Madden 2003 (PS2)

Madden 2003 (PS2)

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 10/11/2002 for PS2  

Madden’s got a whole new outlook on football, he’s dumped the dead weight that was Pat Summerall and has moved onto the greener pastures of ABC’s Monday Night Football. This change in scenery has done wonders for Madden’s announcing career, bringing out some amazing announcing abilities that much of the American populous never knew he has. The move has rejuvenated his announcing career, but how about his Football game?

The first thing you’ll probably notice are the unique intros that come up every time the game is booted up. Much in the same way of EA’s other football franchise, NCAA, it features a completely random player saying “EA Sports, it’s in the game!” I would have to presume that this will now be the standard for the next season of EA Sports games, it’s a nice and unique change that has me paying attention every time the game starts up.

New to this year’s game is the online functionality that will allow you to do battle with players from all across the nation. This mode has been limited to PS2 only for the first year so Xbox and GC owners are out of luck. Because the network adapter is not yet available at the time of this review, I didn’t have a chance to properly test the online aspect of the game. I did, however, get a chance to try my hand at it at this year’s Gamer’s Day. What I saw was a phenomenally accurate game that managed to keep up with the action with a minimal amount of lag. I knew this because the person I was playing against was at the station right next to me and I was able to gauge the lag times for myself. That means that every time I scored on James from Cinescape, I could rub it in his face with a minimal amount of waiting time.

Capitalizing on last year’s success, the Dynasty mode has become the main focus of this year’s game. The single season mode no longer exists, placing the emphasis on running your own dynasty as opposed to one year legacies. This ia a great fresh of breath air for Madden vets, it means that the programmers will have more time to devote to the meat of the game rather than focusing on the barebone aspects.

There are a few new modes that are meant to teach you the fundamentals of the game while at the same time, provide an entertaining experience. There’s a new mini-camp mode which plays out like a tutorial for beginners. You’ll participate in small mini-games that emphasize one aspect of the game, for instance, there is a punting mode that helps you perfect those coffin corner punts that fall within the 20 yard line. In the mini-game, you’ll have targets on both corners of the field, the closer you come to the corner, the more points you score, earn a certain amount of points and you’ll be rewarded for your troubles. After beating the mini-game, you’ll be placed in a game situation that tests you on the ability that you just perfected. This is a great way to teach players who are new to the game the bare fundamentals.
Also new to this year’s edition is Football 101, a virtual classroom that will teach you the basics of football. In this mode, Madden will walk you through the foundations of football and will help you become a successful gamer. He’ll teach you how to read the coverage, how to read formations and most importantly, how to handle specific situations. It’s another great and fun way to teach newcomers the basis of American football.

Perhaps most importantly, this game plays and feels like a Madden game. The controls remain virtually identical to the previous year’s, so there are no new controls to learn. Anyone who has played a previous Madden game will no doubt have little trouble getting into this one. Even my friends who had never touched a Madden game before had no trouble getting the hang of this game. Thanks to the informative loading screens, I didn’t even have to explain the controls to them.

Many of the AI quirks that I found in last year’s edition seem to have been worked out. The AI opponents will no longer go for it on 4th and 15 during a close game in the 3rd quarter. In fact, it seems that the AI has been beefed up quite a bit. There was no true ‘money play’ that would net me yardage every time I executed it, I found myself scouring through my playbook in constant search of varied plays. Same goes for defense, if I used the same play over and over I would eventually get burned. Although the AI would eventually adapt to me in last year’s game, it didn’t come with instant results like in this year’s version. Taking a cue from the NHL games, Madden 2003 allows you to customize the game to your liking. Each element is represented by a slider that can be manipulated to your liking. There are a whole bevy of minor aspects that can be tailor made to your tastes.

Visually, the game remains virtually unchanged from its predessecor. Though it seems that the game has received a minor facelift, one glaring error still remains. The player’s faces still seem lifeless and doll like, this isn’t noticeable when the game is in action but it’s pretty painful on the cut scenes that occur between plays. Even more disheartening is the fact that the cheerleaders in this year’s game are more prominently featured. The problem is, their faces are horribly textured and could have been helped by a few more polygons. Though I’m happy that someone has finally decided to re-instate the half time show, I wish it would have looked a lot better.

The rest of the visuals are a pretty complete package, you won’t find graphics much better than this on the PS2. Player models are the best to appear in a sports game to date, there are so many of them and they all appear so life-like. You’ll see the stereotypical fat guy with the rolls hanging off his sides, the small and speedy receiver, and the rough and tough line-backer, all of them rendered to perfection. To put it simply, you won’t be mistaking Junior Seau for Cortez Kennedy anytime soon, if you know what I mean.

A lot of attention was paid to the minor details and it really shows in the product. Performing the Pump up Crowd manuever (R3) on defense will actually cause the fans in the stands to stand up and cheer loudly. Consequently, if the home team is getting blown out, you’ll see the stands gradually empty until only a few die-hard fans remain. Players will accumulate stains on their uniforms as signs of the battles that they’ve been through, you’ll even see the middle of the field deteriorate through the course of the game. You’ll even see AI coaches challenge plays on the field, many of them occurring in pivotal moments of the game. Often times they’ll win but there are times when they’re wrong. Nonetheless, it adds to the overall realism of the game. There are tons of small minute details that have been included in this year’s game, you might not notice them but it’s always nice to know that they’re there.
This game isn’t perfect, however, I found that the running game was a little too stingy for my tastes. I had a hard time breaking a run for more than 10 yards and more often than not, the gaps in the defense would close far too fast. Even if I had run 10 passing plays before hand, the AI Defense would always be able to sniff out exactly what running play I was planning to execute. After awhile, I decided to abandon the running game entirely for the much easier passing game. Another problem I had with the game was the unrealistic number of injuries that would occur throughout the course of a game. I didn’t get through one game without someone being injured and out for the entire game, I know that the guys get banged around a lot but this is ridiculous.

Though these previous problems are hard to deal with, none of them can even hope to compare to the game’s weak and inane commentary. While EA’s NCAA series has some of the best commentary in the business, Madden’s is bland, boring, repetitive and uninspired. There are far too many moments of dead air coming from the team of Madden and Michaels. Commentary becomes repetitive much too quickly and to be honest, Michael’s commentary isn’t even pieced together all that well. After nearly every play you’re bound to hear a line that just sounds awkward and un-natural. Having watched Monday Night Football for about ten years now (I even sat through that god-awful year when Dennis Miller was commentating) I’ve become rather accustomed to Michael’s unique brand of commentary, I was hoping that he could jump start this year’s audio aspects but sadly, it just didn’t play out that way. Seriously, I was checking the box after every play to make sure I wasn’t playing SEGA’s John Madden II Talk Football for my old SEGA Genesis. I’ll admit, the commentary is a significant improvement over last year’s version but it’s still the weakest in the business.

What’s the incentive for owners of last year’s version to upgrade? Simple, enhanced gameplay, up to date rosters, better AI and best of all, online functionality. This is more than some mere upgrade, you’ll be getting your money’s worth when you plunk down fifty big ones for this year’s game. You’ll get a game that has been tweaked to near perfection, the ability to tailor nearly aspect of the game to your liking and the option to reach out and smoke someone from halfway across the U.S. Though the competition may be stiff this year, EA Sports’ Madden 2003 still has the top vote for best football game in my book.
New tackle animations, enhanced graphics, new game modes, solid gameplay, great fundamentals and online functionality make this game hard to resist for fans of the gridiron. Besides, how can any man resist loving a game that has Andrew W.K.’s Party Hard as its anthem?!?

Rating: 9.4 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

comments powered by Disqus