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SGN Visits EA Sports


EA Sports invited members of the media for a press event showcasing their fall line-up on July 18th. I happened to be one of the first ones there. Too bad EA forgot to tell me they had changed the start time from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. But, hey, no one is bitter, though.

The event first kicked off with Superbike 2001 for the PC. EA realized that last's game might have been too sim-oriented, so they made the game a little easier for novices to pick up and get in on the action. Don't worry, you hardcore racers, you'll still be able to play the game with realistic sim settings. Superbike 2001 will also have online support, but EA has no plans for an internet lobby or meeting place. There is also a PSX2 version in the works but no official word on the release date. The EA representative hinted toward spring of next year but that was only an estimate. We'll be posting a preview of the game sometime next week.

The only other PC sports game shown was NHL 2001. The product manager of NHL 2001 really emphasized the new create-a-jersey feature. NHL 2001 for the PC will allow gamers to import their own logos for jerseys via JPEG image files and use them in designing their jerseys. EA said they worked really hard in improving the defensive AI as well as the goalie's AI. NHL 2001 is also very customizable as far as the gameplay settings go. If I remember correctly, the franchise mode will still be limited to 10 seasons. The game should be ready in time for the start of the hockey season. Click here for the fact sheet along with a bunch of new screen shots.

Onto the console games! Man, I'm becoming more and more impressed with the graphics of PlayStation 2 games under development. NHL 2001 and SSX were really impressive. I touched base on NHL 2001 in the previous paragraph already and most of the features in the PC version will be present in the PlayStation 2 version, except for a franchise mode. The reason being they simply did not have time to implement a franchise mode and still work out all the bugs before their target release date in November. As a result, the PlayStation 2 development team for NHL 2001 will have a lot more time to be able to fix the bugs in the gameplay and work on the presentation. The game isn't too far along in the development yet, which is evident in some of the animations as well as the AI, but it is already looking to be a smash. SSX, a snowboarding PlayStation 2 title, features graphics that are uncanny. EA's SSX and Konami's ESPN X-Games Snowboarding are very close graphically. As far as gameplay goes, I'll have to reserve judgement for one of our staff reviewers who's more into the sport. SSX is scheduled to be ready for the PlayStation 2 launch.

The booth I stayed at the most was, of course, Madden 2001 for PlayStation 2. I didn't get a chance to play the PlayStation 2 version at E3, so this was my first time with the PSX2 version, and wow, words can't say enough about the game. Madden 2001 excels graphically as well as in the gameplay department. DBs are a lot smarter as it is much harder to complete passes, unless maybe it was just me. The running game also is more realistic as the collisions engine was tweaked and no longer will you see DBs being able to tackle the RBs with ease. The graphics are another thing. I mean, the game looks as real as it could get. I don't know how EA is going to improve the graphics for Madden 2002. Seriously, the graphics are that good. For instance, I had a chance to watch someone muff a punt return, with the other team recovering for a split second, then the recovering team lost the ball, and the original punt return team finally recovered the ball. On replay, I was able to see that the punt returner touched the ball, lost it and one of the guys on the punt coverage team tried picking the ball up with one hand and running but was tackled from behind, lost it, and the other team recovered. The graphics are just that detailed that you will be able to see players reach down with their fingers to grab the ball. Receivers sometimes switch the hand they're holding the ball with. You can even see the facial animations upon replays. The only thing that bugged me was that I saw a back-body-drop-tackle by a LB on a RB. Hopefully the game was on arcade mode and not simulation. We'll have more very shortly on Madden 2001. Don't forget to check out Madden Mania for all your latest Madden 2001 news.

Other games shown were NBA Live 2001 for PlayStation, FIFA 2001 for PlayStation 2, Knockout Kings 2001 and NASCAR 2001 for PSX 2. I did not even touch the PSX version of NBA Live 2000 so I'm not too sure what has been improved. I did get a chance to spend a few minutes with the game, though, and was not disappointed. The gameplay was realistic as I was overpowering defenses with Shaq's power with the post-up button. FIFA 2001 for PlayStation 2 was really impressive especially during the close-ups. The detail put into the game really amazes me. The games mentioned are all due out in November and December.

Please note that I did not list every single feature mentioned in the games since we have most of them posted up already under previews. Just click on the title of the game and that should take you to the fact sheet along with new screen shots.

Well this is the end of the report. Being mainly a PC sports gamer versus console, I was rather disappointed that Madden 2001 and NBA Live 2001 for the PC were not shown at the press event. However, after playing and watching some of the PlayStation 2 titles there, I still can't get over how realistic the graphics look. You guys who already pre-ordered your PlayStation 2 should be very glad. After people see some of these games in action, flocks of people will be rushing to get their PlayStation 2. It looks like EA Sports have outdone themselves again this year thanks in part to the launch of the PlayStation 2. I am hoping the PC versions of Madden 2001 and NBA Live 2001 receive significant enhancement even though they are the only titles released for the PC version in their respective sports. Only time will tell. Finally, I would like to thank EA Sports again for inviting SGN to their press event.

By: James Chheng 7/21/00

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