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This'll Stop 'em for Sure!

  • Jun 8, 2004
Pros: The Madden Bus!

Cons: It's the Big Giant Head!

The Bottom Line: Madden's size would make people afraid to fly with him. I'm glad he has the bus.

Alright, alright, I know I’m almost two editions late. But come on, we’ve both been starved for one of my fun video game rants for months. So sit down, shut up, read, and enjoy.

The difference between EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2003 and Sega Sports’ NFL 2K3 is a lot like the difference between the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots in the 2002 Super Bowl: The heavily favored Rams had all the bells, whistles, and big guns, but in the end they just weren’t enough to take out the Patriots, who were just clean, plain, old-fashioned good. Likewise, Madden 2003 is a wonderful investment with tons of play modes, options, and nice little fix-ins, but Sega Sports wins the only competition that counts - the one in the gameplay department.

The best thing about Madden 2003 can be summed up in two words: Replay value. After Sega Sports went multi and took a spirited charge at the Madden juggernaut with the 2002 edition of their own football series, the coaches and managers over at EA Sports let loose an offensive barrage, and we gamers got to reap the massive rewards. The number of modes in Madden 2003 would engulf even Ray Lewis: There’s a situation mode which allows you to engineer a last-minute comeback, a two-minute drill in which you try to swamp your opponent with as many points as you can in two minutes, and a practice mode which allows you to practice those tricky Mike Martz plays. There’s a mini-camp mode which allows you to perfect those fancy dodge moves used when you run the ball on offense, and fancy defensive stuff like interceptions. If you live in a rural village like Dansville, New York, and want your fair ville to get some national media attention, you can create your own team for it, your own players to recruit for that team, and the team’s playbook. In games, there are Madden challenges, really, really difficult stuff to pull off which gets you credits, which in turn get you Madden cards (which provide sneaky little dirty tricks!). I don’t even have to talk about the standards here: Exhibition, playoff, tournament, season, and franchise.

You’ll be using the practice and mini-camp modes a lot to practice good, because Madden’s only real shortcoming is the fact that Marshall Faulk, one of the greatest running backs ever to play the game, controls like a bus. Keep moving down through the list of Madden reviews, and you’ll read about pinpoint control, pitch perfect, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. To me, though, the players feel more like they’re slipping and sliding around on a frozen pond. Try to move one of your defensive linemen into a position where he can get to the quarterback easier, and not only will he take a long time to move the inch or two, he’ll look very comical doing it - almost as if he was drowning. Pinpoint? No. These players don’t turn on a dime, and they certainly don’t move as fast as they should half the time.

That last sentence is especially true in the case of quarterbacks. While I’ll let it slide in the case of Michael Vick because this game came out before anyone knew what he could do, every quarterback has the turtle-in-molasses problem - even speedsters like Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, and Daunte Culpepper. There’s also a big learning curve involved in learning how to get just the right pass off at the right time. The button presses take some getting used to, and the ball tends to fly toward where its intended reciever is SUPPOSED to be, not where he actually is. So don’t expect that last-second hail mary to be even close to a reciever when a bad play breaks down. It’s much easier once you get everything down, but it takes time.

Another thing people like to talk about is the running game - or, more specifically, how easy it is. Again, this is illusion in my eyes, because the running game in Madden 2003 is nothing less than realistic - meaning, trying to gain yards on the ground is a real pain. Just as in real football, a real breakout run is rare. Most rushing attempts will yield three or four yards. Madden likes to advertise realism, so this isn’t a complaint.

Things are better on dee-fense! If you’re like me, weaned on Sega Sports football games, don’t expect Madden to be the defensive cakewalk the 2K series is. All control qualms aside, the tackling is also realistic, therefore you can expect missed tackles, players too weak to bring down Marshall Faulk, and working for each and every sack. Tackling has no challenge in the 2K series because all the players seem to have the same amount of strength and can all fly through the air like Superman for six or seven feet. Madden fixes this problem admirably, so the defensive players all have a limited range and ceiling.

