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Madden 2000 (PC) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Summer 1999

Background Info

PC Screens(9)

For those of us who have spent even a small portion of our time in the PC Football gaming world, we already know exactly where EA's Madden series ranks. As challengers come and go, Madden remains number one on our desktops and number one in our game-pad hearts. Simply put, Madden has always delivered great gameplay and realism while adding a whole host of features that keeps us coming back for more.

This year's newest contender, Microsoft's debut of NFL Fever 2000, got a brief head start on Madden. And while formidably challenged in certain areas, Madden 2000 has arrived just in time for the NFL season with its eye on reinstating its claim to the PC Football crown.

So does Madden remain king of the cyberskin? Let's answer that with a definitive "yes", but with an eye out for the future. While it's more than fair to say that Madden does, indeed, remain atop the charts, it is likewise undeniably reasonable to say that the folks at EA had better not be anywhere near complacent heading into next Fall.

Madden 2000 delivers yet again with an improved version of an already strong football game. Gameplay, which has already kept this series ahead of its competition, has improved even more, but some shortcomings that previously went either unnoticed or unworthy of criticism better be addressed in the next calendar year if Madden 2001 is to continue EA's dominance.

Presentation/Graphics : 89
Seems that just as soon as Madden got its act together in the graphics department it just as suddenly finds itself rather inadequate once more in this area. The improvements from Madden 99 over its previous incarnation were noteworthy, to say the least. While plays unfolded with increased realism, the players themselves were likewise about as real-world as we could have expected.

Then came Monster Microsoft and the whole landscape changed. Without question, this is the one area where Madden yet again must step up its efforts if it is to remain as the industry standard. Some players and actions suddenly are looking silly and just plain behind the times! Amazing how fast that happened.

Don't misunderstand here; the game still presents well. Pump up your display to maximum output and you'll get an eyeful, with not only players on the sidelines, but some cheerleaders and television sound men as well. The players themselves look decent, with player names etched onto some fairly good-looking uniforms. Players move naturally enough, and this game really does excel in the area of broken tackles, tipped passes and dives into the end zone. Despite some inherent blockiness, you're sure to be more than pleased with the representation as plays unfurl.

On the flip side, while it's nice to be able to quickly spot Terrell Davis' familiar #29 as he breaks open for a dump pass, these uniform numbers are excessively large. At the same time, while players are depicted accurately according to their sizes, where gangly wide receivers look like sticks when compared to the Dallas Cowboys' O Line, everyone seems to have enormous faces housed within massive helmets!

Some gamers will be pleased with the remarkable variety of celebration dances. And, yes, Jamaal Anderson does his little bird rendition after his TDs. These celebrations work well enough, but the sideline celebrations leave something to be desired. Something about a half-dozen Buffalo Bills players simultaneously throwing their fists in the air and clapping their hands just seems too cartoonish to ignore.

Without question, a beautiful NFL Fever 2000 affords us the opportunity to be a bit more nitpicky than we once used to be. So, to be fair, what we have with Madden 2000's graphics is certainly adequate, just not extraordinary. After all, action on the field still looks realistic and you won't exactly be disappointed with the well-done stadium depictions. Heck, you can even tell the difference between grass and artificial surfaces. You just won't be bowled over, that's all.

Presentation/Audio : 92
From the less is more category, Madden shines in audio presentation. Too many times we've run into football games that attempt to incorporate "seamless" commentary and announcing into the program. How many times have we muttered to ourselves about some of the most painfully out-of-place dialogue? Too many to count, thank you.

To say the least, Summerall uses a relaxed, evenly paced style of delivery during actual NFL telecasts, and it's a style that works extremely well again on Madden 2000. He's useful too, pointing out defensive formations with accuracy. Madden himself, meanwhile, is also utilized smartly. While he doesn't seem to utter too many names, he also rarely falls into the trap of criticizing a third-and-11 draw play with two minutes remaining and your team up by two touchdowns. Good play on your part is rewarded with a more chatty Madden, who is more willing to heap on praise than he is to incessantly criticize.

Tackling is crisp, and comes complete with appropriate grunting and such, and the cadence barked out by a given QB is lifelike enough. Crowd noise is standard stuff, though a tad dull in some pressure-packed situations. A nice touch comes in the attention to detail, as evidenced in games held at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Each pass completion is met with an accompanying Viking call, just as you would find at Minnesota home games.

Interface/Options : 85
The details simply don't receive any more attention than what you'll find in Madden 2K. Fire up the game and you'll be met with a plethora of game options presented in a sharp-looking opening screen. However, while Madden's interface is a sight to behold, it's a true test of your patience. Think of it as Madden's game within the game. Point is, you stand a better chance of lining Dan Marino up in your backfield and sending him out on a halfback sweep than you do in trying to figure out just how in Dan's Name you're supposed to navigate your way around these screens.

Yes, the options are here, ranging from exhibition games to full seasons, trades, and so on. Not a stone is left uncovered, as you can play the role of coach, player or general manager, just as we have come to expect with the Madden franchise. It's just that the simple act of picking through the options themselves is more difficult than it should be.

