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Madden 2002 (PC) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: August 23, 2001

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PC Screens(45)

PC Screens(6)

Madden 2001 PC's main selling point was its online franchise mode. Gamers were able to join up to 30 other gamers in an online league and compete against each other. The online league feature seem as if it were only in its beta stage as leagues around the net often had their files corrupted, and league games sometimes took up hours as a result of constant freezes and lockups. Another problem with 2001 PC was the miracle leap and dive. WRs were able to do the miracle leap between 3 defenders and still come down with the ball. The miracle dive contributed to the unrealistic feel of the game. With Madden 2002, EA has promised improved network code, better DB AI, better graphics, and a more realistic game (amongst other promises). Will EA deliver?

Presentation/Graphics : 95
Graphics are simply amazing. EA's weakness has never been in the graphics area. I know all the PC gamers were impressed from the jump in the quality of graphics from 2000 to 2001. Just wait till you see Madden 2002 for the PC. Of course, EA is recommending you have at least a 600 mhz processor as well as a nice 3D card. The TV style presentation is done almost to perfection. That is if you don't include the audio. All the instant replays and cut scenes after each play make you think you are actually watching real football.

The biggest improvement would have to be the collisions between the players. Yes, the players sometimes merge together, but that mostly happens only with the DL before the snap if you move them into each other. Other than that, the animations are much better. No longer will the ball be at a WR's eyelevel, and then all of a sudden appear in the WR's hands. The tackling animations are a lot better than last year. The DBs will swat the ball down instead of letting the ball hit them upside the head.

Gone from the sidelines are the 2D figures from last year. We now have 3D players and coaches. Also new in the graphics department are the shadows. Playing in the afternoon will get you creeping shadows alongside the field. I don't believe the shadows progress as the game progresses though. Stadium graphics are well done.

Not much disappointment in the graphics area with Madden 2002. Some minor itches, such as the shot-in-the-back animation is still there when diving at someone from behind or the static crowd, but overall, in the graphics department, EA has not disappointed us at all.

Presentation/Audio : 60
The commentary is what you would expect nowadays in EA Sports' Madden games. Boring. During big plays, the two man team of Madden and Summeral don't sound any different than any normal play. Sound effects in the game are much the same. The yells and groans are well represented.

Last year, users were able to import 3 of their own mp3 files through the use of the ditty utility. This year, all you have to do is move your MP3 into the menu music folder and you'll be able to choose which track you would like to listen to while going through the menus.

Interface/Options : 80
The biggest addition is separate AI sliders for human and computer. You are able to customize the computer's passing accuracy, pass block abilities, receiving and all the other good stuff. Same is true for human sliders. The only problem here is that some of the sliders don't appear to work correctly. I set the CPU's QB accuracy and their receiving ablitity all the way to the left, yet the results are almost the same as if I had just left it alone. Same with those specific human sliders. However, the sliders appear to work a bit when I play online. Even though some of the deep passes are still thrown too accurately, I do get passes where the QB misses his receiver by five yards or so. The other sliders seem to work fine.

The franchise mode in the game hasn't gone through much change from last year's game. One key new feature is the ability to practice with your team in the franchise--a good way to get familiar with your rookies and new players each week. Also, the game allows for users to view game stats of simmed games. Just team stats, no individual player stats. There are new stats added. New stats include: tackle for losses, and stats for offensive linemen. Still missing are the INT return yards, and INT return TDs.

I haven't had a chance to test out the online franchise mode much. Last year's game had problems with franchises corrupting and league members' files corrupting. I don't know if this has been worked on much or not. One thing I noticed is that no longer will the two users in the online league need to quit and rejoin the game to ensure a save is in place.

As a result of EA porting the 2001 PS2 version, they seem to have forgotten to add the ability to save replays. This is just simply silly of them. If they have the same Q&A testers from last year who tested the 2001 PC game, they need to get some new testers.

EA also took another step backwards and completely took out the play editor. I have no idea why. Their play editor was basic enough last year already.

Noteworthy of a mention, players' ratings are over a much broader spectrum than 2001 PC. Don't be surprise to see players on your depth chart with overall ratings in the 50s. I like the idea here as stars and bench players need to be more distinguishable.

One feature that EA seem to worked on is the create a team feature. Users are able to have their own logo, endzone logo, midfield logo and helmets and use their customized team in online leagues. The catch is that everyone in the league must have the customizable artwork on their system or else it won't show up. EA didn't do anything to the uniform editor. Like last year, you can only mess around with the color combinations.

