Review by Waruveggiemon

"Pigskin? Cheesehead? That means this is either a football game or a food convention."

Here we are, at the first Sunday in September, once again getting ready for another great season of Football. As a faithful New England Patriots fan, you take your ailing team, led by the hard-throwing but slow moving Drew Bledsoe, out against the poster boy for bad football teams, the Cincinnati Bengals. You win the coin toss and go out to receive the football for your first possession of the year. Neil Rackers, the Cincinnati Kicker/Punter wails the ball to the waiting punt returner. As you are returning the ball back, the pro-bowl linebacker, Takeo Spikes, rings your clock, and you fall the ground in a big crash. Instead of actually losing to the Bengals though, you can actually win this game, which is a reason why the Madden series by EA Sports is the leader in North American football titles.
You won’t smell the grass, you won’t feel the crunch, and you won’t stare incompetently at the cheerleaders, but this is as close you will get to watch the National Football League in April. Actually, this is likely as close as you will ever get to being in the NFL. This, straight up, is the most realistic football simulation that you will play, at least until the next installment. This game is not for everyone, but it is for the people who like American football, realistic American football. The game play is solid, and the details are very nicely dealt with. How good does this game actually look you may wonder, well, check the next few paragraphs for your answer.
Graphics and Visuals
The graphics in this game are very strong for a sports game, and surprisingly detailed. This year’s version, at first glance, is slightly improved from last year’s version. It will not wow you, nor will it surprise you when you boot the game up. The best way to compare the graphics in this case would be to a player such as Curtis Martin. He doesn’t surprise or astound you a lot with his numbers or actions, but it is consistently solid, and overall impressive year in and year out.
First of all, the player models in this game are impeccable. I have not seen a sports game with graphics as pretty and realistic as these. The times when you really notice the effort put into the models in during the after play cut scenes, which are amazingly realistic on all fronts. There are no more “ghost stares”, which were eyes that never blinked and looked very dull. That minor graphical problem has been remedied in this year’s version.
The weather conditions in the game look very good also. The snow is amazingly realistic to real snow, meaning although every single snowflake isn’t different, it looks similar to what a snowy January day in New England would look like. The rain gives off a light murmuring noise, like actual rain does. Obviously by the first two examples, the rest of the environmental effects are very well represented. The clouds look like normal storm clouds do, as does the sky on a sunny day. Overall, the environmental graphics are good.
One option in the game, create a team, is done very well when put into action. Some create a player or create a team options in games are not very well executed visually. The uniforms that are created in that mode can be very obscure, and could be hard to produce realistically to your wishes, but Madden pulls that task of the uniforms off very well. From the major details on the shells of the players, such as base color of shirt and pants, to the most miniscule fixation, as in the color of the stripes on the socks, they were all done right and the way I wanted them to be.
Although similar to the create-a-team option, the create-a-player option looks, in my humble opinion, do just as well visually. Unlike some early generation titles that contained a create-a-player option, Madden 2002 pulls off this highly popular attraction for casual gamers and players who want to play with the best, at least by the sight of it. As with the best create-a-player options, such as the WWF Smackdown series (PSX/PS2), it goes down to the most miniscule details on every level. From the basics of body frame and height differences to the size of the left elbow pad, it all looks well in comparison to other real-life players in the game.
Sadly, in real-time, the game is about as good as every other sports title out there, at least by its looks. While up-close in replays and cut-scenes the game is beautiful, in real time, it is mediocre. Although you can tell the difference between a 300-pound defensive lineman and a 170-pound running back, it is not that discernable from far away. When you are running or receiving, the camera allows a difference between players, but not when you are a QB. Although it might seem like that would be a problem, it really isn’t, that is just a minor graphical deterrent.
Although the size of players is difficult to decipher in real-time, discerning which team is which isn’t hard by any means. The colors are easily realized, even from a far away view, and do leave room for confusion, except in the rare case colors are so close to each other, they look similar from far away. Although this is common, the ability for telling the difference between teams from a long distance helps a lot, especially in the cases where the opponent is not running directly at your character.
Visually, the extras are also very impressive. The fantasy draft is well set-up, easy to maneuver as well as easy to look at. The Madden cards have good pictures of the star players on them, as well as nice pictures of the cheerleaders and old team logos. The menus are not shocking visually, but are easy to maneuver and do not look cluttered. The sidelines are disappointing, containing stationary “players” and very dull cheerleaders (No movement). The coaches are eerily similar to their real-life counter-parts though.
All in all, one of the great facets of Madden 2002 is the visual aspect of the game. The players look fantastic in almost all forms, while the stadiums are very good looking. Both create-a-_____ options in this game (Franchise and Player) are very well executed when transferred from the making of the player to the field. While the real-time is lackluster, it still works, and is overshadowed by the beauty of cut-scenes and instant replay. This is likely the 2nd most impressive out of the three major categories in sports games (Graphics, Sound, Game play). Next on the agenda is the weakest component of Madden 2002, the audio. Before that happens though, here are my props and slops (Pluses and Minuses) for this section.
Very detailed and good-looking character models.
Great weather conditions
Stadiums are very accurate
Player models are very solid
Create-a-team and create-a-player are translated very well
Madden Cards look good
Real-time colors are discernable

