Madden NFL 2003 - XB - Preview
Drop those dumbbells. Stop running on the treadmill. Put away the Thighmaster. Why go through all these ridiculous routines to pursue dreams of being a professional athlete when you can experience the most authentic sports simulation ever and lead a team to the Super Bowl in your own living room? EASports looks to make 300-pound armchair quarterbacks out of everyone when they release Madden 2003 this summer for PS2, GameCube, Xbox, and PC. EASports invited GameZone.com to a sneak preview of the game at this year’s E3, and the drool was running like a faucet.
A few years ago, Madden 2001 was a breakthrough in sports simulations. Using the power of the Playstation 2, 2001 looked to be unbeatable, and nearly flawless. Last year, 2002 did the unthinkable and improved on 2001 in countless ways including the Two-Minute Drill, Madden Cards, and Training Mode. 2003 brings a flurry of new ideas as well as improvements on everything that makes the Madden football franchise the best in the business.
The biggest new feature of Madden 2003 is the addition of Mini-Camp mode. This mode simulates skills-sharpening practice sessions in the pre-season and serves as both an excellent tutorial system to learn the mechanics and plays of the game as well as opportunities to unlock Madden cards that can only be attained in Mini-Camp. The defensive line is replaced by blocking dummies, the fields look like training facilities, and players even wear authentic mini-camp uniforms. Each of the 8 major positions has four mini-camps devoted to it, each at different skill levels, for a total of 32 mini-camps to complete. Each of the 32 NFL teams has one mini-camp featuring a star player on the squad. For example, Rams QB Kurt Warner is the quarterback in the All-Madden difficulty level passing camp, and lord-knows-who is the punter for the expansion Texans’ rookie-level punting exercise.
Good news for Playstation 2 owners: Once you have dominated the computer AI you can hunt for new competition on-line and play human opponents across the globe. Complete with a chat room and lobby, the on-line playability of Madden 2003 opens up countless numbers of opponents to test your gridiron gusto on. Through this service, you can also download updated NFL rosters as the season progresses and players are lost to injury, traded, or just plain suck.
EA has picked through the game like a school nurse on children’s scalp getting rid of all the bugs and improving old features. Players spin, juke, and straight-arm with extra gusto, cheerleaders perform half-time shows, and Monday Night Football commentary team John Madden and Al Michaels work with a more advanced audio engine to deliver the most realistic commentary of any game. Crowds have improved reactions, and even wear their team’s colors. Bad calls by referees are a design of the game (Patriots fans rejoice!), and can be overturned by challenging the call. Producer Jason Barnes recalls a moment in the office where this came into play. “I had just scored a touchdown when a coworker passing by said ‘I don’t think he had both feet inbounds.’ Well, my opponent challenged the call, it was overturned, and I lost the game.” How’s that for realism? Other added features include a creatable playbook with customizable receiver routes and offensive and defensive formations, rookie scouting reports for Franchise mode, and better animations for players like Rich Gannon’s sidearm toss and multi-player gang tackling. As for the graphics? They’re better than ever, with more than 300 faces, a crisper interface, and a bevy of cinematic camera angles.
Madden 2003 looks like it will be everything you need in a game. It might be just about everything you need in life. Madden 2003 tackles PC, GameCube, Xbox, and Playstation 2 in August.