Unfortunately the game does not factor in the realignment of the Houston Texans. Also, the draft pool still seems to be similar to last year's game. Don't be surprised to see a 5'11" 260lb RB with good speed.

Gameplay : 75
Upon first getting the game, and getting a few games in against the computer with default settings, I was ready to bash the game for its poor DB intelligence. However, after spending hours of trial and experiment of trying various combinations of settings, I finally found a balanced set.

The game plays much more realistic than Madden 2001 PC. Feels a lot better. Anyone out there who played Madden 2001 for the PS2: this game closely resembles it, excluding a few tweaks. With the new engine on the PC platform, the spin move can no longer juke 4 guys at one time as in last year's PC game. You will be fortunate to break one tackle with this year's spin move. Another improvement I noticed came in my first game. Playing against the CPU as the Chargers. Tim Brown caught a ball over the middle in zone coverage; I had control of Junior Seau, and was ready to deck Brown coming right at me. So I dive at him from maybe 4 or 5 yards away and BOOM! No Seau didn't tackle anyone, he dove 1 yard right into the grass at the Q. One of my other players brought down Brown. Point is that the super dive is no longer in the game. This makes it much harder for you to bring down the computer yourself. The miracle leap, where a user takes control of the WR and makes him jump and come down with the ball even if he is triple covered, is gone. It is a good thing that EA fixed the miracle leap right? Maybe. As now we have a problem with one-handed catches. WRs and DBs all love to try to make one-handed grabs. Check out the screen shot here. The one-handed grabs occur too often, which makes it easy to go deep. I did manage to find a good setting to offset the one-handed receptions by increasing defensive settings and decreasing the offensive ablitities.

A nice little gameplay detail that EA finally included in a PC version of their Madden franchise are bad snaps. In the game, sometimes the center will make a high snap while the QB is in shotgun. I haven't seen the QB fumble the ball yet, though, on a bad snap. I've had plays where the QB was supposed to hand-off to the RB out of the shotgun, but had to tuck the ball in due to the high snap and heavy pressure from the defensive line, resulting in a loss.

A couple of features from the 2001 PC game are now gone. Players can no longer lateral the ball manually. Also, on defense, the read-and-react feature was taken out. I really liked being able to send 7 players to clog up the holes. This year, best thing to do besides audibling is to call bump and run to get your two safeties in the box.

I play the game on adjusted settings on the All Pro level. All-Madden makes it way too tough to run even with adjusted settings. I imagine someone out there will find some suitable All-Madden settings with some time and testing. All-Pro with my adjusted settings gives me a competitive game just about every game against the computer. Here is a text file with my settings. The DBs actually knock down the ball most of the time. Since I put the defensive awareness all the way up, I was force to decrease the INT settings as with the default INT settings, LBs were making diving INTs from out of nowhere. LBs still unrealistically dive 3 or 4 yards to knock down a ball but at least they don't catch the balls as often now. With all of this, the deep pass is still a minor problem. My settings increase the difficulty of the deep pass in the game. The short and medium pass game is done pretty well. The catch-22 to my settings is that the balls that normally would be caught, sometimes are dropped, such as a wide open 3-yard pass out of the backfield to the FB. Even with that setback, my completion percentage for my QB usually ranges from 50%-65%.

Even though I found settings that gave me a competitive game against the computer, I was still appalled at how accurate the QBs are in the game. Perhaps it was my QB? I first used Doug Flutie on the Chargers and all of his passes were on target. The passes he didn't complete were because of drops or deflections. Then I decided to see how much of a factor QB throwing power and throwing accuracy really had. I put Curtis Conway, a WR on the Chargers at QB against the Ravens. Conway was 4 of 7. His passes were dead accurate, yet his throwing power and throwing accuracy were somewhere around 15. The 3 passes that weren't caught? 2 of them were dropped and 1 was deflected. This holds for both playing against the computer and playing against someone online.

No matter what QB I used, I was able to have my deep passes reach the intended target too accurately. I feel like I'm cheating the AI by going deep whenever I want. I should be able to do what I want without having to feel guilty about taking advantage of the poor intelligence of the DBs with the long passes. The dead-on accuracy of the QBs doesn't help this at all. The long game is a huge problem that EA still didn't fix after hearing numerous complaints.

