Madden 2002 is back for another year on the PlayStation console. Madden gamers have been given a great football product for years. The series has a great tradition and a strong following. Most Madden gamers have moved onto the PS2, but there is still an adequate following on the PSOne. Can Madden 2002 come through one more time?
Presentation/Graphics : 90
I love Madden's graphics! The player models are outstanding for a PlayStation game. I think the time has passed when a correctly scaled player is a luxury and not a requirement. Madden not only covers that base, but what I noticed was how the players varied in movement. The receivers and backs had a certain guile to them and the linemen felt like linemen. There is enough detail on the uniforms and the stadiums to please almost any gamer. Nothing like a PS2 game, but I am not complaining. What I loved most however, is the great animation speed. Usually graphics and animation speed are a "Catch-22." One is usually sacrificed for the other. Madden integrates both seamlessly into the 2002 version. The game is as visually appealing as any game on PlayStation console.
For Madden gamers who also owned Madden 2001, they will not see a big difference in the graphical department. The days of a major graphical overhaul are over on the PSOne. The only way a PSOne Madden gamer will get a graphic facelift is buying a PS2. The engine has treated EA well throughout the years and I am sure their theory is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Presentation/Audio : 57
My, oh my! John Madden and Pat Summerall have been taking shots by reviewers for the past few years. Once considered the gold standard for gaming play-by-play, the duo now stands next to Ted Robinson, formerly of High Heat Baseball, in the XFL unemployment line. I love listening to these guys in real life, but I felt that the number of things that the duo said was disappointing. Sega Sports, for all their marketing and business faults, sure knew how to put a new twist on the audio department. EA has yet to catch on to the new wave of play-by-play in the Madden series (although I thought they did a good job with NCAA). As cohesive as Summerall and Madden are in the booth doing real-life games, they almost NEVER associate with each other. And if I hear, "They used to use stick-em to catch passes, now they've got those gloves" one more time...
I think the play-by-play is a little overrated. If you buy a game only for the play-by-play you need your head examined. The low audio score is also due to the lack of crowd involvement. The score was irrelevant to the crowd's tone. I know that NFL games don't capture the passion of a college game, but I was hoping for the crowd to be more than a few mediocre sound bytes.
Interface/Options : 93
Madden is loaded with game options. EA is always great in providing the gamer with goodies and toys to play around with. There are nine game modes. The franchise mode in Madden is one of the best on the market. Not only is it fun and addicting, but it is also deep. Although the salaries and salary cap do tend to get screwy, the whole process of signing, releasing, drafting, and trading players is tremendously entertaining. One thing I find worth mentioning about the draft in Madden is the accuracy of the ratings of the potential draftees. Unlike in other games, the new players that will find themselves on your rosters through the draft will not have tremendously high ratings. I was glad to see that the draft pool wasn't loaded with a hoard of 90+ rated players. Rookies will be skilled like rookies. I applaud EA for that.
The Situation, Coaches Corner, and 2 Minute Drill all help in refining your Madden skills. Situation mode allows you to put yourself in any conceivable circumstance. The 2 Minute Drill was very challenging. You have to perform your best "John Elway impression" and lead your team to pay dirt. The Coaches Corner is a very interesting feature. After you select your formation and play, Madden will give you pointers and background on them.
The most intriguing game mode is the Classic Madden game mode. Essentially, the game mode is SNES Madden reincarnated on the PlayStation. The nostalgic feeling I had having to pass with the old passing windows and hitting as many players as I could after the play about made me weep.
Madden also boasts the very useful AI sliders. If you are disappointed with one aspect of the game, you have the ability to tweak it.
Gameplay : 93
The meat and potatoes of every game is the gameplay. Madden 2002 has a very enjoyable style of gameplay. The collision and ball physics were acceptable for a PlayStation game. The shoelace power tackle was still abundant at times, but I liked how tackles were executed. Some of the wrap tackles were very impressive. The animation has been around for years, but I love the adrenaline rush you get when you make a tackle on a running back and his helmet pops off.
Being a Florida State football fan, anytime I play a football game I love to air it out. My first game I took the St. Louis Rams and pitted them up against the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. I won the game 17-16, but Kurt Warner's stat line was 4/27 for 88 yards with two interceptions. Mastering the passing attack took some time. Using the route-based passing really helped. The so-called "miracle leap" was not very effective in this game. To "miracle leap" is to simply toss the ball deep down the field and have the wide receiver jump up and catch the ball. In years previous, this tactic was almost impossible to stop and could be used over and over again. When you are playing with Randy Moss the tactic is believable, but when you are using Wayne Chrebet and Ed McCaffrey, it is a much different story.
Passing the ball was also much easier with the option of using Hot Routes. If you are unfamiliar with the feature, you can basically change the route of your receiver at anytime before the snap to a go route, an in route, an out route, or a hook in. When you see the blitz coming, having Hot Routes really helps. I hope that EA will expand on the Hot Routes feature and include the slant route and the stop route.
Running the ball was very easy to pick up on. If you have a good offensive line, you will see the holes open up for your running back. The juke move is very effective and the other moves will spring you open if you use them properly. Running becomes very difficult on the Madden difficulty. It is like you are running against the Baltimore Ravens every game.
Playing defense was a mixed bag. For some reason, football games cannot get the defensive line play correct. It seems that every time that you try and make a move to get to the quarterback, the offensive linemen grab hold of you and don't let go. It feels like you are clamped down. Most times you have to execute two or three swim moves just to get free and by then the play is over. With defenses running around at the ultra-speed that they are, not being able to sack the quarterback but once a game is disappointing. The CPU defensive line never seemed to have problems abusing my quarterback like a tackle dummy, however.
The secondary AI is fairly good in this game. Far from perfect, it is much improved from previous Maddens. Players actually react and jump after the ball. You still get your defensive backs running behind the CPU wide receivers too often. Chris Chandler completed 14 straight passes on my St. Louis Rams on Pro difficulty one game. With AI sliders available, you can always tweak the game to your liking.
The pass/run ratio absolutely stinks. This is the one aspect of the gameplay that I feel is unsatisfactory. It was not uncommon to have a team throw the ball 35 times and run the ball five times. Regardless of whether the team was winning or losing, the team would throw the ball time and time again. With the wave of power football going around, you would think that EA would get this right.
There is a feature in Madden that allows you to take a "mulligan" after a play. If you absolutely doinked your third and 10 play, you can use a mulligan and try it again. It costs your team a timeout, but it can be useful in the right situation. The Madden Meter is a gauge for player intensity and when it is full will increase the player's ratings for a few plays.
After a few days of Madden gaming, I really think that Madden 2002 feels a lot like Madden 2000 on the PC. The graphics aren't as smooth or as crisp, but everything feels so much alike. The gameplay in Madden is very entertaining and if you don't mind tweaking the AI sliders you will find that you can play a great game of football. Not much of an improvement from Madden 2001, but the gameplay was sweet in that game also.
Replay Value : 80
Madden has always been a great multiplayer game. The controls are easy and quick to pick up on. The franchise mode is awesome and whether you are playing all the games or simming them, will love managing your team. The AI sliders add a lot of shelf life to the game. I have never gotten to a point in any of the EA Sports games with AI sliders where I did not find the game challenging on the hardest difficulty with all the sliders against my favor. There should always be a challenge there.
Overall : 87
Although the title of "best football game" is arguable on a console-wide basis, Madden is hands down the best series on the PlayStation. The only bad thing I can think about this game is that the improvements and changes in the game are subtle. The game is still very good in its own right. The Madden series leaves PSOne gamers on a high note as they take the series to the PS2 and X-Box.