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Madden 2003

Saturday, September 28, 2002 by Helly || [0 Comments]

Madden 2003
Overall: 3
Graphics: 5
Interface: 1
Multiplayer: 3
Ill admit it: Im not a sports game kind of guy. Ive always been of the belief that if I could go outside and play the game, Id do that rather then play it on a PC. However, Id been itching to get my hands on the latest Madden release because it just looked so darn cool in ads.

Id had some experience with Madden back in the day, but it had been long enough that I was approaching this game with no real idea of what to expect. After an uneventful install, I was soon clicking Play and launching myself into the game. Quickly after that, I was perusing the manual and trying to get it straight in my head how all these different aspects of play were controlled. I had forgotten just how many different areas were under a players control.

Options for game play include one-off games in Exhibition mode, season play by creating a Franchise, taking part in some of the quick training sessions in mini-camp (within which you are challenged to achieve a certain point total to win trophies. Once won, the particular mini-camp can be replicated in a Game Mode against a CPU opponent or online against another play), or by challenging yourself to score as many points as possible in the 2 Minute Drill. These various options allow you to learn the game controls and also provide a way to get a quick bit of gaming in without committing to an entire, 4-quarter game.


The Coin Toss

Mini-Camp Rushing Drills

Graphics/Display:

The graphics are excellent. I was impressed by how faithfully the stadiums for the different teams had been reproduced. As a Patriots fan (even before the Superbowl win) I was pleasantly surprised to see the new, distinctive Gillette Stadium as I played my first home game. The players, while not exact replicas, were easily distinguishable from one another and were close enough to their real-life counterparts as to be recognizable.

Graphical performance was jitter-free for me even during the heaviest of goal-line stands with the crowd jumping around in the stands. The crowd, meant to be background noise, is obviously replicated in chunks throughout the stadium. The sidelines however are alive with full models of coaches, players and staff, which was a nice touch.

I noticed some clipping with the models on some instant replays and in some post-play cut-scenes, but this was my only real-complaint with the graphics. Youll need a nice machine with a heavy duty video card in order to get the best results from the graphics, otherwise youll need to so some settings changes.


Headless Cheerleaders?

The Game Field

Along with the graphics, youve got the audio to deal with. The in-game sounds are spot-on. The grunting during the hits, the smack of pads upon pads, and the calls made by the players really get you into the game.

Not as good is the game commentary, provided by seasoned professionals (and current Monday Night Football announcers) John Madden and Al Michaels. Its not that their delivery is poor, rather its that it becomes repetitive so very quickly. Theres only so many times you can throw unique team names into the same statement over and over again before you begin mashing the mouse button to get onto the next play as soon as possible.

Another cool feature of the games sound is the ability to create your own MP3 library for the in-game music. The game comes with its own selection, which has some good tunes, or you can point the game at your own MP3s to customize your in-game listening moods.

Interface/Controls:

While the graphics and sound, minus the annoying commentary, are excellent, the interface drove me nutty. I chose to use the Mouse and Keyboard combo, like the true FPS veteran I am, however the game supports Keyboard only and Gamepad controllers as well.


Play Selection

Pats Get No Respect

With the manual in front of me and my exhibition game loaded up, I was disturbed to find that most of the default keys were jammed right on top of each other. While playing a defensive lineman trying to pound his way towards the QB, I was forced to wrap my hands on top of each other to have enough fingers to put my moves on the offensive player. But while both my hands were busy on the keyboard, I was unable to use my mouse for orientation of my view. In other situations its worse as the mouse keys are necessary for sprinting or other moves and you find yourself short of fingers quickly. Its shocking that a default layout in a commercially released game could be so unusable.

Multiplayer (if any):

What I wanted to check out is the online play for the PC Version of the game. Using an in-game interface, you can get matched up with other players to play full games or any of the other features (mini-camp challenge, 2 minute drill).


Interception Replay - Matrix Style

Mini-Camp Tough Guy

Unfortunately, the online service is not available for free. You must register with EA and pay a monthly fee for access ($5.99 the first 60 days are free). Its a bit of an annoying cost, considering EA isnt really providing all that much for the cash. This is not an ORPG where thousands of people are logged into a company-owned server and the game company is continuing development of the game. This is basically a charge for the matchmaking service available for free with the PS2 version of the game, but with some perks (ie: building online teams, tournaments organized and maintained by EA and so forth). I honestly cant support this kind of system and wont give EA any money for online play.

Not to say that it isnt fun playing online against other people, but Im not willing to drop the cash for the game then a monthly fee in order to get abused in an EA hosted chat room by 1337 f00tb4ll d00dz. Ill goad the guys at work into a football game instead.

Summary:

Madden 2003 was a blast to play with great visuals and excellent in-game sounds. Unfortunately, the controls were horrendous and made some plays difficult to pull off. There is a lot of depth in this game, however, and you wont find yourself bored quickly. You can play simple football with easy opponents (as I did, being a sports game n00b) or really get yourself deep into the coaching by upping the difficulty and playing your opponent as realistically as you want. If you can stomach EA's questionable decision to charge for online play, you'll discover another facet of gameplay to keep you involved.

I liked this game, but the poor controls and pay-for-play online aspect soured me a bit, hence the merely average overall score.

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