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Madden NFL 2003

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:   EA
Publisher:   EA Sports
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Sports
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Unit
Date Posted:  

11-20-02

Every year, football games are compared head to head to see which is the better one. Since the dawn of the current generation of video game systems, John Madden Football has held the title of "Best Football Game." Sadly, EAís track record with this series is littered with points where the designers become lazy (since they are the best) and start to slack. History has repeated itself and we are at one of these points.

Madden 2003 is an updated version of Madden 2002. The new additions are gang-tackles, an improved franchise, some mini-games, Al Michaels commentating, and uh...thatís it. The gang-tackles were finally put in the game, but they need some major work and still do not come close to being as effective as they should be. The franchise mode went into better depth with the rookie scouting and the draft. Actually, they completely changed the system. It is now harder to find the top players out there and you must use your scouts wisely. The mini-games are fun for a change, but for some reason EA and half the people out there think these are the greatest addition to any game. Iím sorry, Iíll pass. Iíd rather them touch up and improve some other areas of the game instead of giving me mini-games. Al Michaels is new to the Madden series and you would think this would make the commentary fresh and new. While he does add a different touch, the commentary still lacks in a major way.

This game is weak graphically. There is nothing really special about it. If youíve played Madden 2002, just picture a crisper and more precise graphical picture. The stadiums are done fairly well and at first look the players look decent. However, a closer look at the player models reveals the ugliness within. While many of the major players are drawn well, the rest of the NFL players look like cheesy sci-fi monsters. There arenít nearly enough options for player models either. There should be more hair choices (long hair, dreadlocks, etc), tattoos, better looking faces, and generally a better graphical engine.

The gameplay and controls for Madden 2003 are simply improved from the last time around. After playing 2002 for so long, I was able to sit right down in Madden 2003 and dominate. While the Madden gameplay system isnít that flawed, it seems like they just transported the previous yearís system and added gang tackles.

The presentation sucks. Plain and simple, Madden loses all aspects of an NFL broadcast. The commentary is extremely generic and repetitive. Actually, half of the commentary sounds like they just dubbed Al Michaels over Pat Summerall. Does EA deliver a Monday Night Football license? No. Do we have a pre-game or post-game show? No. Weekly wrap-up? No. Play of the game? No. Play of the week? No. Basically, playing John Madden Football is like watching a local high school game on public access TV. You donít see teleprompters, you donít get relevant commentary, and the presentation just seems amateurish.

The franchise mode is great. This is the high point of the entire game and should put Madden 2003 on the buy list for football enthusiasts everywhere. They took a fairly good format and made improvements to rookie scouting. It does need improvements though. CPU controlled teams need some serious AI improvements. It is far too easy to trade up for the first five picks in the first round of the draft. There really arenít uneven trades and CPU teams seem to stupidly flush their talent down the drain when contracts go up.

By far the worst part about this game is the lack of online play. For some reason, the geniuses at EA decided to not give the Xbox version online play even though Xbox Live launches in November. To me, this is just idiotic. The system is practically built for online play, yet EA decides to ignore it and give online play to the PS2 (which involves buying extra peripherals).

Highs:

  • Same system as last year
  • Franchise mode is great

Lows:

  • Commentary and presentation is weak
  • Same system as last year
  • No online for Xbox!

Final Verdict: 

Well, if you skipped out on Madden in 2002, this title is worth a look. For some reason, people in the press are raving about a game that is nothing more than a reincarnation of the previous yearís version with a few new features. They didnít even grace the Xbox with online play options. Really, this game lacks severely in presentation and shine. The fact that they sell this game on John Maddenís name makes you wonder why it doesnít have realistic and (at least) half-way decent commentary instead of the generic crap.

Overall Score: 7.8

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