previews\ May 13, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Madden NFL 2004 - GC - Preview

E3 2003 – First Look


The number one video game football franchise, EA’s Madden series, looks to stay on top with its latest incarnation, Madden 2004.  Madden’s gameplay is so solid, developers at Tiburon Studios saw little need to alter it.  Instead, the team at the studios in Florida emphasized adding to the experience of the game by overhauling the on-line options and customization of the game, a theme practiced by all the latest editions of the EA sports titles. 


Although the only home console to feature on-line options is the Playstation 2, EA has added several features for on-line play.  The most noticeable is clearly the addition of live chat.  Now players from across the country can let their opponents know about that 10-yard sack they just delivered or the five tackles broken en route to an easy six.  In addition to the chat, EA will host on-line tournaments for those of us who missed the Madden challenge.


The biggest addition to gameplay this year is Playmaker Control.  We’ve all had the problem of trying to reverse the direction of a sweep when the defense is stacked towards the intended route of the running back.  Last year, QB’s could call audibles to reverse the direction away from the defense, but the defense would recognize this and shift their defense as well.  Playmaker control allows an instant reversal of the called run without alerting the defense of the audible or altering the offensive set-up.  The quarterback will lightly perform a hip slap, and the play direction will be reversed.  Playmaker control can also be used on receivers to alter their routes during their patterns.  For example, if you notice Jerry Rice has a blazing defensive back on him and you’ve run him in a fly route (a streak), you can rely on Jerry’s quickness and tell him to run a post instead.  Playmaker control also allows quarterbacks to tell receivers to go to holes in a zone defense, but this option looked a bit clunky. 


The franchise mode has been expanded and now includes an owner mode.  Owner mode yields the deepest franchise mode to date in any game.  As an owner, gamers will have complete control of the behind-the-scenes operations such as ticket, concession, and parking prices, as well as team name and possible relocations.  If fan attendance is down and you’ve got some cash stacked away, you can even build a new stadium.  Developer Kevin Johnson predicts “several million possible combinations” in stadium design based on the location of luxury boxes, stairs, logo placement and other stadium features.  Maybe LA can finally get their own football franchise.


Madden 2004 is slated for an August 2004 release, just in time for the gridiron season.


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