Sidelines are very dead
Fans are extremely bland
Real-time is not breathtaking, but mediocre.
Size is slightly difficult to discern from far away

Sound and Audio
This part of Madden 2002, by far, is the worst facet of the game. While not terrible, it is surprisingly weak in very strong territory, which makes it look all the worse. The announcing is mostly to blame for the downfall of audio, since it is extremely boring and repetitive. The small sounds of weather are impressive, as long as a couple other things, but the commentating is ugly. My laments about this section of Madden will now be expressed.
I will get the most ugly part of this game over with in the next paragraph or two. This terrible part of the game is the utterly terrible color commentating. To start off, the two voices that make up the commentating are John Madden, who is now part of the Monday Night Football crew, and Pat Summerall, who are now retired. John Madden is pretty bad; he is repetitive and gives off a lack of enthusiasm. He has only a few comments and they are usually for the big superstars or semi-stars, such as Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. I suppose I shouldn’t expect as much from announcing, but I would like more than I am getting.
Pat Summerall, on the other hand, will not be missed when he is replaced by Al Michaels when he is replaced in next year’s version. He has very little to say, and his voice lacks any, and I mean any enthusiasm. A talk in the booth might go something like this, “Now McNabb last year threw for a lot of yards, and it may have been a breakout year. He can do almost anything on his feet or threw the air”, says John Madden. What does Summerall say you may ask, he says this, “Yep.” That is all he says to Madden’s commentary. He often says other things, but all in all, he is very dull and will not be missed next season. I hear good things about their main competitor’s commentary, that being the NFL 2k series (Multi platform). This is the one major section that they need to shape up on.
Other from the pitiful commentary, the rest of the sound in this game isn’t that bad. The menu music isn’t anything special, but it isn’t annoying, which means it is mediocre. The rain and thunder sounds are extremely solid, which is nice in a sports game. You feel the atmosphere when you are having a horrible day and the rain is pouring while the thunder is rumbling. This is the slight saving grace of the sound area, but it is still the weakest of the trifecta.
The sound or audio in this game is the worst part of the game. While the other facets of the game lead the pack for the football game genre, the audio lags behind its competitor. I am very disappointed by this part of the game and it would be the one thing I would want overhauled for next year’s version. A couple flashes of light show potential for the sound to be decent, but it just doesn’t pull through. Good thing the game play doesn’t reflect the sound though, or we would have NFL 2k2 as our football champion.

Very good sounding weather effects
Flashes of being decent in commentary
Menu music is decent

The pitiful color commentary by Madden and Summerall
Nothing very good overall
Summerall is very dull while Madden is limited in his production