Want to be especially daring? How about attempting to correctly set up an exhibition contest by using your mouse! Ha! Good luck, buddy. After trudging along ever-so-slowly with your mouse, you'll eventually get to the main screen where you can select your teams of choice, controllers, etc. Watch in amazement as you barely move your mouse and yet teams get switched, controllers run between both teams and the "Madden Challenge" feature gets turned on and off. Then watch in horror as you progress to the final screen prior to kickoff only to see your chosen contest of Denver-Jacksonville turn into a Detroit-Kansas City snoozer! Oh, but the game will still be played in Jacksonville.

Once you've mastered the puzzle that is Madden's interface, you'll be pleased with the numerous options. A nice feature that might get a lot of use is the Situation mode, where you select the teams, venue, time of game and score. It's a great place to practice your two-minute offense. Heck, it's a great shot at putting yourself through the paces in your two-minute defense, for that matter.

Franchise Mode returns, allowing you to build mini-dynasties at your whim. I'm not entirely clear on why the game allows virtually any trade as long as it fits under a given salary cap, but it's a terrific feature nonetheless. Statistics are available, which is yet another obvious inclusion that still manages to separate this game from its competition. Stats are tracked throughout the year, and coupled with some accurate gameplay you'll be sure to end up with some real-life statistical performances.

Gameplay : 97
And so we come to gameplay. To a certain extent you can take all other aspects of this game and throw them out the window once you get to this category. Truth is, Madden 2K is the best depiction of the NFL game that we've ever been lucky enough to enjoy. How do we sum it up? Simple...EA Sports. It's in the

It's no secret that the running game is something that has been demonstrably difficult for most PC football games to accurately incorporate. Unless you're the type who has incredible patience and a whole heck of a lot of time, getting a good running game going can be next to impossible. Madden 2K nicely changes all of that. Even non-experts can run for a few yards here and there. Why is this important? It's the game of football! We need to have a sense of "establishing" a ground attack while picking apart a defense by air. We have to be given the option of running off-tackle on third and five with the game on the line. After all, isn't it reassuring when you can take off on a halfback sprint and look ahead of you as your O linemen bust open a hole?

And while your CPU opponent isn't miraculously in your backfield as soon as you try a running play, that same opponent also isn't quite as easy to pick apart through the air as has been the case previously. No doubt, this is a game with intelligence, not only with regard to incorporating plays accurately, but in terms of the opposition too.

Balance is the key feature here. It's not altogether uncommon for both you and the CPU to run an equal amount of run plays and pass attempts. In so doing, if you choose to play 7-minute quarters, you'll get a nice smattering of 60-70 plays on each side of the ball, resulting in the most realistic PC football results that you can hope for.

Taking my lowly Bears in a game against the Raiders, I was able to amass 151 yards rushing on 34 attempts while passing for 228 yards on 17 of 26 passing. As for the Raiders, try 98 yards on 33 rushing attempts and 254 yards on 20 of 31 passing in a 19-14 Oakland triumph. Additional games mustered similar results time and time again.

Running, passing and kicking are all handled via the same controller buttons that we've grown accustomed to using throughout the years, rendering the learning curve virtually non-existent. Turnovers and penalties pop up at the least convenient, albeit most realistic, times.

Replay Value : 97
Again, Madden 2K shines in replay value thanks to its various features. You'll exhaust several hours checking out the different options, and once you play a season, you're in it for the long haul. You can play year to year, building a struggling Philly franchise into a powerhouse...or not! Make the right trades and watch as your team establishes itself as a contender.

The depth certainly doesn't end there. You can play great teams of the past, and on fields of yore. If you're bored with entirely too much time on your hands, you can select from what seems like every team ever to grace the gridiron. On one particularly useless evening, I selected the '85 New England Patriots against the '66 Bengals. Playing a home game, I noticed that not only did the old uniforms return, but the old center-snap logo finds its way to the middle of Foxboro Stadium as well. Only mystery here is in trying to figure out why the '85 Patsies, 46-10 losers to the Bears of the same year, can be found while the victors are missing in action.

The Madden Challenge will likewise keep you coming back for more. With success on the field Madden rewards you with points that can accumulate and lead to a code that unlocks additional stadiums and teams. Eventually even I will personally have the time to engage this feature. Just knowing that it's out there is added incentive to keep on playing.

Overall : 92
It's much too difficult to attempt a synopsis of Madden 2K without bringing Microsoft's NFL Fever 2000 into the fray. Plain and simple, NFL Fever singlehandedly exposed some of the new Madden's deficiencies, from a mess of an interface to a graphical representation that now appears second-rate.

But for us gamers out there, Madden remains as top dog in the football arena. It's been said many times before, but what matters most is gameplay, gameplay and gameplay, which is where Madden 2000 simply cannot be beat.

Let's just hope that the next Madden entry brings some beauty to the table and leaves us with the ultimate football game for us to spend days Tuesday through Saturday playing. The potential is there; EA Sports need only beat upstart Microsoft to the punch.

By: Ron Barrett 9/29/99

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