Review by Psycho Penguin

Reviewed: 06/24/03 | Updated: 06/24/03

If you got 2002 when Madden 2003 just came out, what you gonna do? ACT A FOOL!

I do some foolish things, I admit. Buying Madden 2002 the day Madden 2003 came out was a pretty foolish thing to do, but I had my reasoning. I want to review a lot of Playstation 2 games, and having a variety of sports games would have helped. Plus, I was able to buy four games for the price of Madden 2003, and I ended up getting it a few weeks later, anyways. I didn't expect Madden 2002 to compare favorably to Madden 2003, but it actually does, and in some aspects is actually a superior game. I wasn't expecting much out of this one, just another game to review with an average score, but it turned out to be remarkably well done, and the fact 2003 manages to outclass this one shows how far the Madden series has come in the 10 years it's been out.

For one, the controls are actually better in 2002. When you go back to pass, you have to push the button for the receiver icons to come up. I think this is a good idea, and should have been implemented in Madden 2003, as well. There's nothing worse then going back to pass and pressing a button to bring up the icons and throwing an incomplete pass because you're used to the old control scheme, so I am glad this game featured it. Plus, it's easy to play defense in this one. You get a turbo button, and switching between players is easy. You can audible and change your defense at the line of scrimmage at the touch of a button, and everything is smooth. To beat the defense, you get offensive moves like stiff arm and spin move which are also easy to execute.

The game also manages to be the best playing game in the series yet, which is saying a lot considering the amount of great Madden games to come out over the years. You get all the usual modes, ranging from exhibition game to season. Season has always been one of my favorite things to do in a football game, as I pick one of my favorite teams (I usually pick the Bucs, but have been known to rock a few games with the Jets or Titans as well) and then go to work through a season, watching my statistics improve and hopefully becoming the league leader in categories, and guiding my team towards a super bowl. It's a lot of fun and can become pretty addicting.

Besides the Season Mode, you also get a Franchise Mode. Now, instead of just going for one season, you now guide a team for several different seasons, helping to build the next NFL Dynasty. You get money to spend on free agents, draft-day decisions based on your finish the previous year, ability to trade players, and more. I loved feeling like a General Manager in the Franchise Mode and felt it added a lot to the gameplay. If you feel like starting a new team, you can do so by choosing the Houston Texans, and then you basically have to start from scratch with them.

Of course, Madden 2002 also has several new features to help separate it from the pack. You now get an awesome Two Minute Drill mode where your offense goes against a defense, and you have to see how many points you score in 2 minutes. At the end of the two minutes, you get a certain amount of points, based on the accuracy of your passing, rushing, and overall offense. You also get a Create A Team mode, which allows you to build a team from scratch, designing their logo, uniform, etc. then picking their players and putting them into the game. It takes a lot of work, but the payoff is very rewarding as you get to play a season with your very own dream team. The possibilities are endless.

Another cool feature of the series is the new Madden Cards feature, which I felt was another way to add addictive values to an already vaunted series. You can get Madden Cards from completing tasks, ranging from Two Minute Drills to breaking records during games. For instance, if you happen to have a record for 200 rushing yards, and then you get 210 your next game, you get a Card for doing so. These cards are valuable, and can then be used for improvements to your players, team, or can be used to get Cheat Codes like automatic turbo. I loved this addition to the series, as you can then put your Cards on the line in games against your friends. Madden Cards just added even more replay value, in my opinion.

I also loved the addition of Classic Teams in this game. You can move your cursor on the team select screen left and right to bring up classic teams if you wish. If you are an old school Cowboys fan, for instance, you can play with several different generations of Cowboys teams. I felt this was another outstanding addition to a loaded series, because of the fact that many people are old-school football fans, and throwback jerseys are the ''in thing'' right now. I love rocking a few games with the 79 Bucs and their unique orange uniforms, and I'm sure many fans will appreciate getting to be a variety of different teams. You also get to choose between All Star Teams and the NFL Europe teams, so this is the most loaded Madden yet.

