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Madden NFL 2002
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Tiburon
Publisher:   EA
# of Players:   1-12 (season)
Genre:   Football
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   10-01-01

Well, here it isÖthe latest in EAís long-running football franchise. From its start on the venerable Sega Genesis, itís consistently been one of the top five franchises in all of gaming. Not only can its absence help to speed a consoleís demise, but also its presence can help to insure a consoleís success. This is largely the result of a continual improvement in the quality of the series, as well as the big licenses (NFL, NFLPA, etc.) associated with the title.

Unfortunately, somethingís missing this time around. Before I get to that however, Iíll give you the standard graphics/gameplay/sound rundown.

The gameplay is virtually identical to last yearís version, only with some minor enhancements (most of which were found in NCAA Football 2002). I wonít bother going into great detail about it, since probably 99% of you have played a Madden game before. Basically, the gameplay upgrades this year revolve around the passing game. The passing game relies more on timing (especially at higher difficulty levels) than before, which makes it seem more realistic. As part of this, defensive backs cover receivers much more realistically than they did in last yearís edition. While the passing game still needs some tweaking, itís definitely a big improvement.

Must like last year, the running game and run defense still revolve around momentum. Once a player gets moving in one direction, theyíll realistically turn in another direction based on their attributes. Unlike the NFL2K series (where a cutback is easily performed), the momentum factor makes it much more realistic. Only a quick and agile RB can cut on a dime, while power RBs can run over DBs once they build up a head of steam. The running game isnít that different from last yearís, but then again it didnít need to be.

So the gameplay is still based on the same solid foundation of past Maddens, but itís really the immense amount of options that put Madden ahead of the competition again this year. It features all the modes that you would expect (Franchise, Season, Practice, Create-A-Player, etc.), but itís really the depth of the franchise mode that sets it apart. In the franchise mode, you can lead your coach through 30 seasons of football. At the end of each year, the immensely deep Off-Season mode kicks in. Here youíll view retired players, cut players from your team, sign free agents, draft the incoming rookie class, re-order your depth chart, manage your salary cap, and more. No detail in this area was overlooked, and itís probably the closest any of us will come to ever managing a professional football team. But what really sets it apart from last yearís version (which did all of that) is the Create-A-Team mode. This allows you to create a team from scratch, and customize it to the tiniest of details. Youíll name your team, select from one of 50+ pre-made logos, select the stadium type, design your jerseys and helmets from scratch (the color palette is somewhat limited however), and more. Once youíve finally finished your team, you can even insert them into the Franchise mode in place of the expansion Houston Texans at the start of the 2002 season. From there, youíll build your team through the expansion draft, NFL draft, and free agent signings. Itís not as deep as it could be (the choices are pretty limited for most options), but I was able to bring the Greensboro Spartans to the NFL in satisfactory form.

Graphically, everything has been improvedÖbut only slightly. Thankfully the "zombie eyes" of last yearís version are long-gone, as all the player and coach models have been improved with better texturing and higher polygon counts. The stadiums look better as well, with more things on the sidelines (cheerleaders, tables, cups, players, etc.) that help to enhance the realism. Really the biggest advance here was in the animation, which has been given a pretty big boost with a number of new tackles, jukes, etc. Still the graphic leader in PS2 sports titles, but not as much of a "wow" factor as the new games in other genres (ex: Silent Hill 2).

The sound is largely unchanged from last yearís version. The crowd has been altered a bit (new chants and stuff), but itís largely identical to last yearís version. The commentary is still provided by the same four people (John Madden, Pat Summerall, James Brown, and Leslie Visser), and itís actually improved over last yearís. Not by much though. There are fewer bugs this year and more comments on individual players, but by and large itís the same old stale stuff weíve been getting for years now.

And that leads me into my one big complaint Ė as the current leader in video game football, Madden is stagnating badly. Without any viable competition (aside from, snicker, QB Club and the recently horrible Gameday), itís been watered down into year after year of the same thing, only with minor upgrades in each department. The whole franchise just seems to have lost its "soul".

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