You’ll come to love the mini-camp mode, which has four levels of difficulty in eight different contests. In one contest, you try to knock down passes with a cornerback or safety. In another, you throw passes to targets while dodging balls launched at you. Yet more games involve running, tackling, and throwing passes through loops. Unfortunately, the game faults a bit here in that you can’t choose which player to run through the game with. While you get to use Kurt Warner for a passing game, you don’t get to use Marshall Faulk for any of the running games - which is ironic, since Faulk is featured on the cover of the box. You can knock passes out of the air with Antoine Winfield, but not Ty Law or Lawyer Milloy. But what this mode lacks in variety, it makes up for with its prizes: For every game you complete the practice and a scenario in, you get a card featuring an NFL cheerleader! But you hot-bloods don’t get too excited - the cheerleader uniforms featured in the cards aren’t the revealing ones.

Makes you wonder how much memory space the PS2 actually has - vintage, classic teams are in here. Some, like the 㣾 Bills and 㣸 Rams, are available the second you turn on the console. Other, slightly more storied teams like the 㣸 49ers, 㣹 Bears, and 㣬 Dolphins, are only there after you get certain Madden cards. And, as always, none of the vintage players are named. So when you play as the vintage late 㣴’s Niners, you’re not throwing a Montana-to-Rice touchdown pass, but a boring old QB-to-WR touchdown pass. Which is really a shame, since the fun of playing as these vintage teams is picking out your favorite players to use. But given the massive amount of other stuff crammed into the game, it’s a slightly forgivable offense. Other than the standard NFL teams, all-star teams, and all-Madden teams, you can also use some of the undertalented NFL Europe teams, or completely made-up superteams made of monsters or superheroes or other weird things.

EA Sports really needs a more user-friendly menu interface. Scrolling down the menu for draftees in the fantasy league is a more laborious task than it should be. Madden could have benefitted from the coach’s office interface featured in NFL 2K3. Also, EA Sports feels some sort of weird compulsion to advertise their latest games by providing trailers for them. The need to buy certain other EA Sports games in order to get some of the Madden cards may have inspired this, but the memory could have gone someplace better - like providing names for the vintage players. And while the behind-the-scenes feature is interesting, it’s only a few minutes long, and unecessary.

The graphics in Madden NFL 2003 are more colorful and active than their Sega Sports competitor. But they’re also less realistic. EA Sports provided fewer animation frames, and the players’ heads are out of proportion with their bodies. Other than that, the are some nice little details, like flying helmets and cheerleadrs at halftime, but Sega Sports really wins this round.

Similar about the sound. The music is NFL-ish, the hits are hards, and Al Michaels and John Madden are surprisingly limited in their playcalling - although that’s not really a bad thing in the case of Madden. Listen to Madden ramble a few times, and you’ll see he was hired because he’s a Super Bowl winning coach who knows the game inside and out, not because he’s a good broadcaster. Makes you kinda hope he’ll be the next victim of the Madden curse which has plagued Madden’s cover players since the 2001 edition.

It’s easy to see why Madden is more popular than the 2K series. The 2K series replicates playing football. Madden replicates watching it, doing a superior job of recreating the atmosphere of an NFL game. We live in a lazy, lazy country. Since I enjoy physical activity, I like the pinpoint gameplay of 2K better. But I can’t possibly deny the greatness and through-the-roof replay value of Madden. Either way, you’re getting your money’s worth.

graphics - 7.9
audio - 7.5
gameplay - 6.9
replay - 10
overall - 8.1


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review by . January 15, 2003
I haven't played offline much because playing online is so much fun!! First of all; Even if you have 56K, you can actaully host! No cable? No problem!Then there's INSTANT REPLAY feature: Refs will get the calls correctly about 90% of the time and when they won't you get to challenge the play!Mellisa Starks does the sideline injury updates and play-by-play commentary with Al Michaels and John Madden is actually efficient! When you play online, sometimes they will give away your game plan to your …
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Madden NFL 2003 is an American football video game. It features then-reigning 3 time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk on the cover. This edition of Madden was the first to feature EA Trax. The game was released on August 12, 2002 for the Game Boy Advance, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and the Xbox. It is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB, as well as G for General by the OFLC in Australia. This was the first game John Madden and Al Michaels appeared as commentators taking over for Pat Summerall.
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ESRB: E - (Everyone)
Number of Players: Single-player, Multi-player
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon, Budcat Creations (PS2)
Console: Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Microsoft Windows, Playstation, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Sports
Release Date: August 12, 2002 (NA)
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