty well, but I prefer those seen in NFL 2k3.


I did like the feeling of seeing the crowd rise in unison when I made a good play.  The crowd can be seen cheering 


and standing from the field, but I don't think they are passionate enough.  They cheer loudly at times, but the noises are pretty generic.  I have been to my fair share of NFL games and the game comes nothing close.  Maybe EA is trying to copy off a television telecast.


The play-by-play duo of John Madden and Al Michaels is pretty mediocre.  Madden offers his normal insight to the game, but Michaels isn't that much of a step above Pat Summerall.  It has been said for years that the play-by-play has been the downfall of the Madden series.  When Summerall was replaced with Michaels an audio revolution was supposed to happen.  Unfortunately, I didn't hear much of a change.  The duo just doesn't have the pizzazz of its NCAA game or the chemistry of NFL 2k3.  Are the two accurate?  Yes.  But are the two entertaining?  I'm afraid the answer is no.  They don't really add any element to the game.


Madden's game play feels completely different from its college football cousin, NCAA Football.  The main difference I notice is in the passing game and the ability to stop the CPU offense.


I love Madden's passing system.  You have so much more control over where you pass the ball compared to NCAA.  When I throw a pass in NCAA I sometimes have to guess where the ball will be thrown.  A receiver streaking down the sidelines on a "go" route in NCAA might break off his route and either come back or cut back to the middle of the field (which most time makes no sense because he runs right into the teeth of the defense) whereas in Madden they don't.  I'm not saying that receivers in Madden don't come back to the ball if you escape the pocket, but the first three or four seconds of the play the receivers stay pretty disciplined to their routes.  Route based passing, which throws the ball to the route regardless of where the receiver is, also helps in having ample control.


I noticed the biggest difference in throwing the deep ball and all the passes over the middle of the field.  Because of the unpredictability of NCAA, it feels like I am really slinging the ball when I throw a hook route or an in route.  Madden on the other hand, has the best interior passing I have ever seen in a video game.


This is not to say that the passing system doesn't have problems.  There are a few money routes that almost always work in the game.  The corner routes and the drag routes work 80-95% of the time, depending on what your personnel is.  There is a minor trade-off as you never, and I mean never, are able to hit a receiver in stride.  Because Madden places such a high emphasis on their player momentum, you can never simply throw a deep ball to a receiver and watch him run under it in stride and run for a touchdown.  Even if the throw is right on the mark and your receiver wide open, for some reason the receiver will feel the urge to jump for the ball, which in effect wastes valuable steps and seconds.


I also noticed that receivers have almost no sideline awareness.  There were far too many instances where I would have a receiver wide open on an out route and gasp as my guy would take two giant strides out of bounds where one giant stride and one normal one would do just fine.  You see receivers every Sunday tip toe the sidelines to make catches and it frustrates me to see my guys be so dumbfounded.


The other main difference I see from NCAA is the inability to play defense.  It seems that almost every game I play, whether it be on rookie or all-madden, that you will routinely give up at least 28 points a game.  The main culprit of this is the crappy defensive back AI.  For whatever reason, the cornerbacks and safeties don't feel the need to ever turn and find a pass in the air.  I routinely get my ass kicked by quality passing teams because the DB's refuse to break on the ball or do it smartly.


I love to play defense and to see every team get taken behind the woodshed is a little disheartening.  The lack of DB AI is exposed even more when you play against a human opponent.  I already stated above that I thought pinpointing your passes were easy enough, but throw in defensive backs with the smarts of a chimp, and it's open season.


There are plenty of things to like about Madden, however.  One of my complaints, the high scoring of the games, really is entertaining when playing human opponents.  Hell, scoring a lot of points is also a lot of fun in the single player experience.  The majority of gamers don't want to play a 6-3 defensive battle.  Because there is a lot of scoring, the fun factor always is high.


Another thing I liked was that trick plays could actually be run.  The speed of a reverse or the halfback option pass is refreshing.  In all the other football games it takes too long for the play to develop and they usually result in lost yards.


Also new to Madden are side-arm throws.  This really comes in handy when you are on the run because the side-armed throws take much less time to complete than a regular throw.  This inclusion only makes a Donovan McNabb or a Michael Vick that much better.


One more advantage of Madden's fast game play is the effectiveness of the juke and spin moves.  If I get in the open field with Faulk I like my chances against a linebacker.  The effectiveness of the moves isn't as distinct in the other games.


Other than that, you can pretty much expect the same style of game play seen in previous Madden games.  If you are a fan of the series, you'll easily be able to pick up on all the controls.


The replay value of Madden is well worth the $50.  If you can get a Franchise started with a bunch of friends, that is the way to go because the game is tailor-made for multi-player.  If not, there are still plenty of enjoyable single player options and online play.


Madden 2003 has its pitfalls, but it still is the top NFL game on the market.  I prefer NCAA to Madden because of its college atmosphere and more realistic game play, but you can't go wrong with this game.


- Tim Martin

(September 30, 2002)

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