Of course, the game is still the same old fun Madden game we've come to know and love. You get the same defensive and offensive packages, but I was so glad to see you can now choose between several different playbooks. You can even create your own playbook. Don't like your coach's playbook? Steal another team's playbook! Choosing a variety of plays is key to success in this game. You get running plays, passing plays, and the occasional trick play, and choosing between them at key situations can be fun and challenging to do. I love the feeling of needing to pick the right play and then running it flawlessly to get a first down. I think most of the appeal from football comes from this, and Madden does a good job of simulating this undervalued aspect of football perfectly.

Multiplayer Madden is just as fun as single player Madden, in my opinion, and it's just as fun here. With the ability to place Madden Cards on the line during games, as well as the ability to play as classic teams, the possibilities have never been more endless than now. I love playing with a bunch of my friends in this game, and with the ability to go with up to 8 different people in this game. Have 7 of your football crazed friends over and nothing to do? Plug in Madden 2002 and get to work! I've never had so much fun in multiplayer Madden as I did in this one, and to think, it gets even better in 2003!

In addition to the sleek gameplay, you also get treated to one of the most gorgeous football games ever released. I was blown away when I first loaded up Madden and saw the pristine player designs and alluring stadiums. It felt just like I was in an actual football stadium watching an actual game. Animations are dead on, as you don't get any clipping or pop up, even when it comes to tackles. The ability to change the weather would hinder the graphics, you would think, but the game handles the varying types of weather perfectly. I especially love the puddles of water that form up during rainy games. It really does make my day to play a game of classic old school football in a mud-soaked field with the classic Cowboys and classic Jets. Everything just looks so amazing in this game, I can't stand to point out minor flaws, so I won't.

Accompanying the sleek graphics is a great musical soundtrack that really balances the game out perfectly. You get a blend of hip-hop beats and rock songs, but the inability to change what song is playing at what time can certainly get annoying. I love some of the songs, but others can get annoying, and having to hear a song I dislike when I'm trying to select my modes of play can be frustrating. The sound effects are good, though, with bone-crushing tackles that sound deadly accurate. The commentary isn't all that great, as Madden and Summerall continue to be quite annoying. Listening to Summerall say the same boring things over and over while Madden yaps about hitting the hole when I pass the ball 11 times in a row can get annoying, and is really the only weak point of the game, but fortunately it can be turned off. EA really got it right with this game.

The game is laughably easy... on rookie mode. Turn the challenge up for a real challenge, but the computer will never cheat or use cheap AI, which I felt was just wonderful. I get so sick of playing single player football games which feel they have to intercept the ball every time I go up by a touchdown and I get the ball, so it's nice to play a game where you have to use strategy to actually win. Running the ball every time won't get you anywhere, and passing the ball on 3rd and 27 will be harder than you expect because of the defense playing pass protection. You have to be perfect on some occasions to get a first down, and I wouldn't have it any other way, as it emulates real life football perfectly.

This game has some of the best replay value ever, and would have even more if it wasn't one of many Madden games. There is no reason you wouldn't want to play this game if you didn't have 2003, though. With a bunch of exciting modes, the classic Madden gameplay we've come to know and love, and more, it's one of the most replayable games of all time. And right when the single player mode starts to get a tad boring, you can kick it with mutliplayer goodness. You will love to play season mode and franchise mode, and you may even become addicted to it like I can. I was impressed with how much I actually wanted to play this one, and if I didn't have 10 other sports games to play at the time, I would have played it a whole lot more. It's really that replayable and fun.

The challenge is just one of the many reasons you'd want to come back to Madden 2002.. if 2003 wasn't out. The problem is that 2003 is out, and is even better, so I don't find myself playing this one too much any more. However, for a gamer on a budget, you can do no wrong here. This is one of the best football games I have ever played. EA Sports and Tiburon resealed my faith in their companies with this terrific game. The graphics are amazing, the music is varied, the sounds are decent (besides the commentary, which can be turned off), and the gameplay is just as fun as ever with some classic features and new and exciting modes. What more could I possibly ask for?

Thank you, EA. And thank you for an even better Madden 2003.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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