Game play
The game play in Madden 2002 is the meat of the game. It is a grade AAA beef too. The game play is fast, exciting, and requires constant strategy to become the best you can be. Madden gives you the most realistic football experience that you could hope to achieve without actually playing the game itself (Actually a very good suggestion if you can get a group of people together). If you really want to play a game with the NFL license, this is the game to buy.
First of all, the game has the correct rules, and is considered a simulation football game. It has the 11 player offenses and defenses, with penalties and strategic plays. I know this seems extremely obvious to someone who has played the game, but it is needed to be known for someone who wants to get into football or has played too much of NFL Blitz (Multi platform) in the arcades or at home. Also, this is not the international version of football, better known as Soccer in North America; rather, it is the American version of football. If you have never played or seen American football before, I would suggest a title like NFL Blitz for an introduction to the game. This is a football game for the seasoned fan or a fan that lives for realism.
Some people might be wondering why I included that seemingly simple introduction to the section. The reason is just to suggest what the game is in the sea of football games and to suggest what type of fans would like it and which ones might not. It is not a strict guide to follow though. If you are new to football but want to try the best experience, buy this game or wait for the new installment. Those are just my basic suggestions before I start to get in-depth in the game. You have been warned, now to tell how good this game really is. This part of the review will have a lot of football talk, which means all football lingo will be put in brackets.
The passing interface, likely the easiest part in a game to get right, is done very well in Madden. It has a simple “3 button” approach. The first button push is the action to start the play, in other words snap the ball to the quarterback {Snapping the ball is quickly throwing the ball to the quarterback from under the snapper’s legs. A quarterback is the offensive player who runs the show, by passing the ball to a player or giving the ball to player to run the ball}. The second button push is where the icons are brought up to choose which wide receiver or running back you want to throw the ball to {A wide receiver is a player who catches the ball the a quarterback throws. The running back usually is the person the quarterback gives the ball to, so he can run the ball. A running back can also be a wide receiver}. The third play is deciding by a button press who the ball is going to get thrown to. It is as simple as that for passing, simple but solid.
The running factor of the game is even simpler. You snap the ball, then you hand the ball off automatically and run forward. Sure, choosing the correct play can be difficult on high difficulties, but the basics of running are extremely simple. Running can get technical when having to choose plays depending on your running back, and that makes this game great. The running game, while simple at its shell, needs strategy to be able to be effective, which is really nice and realistic. For instance, if you have to go 2 yards for a first down, you would have to think, and then use your power running back (Such as Jerome Bettis), or you use your fullback. If you use your finesse back, you can almost be guaranteed lost yardage {A down is basically an allowance for a play, you get 4 downs to get 10 yards of forward movement for a new set of downs. A power running back is a large running back used for breaking tackles. A fullback is another type of running back, who is usually used for blocking, short passes, and power runs if a finesse running back. A finesse running back is a really fast back used for normal runs, short passes, and often uses small holes in the defensive line and fancy moves to gain a lot of yards}. The running game in Madden is great, simple for beginners, but complex for masters.
My favorite part of the whole game is the overall strategy involved in every portion of the game. Play calling makes the difference between the great players and the good players, and adapting to play calling separates the great players from the masters. For every play, you have to take into consideration how good your players are and their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I was playing a game where my quarterback was Donovan McNabb, a big and fast guy. I decided to use a lot of passing plays, and when I had to run (With Lamar Smith), I would do it sparingly. I often only used Smith to keep the defense from jumping on McNabb. Most of the time, I either passed, or ran using McNabb. Later that day, my whole strategy had to change when I used Peyton Manning, a slower QB with a cannon. With him I used his great running back a lot with a little passing. The game forces you to adapt according to your surroundings, which is, in my opinion, the best part of this game.
The defense is very simple at first, but gets intricate as the game gets harder. On the easier mode, you can usually send your players on a blitz, or a run on the quarterback, almost every play, and the QB will take a while to notice. Later on, you will have to be slightly more cautious, since if you rush the QB every play, he will throw a quick pass and screw your defense for 10-15 yards. There are very few money plays, or attacks that work every time in this game, so you will have to mix it up to confuse the offense. EA Sports did a great job constructing the actual game.
Outside of the actual game play, the options for playing are vast and well done. First of all, there is your average exhibition mode, where you can face the computer or a friend (or 3), the average choice for face-offs. There is a season option, where you can play a single season with either a real or “fantasy” team. (A fantasy team is where you draft a team out of a pool of all the players, along with the other 30 teams). A franchise mode, often the centerpiece of a sports game, is done very well here. You can do a fantasy draft or use a real team, and you can use that team for 30 years, going through free agent periods, college drafts (Players can be transferred from NCAA Football 2002), and bringing a new team into expansion, the Houston Texans, or any created team that you choose. There is also a two-minute drill mini-game, which is basically scoring as many points as possible in two minutes, a very good party game.
There is also a very good create-a-player feature and a very good create-a-team feature in Madden 2002. The details that can be placed on your players can be very normal to extremely specific. The height and weight features are done well, and look pretty right compared to other players. The little addable features, such as wristbands and different socks are nice. If there is one thing I don’t like, is the ability to create ultimate players.
The CAT (Create a team) is very good too. The locations and new stadiums are basically standard in sports games now, but the teams are extremely easy to design, which is a big bonus for a creative idiot such as myself. There isn’t really much to say about CAT, other than it is extremely solid, very easy, and can be put in place of the Texans. Here are the Props and Slops of game play for Madden 2002.

Game is based on play calling and adaptation
Extremely easy to understand for beginners and complex enough for expert
Strong all-around game play
Loads of extra options and playing modes
Long lasting franchise modes
Well-designed Fantasy Draft
Texans are in the game
Very solid passing, running, and defensive interface
Good playbooks
Very small amount of money plays
Much faster than last years version

Can be difficult for people new to football
Hard to intercept the ball

This is, in my honest opinion, the best American football game on the market. I would NOT recommend buying this at this time since next year’s installment is on the way for all three major next-generation consoles in the next few months. If you do not mind not having newer rosters and some upgrades and you want a cheap and good game do yourself a favor and pick-up Madden 2002. This game has taken out over 200 hours of my life, and I will hope this game will eat your hours up too.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/22/02, Updated 07/22/02

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