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Madden 2000 (N64) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Summer 1999

Background Info

N64 Screens(4)
For three years Electronic Arts has put out versions of Madden Football for both the PSX and Nintendo 64 consoles. The original Madden 64 was significantly different than its PSX counterpart, in part because it lacked the NFL license (but it had 3D players); it also played differently. That gap narrowed last year, but there were still perceptible differences between the two versions. This year, aside from some superficial differences, the two games are largely the same, and so one might pick up a good deal of information about this title simply by reading the PSX review by Matt elsewhere on this site. Some differences and characteristics are worth noting, however, and this review will offer some advice on whether to buy this particular version of Madden based upon what consoles one owns.

Presentation/Graphics : 85
First, a warning: I came to this game having played several games of NFL2K for the Dreamcast. Whatever my reservations about that game's AI, its stunning visuals set off the N64's capabilities in a whole new perspective. That said, however, I must admit that I'm not sure what I found in M2K is all that different than if I had not seen the Dreamcast.

I was not overly impressed by the detailing of the players in M2K. True, the variation in profile between the wiry wideout, the sizable fullback, and the offensive lineman is useful, but there's something unmistakably misshapen about how the uniform jerseys drape over the pads, shoulders, and trunk. Players look a bit boxy and sometime move awkwardly; some players (Jerry Rice comes to mind) appear too stocky. In some ways I prefer the M2K PSX player renderings, and on this issue Gameday is generally superior (although its linemen are a bit too svelte).

This year the animations are smoother, more varied, and are executed in speedier fashion; the game simply moves faster as a result. Uniform colors and stadia are a bit more vivid. The fields show footprints under certain conditions, but not for long. Moreover, the icons on receivers can be hard to spot, for the yellow letters are tall and thin. Failure to know what's what can really destroy one's day when it comes to passing.

In short, I was a little disappointed with the slight evolution on graphics (although I like the raising and lowering of the net behind the goalposts).

Presentation/Audio : 45
As one might expect, the audio for M2K 64 does not reach the standards set by its PSX counterpart. Most noticeable is the performance of the intrepid announcing duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden. While this year's version offers a marked improvement over its predecessor-- Summerall now offers basic information on every down--Madden makes few appearances, and names are virtually non-existent. Crowd noise, while it may rise and fall on occasion, often resembles one continuously running water in a shower. The on-field noises sound a bit muted.

Frankly, someone is going to have to address the issue of the audio in N64 sports games, for in this case, the failure to do much with it detracts from one's gaming experience--something that becomes evident after playing football games on other consoles.

Interface/Options : 80
You may choose from one of two game styles (Arcade and Traditional [simulation]); there are exhibition, season, tournament, franchise, and practice modes. There are also four levels of difficulty; I found the rookie level comparable to the veteran level on Gameday as a point of departure. In addition, you may tweak the AI settings for various aspects of gameplay, including the execution of running and passing plays, CPU playcalling, and other options. All of these options are also available in the PSX version of the game. The N64 game also includes the one- button beginner's version, which at best is good if you are trying to con a wary friend or relative into playing a game by claiming that all you have to do is press a button and watch things happen.

As if this wasn't enough, there are the usual options for user profiles, custom playbooks, created plays and players, audibles, and so on. New to all this year's M2K games is the Madden Challenge, in which points are awarded for attaining various statistical thresholds (the number of points depends upon the difficulty level) or for answering trivia questions. This process unlocks teams, stadia, and other goodies available through passwords (or you can surf the net to find them). Lacking in the N64 game is a situation mode that enables you to reenact key moments in games.

The memory card management for M2K is simply awkward. You must load certain pieces of information at certain screens; you may NOT load all options at the memory card management screen. There are several other confusing routines, all of which result in a tedious, time-consuming process to load the right teams, user profiles, playbooks, and whatever else.

Gameplay : 88
M2K/64, like its PSX counterpart, offers players a pretty competitive and challenging football contest once one bypasses the beginner and rookie levels of difficulty to confront the CPU on pro. The CPU will read your tendencies and react accordingly; indeed, you may have to do a little more hunting than usual at first to find a group of dependable plays to call.

It's easier to run, and in some ways harder to pass. That's all to the good, for the no ground-gain aerial circuses were becoming a bit much. Runners can still cut to the inside, although I had stretches where all my runner could find was the back of several offensive linemen who weren't budging. The Route-Based passing system (in which you press R as you pass) and the Hot Route option (in which you tell your receiver to perform one of three routes) helps make passing more fun and complex. The result makes you feel a little more like a quarterback who reads and responds and delivers balls based upon timing routes. Defense remains something of a challenge, although a team with a skilled defensive end can count on making a welcome number of sacks.

However, M2K no longer relies simply on what happens on the field to engage a player's interest. Between creating plays, running drafts, and building powerhouses in the franchise setting, players can take on the role of owner and general manager as well as coach. The franchise mode offers one experience in drafting, bargaining over new contracts, releasing players, and signing free agents.

Replay Value :88
M2K will draw players to play again and again, testing themselves against new difficulty levels, using the franchise mode (especially in its multiplayer incarnation) to build and maintain winning teams, and turning to the play editor to come up with new ways to move the ball down the field. Even the Madden Challenge has its place in this endeavor, although many of the passwords to be gained are already in circulation.

Overall : 85
EA has really put out a pretty good football game this year--and I say this as someone who was once quite fond of the Gameday series (and who doesn't think GD2K is a horrible game). However, a gamer might want to examine these following options:

If you have a PSX, I'd choose the PSX version of this game, primarily because of its superior audio. If all you have is an N64, I'd choose M2K in a heartbeat over QBC2K. If you have a Dreamcast, I'd say it's a matter of graphics and fairly solid (but not flawless) gameplay versus a deeper game. Those options should in no way detract from the fact that M2K is the best pro football sim out there for the N64; moreover, don't go giving NFL2K all the awards until you take some time to play it.

By: Brooks S. 9/22/99

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