There was a time when I would count the days until the next Madden was released. That moment would usually begin about three or four months after the current edition was released, the approximate amount of time that it would take for me to get bored with the game. Nowadays the countdown doesn’t begin until about two or three weeks until the next iteration is about to be released; not because I’m more enthralled by each and every successive iteration, but because each progressive title seems more and more like the previous. Madden 2002? Madden 2003? Madden 2004? Who cares? It’s all the same to me, but if you’re OK with more of the same, you just might want to invest in this next release in the vaunted Madden franchise.
EA Sports is known for producing half-hearted updates to their franchises that pan out more like expansion packs than stand alone products. This is still the case when it comes to Madden 2004
; the majority of the core gameplay from last year’s game remains while a few sparse elements have been added to beef up the already robust features. There are a few interesting additions to this year’s game, but none that really justify the game’s high price tag. Owner mode allows you to create a team from scratch, place them in a stadium and then micromanage some aspects of the team. This is definitely where the new meat and bones of the game lies as you’ll have to decide whether you’d like to make a few extra dollars off of your fans by raising the price of beer, or reward them by lowering the cost of concessions. The micromanagement aspects are a nice addition but they don’t quite have the depth of the Sims that Maxis (a division of Electronic Arts) is famous for creating.
Building upon last year’s rather solid foundation, EA Sports has gone the extra mile and turned the casual and relaxed online game into a full fledged, hardcore aspect. A new fair game system ensures that your punk-ass 12-year-old opponent won’t go for it on 4th and 15, forcing you to blow one of your precious time-outs. To make things even better the game only rewards you for completing the game so those who whine and quit when getting blown out after three quarters won’t be rewarded for their childish tactics. Making the online realm even more fun voice over ip (voice chat) is now possible via the USB headset so now your Xbox toting friends can’t rub that into your face. Oh wait a tick, your Xbox fanboy buddies can’t play Madden 2004
Hey, I can see myself on TV!
Also new to this year’s edition is a revamped play calling interface that allows the game to show you replays of key plays while you’re selecting your play. It’s nice in theory, but since the game takes its sweet time in setting up the replay, watching it will most likely yield you a delay of game penalty. Had EA Sports started up the replays the instant that the play clock started this feature may have panned out a little better. Including it isn’t such a bad idea as it reduces the number of times that the game has to stall to show full-screen replays. It’s just that it makes it difficult to watch your big-time plays and
beat the clock. Luckily the instant replay feature is still here and it works as well as ever.
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