The run game is improved. No longer can I make a huge looping spin move juking a few would-be tacklers out of their shoes. As mentioned before, EA fixed the super dive. The blocking in the game is portrayed much better than last year's blocking. The OL intelligence has been improved as I tried moving my D around to get more pressure on the QB but the DL usually picked up the pressure. The OL stats don't seem to be right though. I get maybe 3 pancakes a game even with a good OL.

Running with the QB on All-Pro takes a bit to get adapted to. Vick can out run the defensive linemen without a problem in the game. However, try using Daunte Culpepper...he ends up getting hunted down by Sapp from the Bucs. I don't think this really could happen. Daunte isn't the fastest QB in the league, but I know he can outrun Sapp. Some of the ratings with the default rosters are a little off. How is Sam Morris speed on the Bills only 79? He is one of the fastest guys on the team. How is Doug Flutie's speed the same as Kordell Stewert? Kordell is as fast as most WRs in the league.

Speaking of QBs, the CPU seems to have a sixth sense for feeling pressure. In one game, Tony Banks got out of at least 5 sacks with his Dan Marino-like release. EA needs to add a release time rating for QBs. I remember one play where I sent 6 guys at Banks, mostly from the right, Banks felt the pressure, scrambled to his left, threw the ball across his body 25 yards in a perfect strike to Rocket who jukes one guy and takes it to the house. Yeah right, like this can happen.

Injuries were mostly a non-factor in last year's game. This has changed for the good. Injuries will happen, and happen with more frequency. This will require teams to have a good depth chart. Those bench players will most likely see some playing time. Good job here with the injuries. Only thing I would like to have seen is some sort of injury report screen, letting you know how long each of your injured players are out for in the game currently in progress.

Screen passes appear to be broken in the game. They don't really work as they should. I would be lucky to get past the line each time I did a screen pass.

As a result of the port from the PS2, Madden 2002 PC also has an Ask Madden and Go-to-Guy feature. Both are only for the offensive team. The Ask Madden gives you play suggestions while the go-to-guy features plays for a specific player. Would be nice to have the Ask Madden available for the D as well. Also, another positive is the ability to see what formation your opponent picks. This is to prevent a D from coming out in goaline while the offense comes out in a 5-wide formation.

Also, both the offense and defense can now flip plays. This can be done at the playcall screen or at the line. I do wonder why it says "R" to flip plays on D in the playcall screen since the button C is used to flip plays.

All in all, the gameplay is definitely improved from Madden 2001 PC. The DB play a lot more responsive, although not always. The run game is more realistic between the tackles. Running outside is tough. The QBs are still too accurate, which makes the deep pass in the game not as difficult as it should be. Defensive blitzes actually work, without having to resort to the cheap blitzes from 2001 PC. The dime double slot still can rack up your sack totals, though. Gameplay is improved, but not as much as it should be.

Replay Value : 65
Like I mentioned before, the franchise mode hasn't changed much. Looks like the online aspect of the game will have to carry the load in this category. I managed to play quite a few online games against both cable and dial-up users. My games with cable connections ran a bit choppier than last year's game, but was definitely more stable. The two game against a 56k dial-up player were very laggy and almost unplayable. I found it odd that in some of my games against a cable connection, the game would sometimes start to slow down to slow-mo around the end of the third quarter. Then, at the start of the 4th quarter, the game would speed up a little and be more playable.

Playing the game with my sliders online gave me different results than playing against the CPU. It was a lot tougher for me to just call a play where I send a speedy WR on a fly and lob it to him. I had almost given up on playing against the computer because of how easy it is to lob the ball to a fast WR and have him end up with the ball on a one-handed catch. As a result, it seems like my Madden 2002 PC games will be mostly online. The defensive players react a lot faster and are more intelligent.

EA also added a customizable create a team feature in an attempt to extend the replay value. Although the feature is nice, it is very limited. Users basically now are able to import four logos for each new team. That is about it. The uniform customizable feature still only allows you to change the color combinations. I doubt this feature will achieve what EA intended.

Overall : 79
Bottom line, Madden 2002 has great graphics, boring commentary, good sound effects, good gameplay with a few major problems in the game play and ability to run online leagues. I would only suggest this game if you plan to play the game online if you can overlook some of the stuff I mentioned. If not, get a PS2 and pick up a copy of Madden 2002 for PS2 instead.

Even with the power to tweak the AI settings, gamers shouldn't have to spend hours trying to find some combination of settings for a realistic game. That is the job of the developer. Players will be able to tweak the settings to find something suitable for their style for realistic gameplay against the computer.

By: James Chheng 8/28/01

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