reviews\ Nov 25, 2001 at 7:00 pm

Madden NFL 2002 - XB - Review

Of all the major sports out there, football is always the one that receives finest coat of paint. It's amazing how much detail each player has in Madden 2002. Their helmets reflect anything and everything that surrounds them. The lights wrap all the way around the helmet, shifting realistically as the player moves his head. Move the camera (during a replay) and watch the spectacle unfold. Madden 2002's real-time shadows are gorgeous. Shadow and lighting effects are only part of the visual delight though. The facial detail is at an all-time high. Set up two TVs next to each other. Run a demo of Madden 2002 on one, and play a tape of a real football game on the other. Tell a non-game playing member of your family to cover his eyes and stand 20 feet away from the TVs. Tell him to uncover his eyes for a second at glance at the TV on the left, then glance at the TV on the right. Now ask him to tell you which is the video game and which one is the "real" football game. It is very unlikely that he'll be able to tell you which is which.

Madden 2002 is an unfortunate reminder of the Xbox controller's one and only problem: the black and white buttons. They work great with games that were developed specifically for the console, but when using the Xbox controller with games that were more or less developed for the PlayStation 2, the problems begin to surface. The A, X, Y and B buttons are too close together, and the black and white buttons are too far apart. It is not possible to hit the black or white buttons without taking your thumb off of the A button. This means that you can't sprint and stiff-arm at the same time, unless you bend your right hand in an awkward position and hit the button with the side of your index finger. This seems to be a new trend in next-generation gaming. I had to bend my hand in a similar position to play Luigi's Mansion for the GameCube.

However, it is important to note that the replay mode in Madden 2002 makes excellent use of the black and white buttons. They're both analog buttons, which gives you a greater degree of control over the replays. The deeper you press the buttons, the faster the replay moves. This allows you to view the play at any speed, giving you the power to analyze every move the players make.

Because of the control issues, most gamers will want to stick with the PlayStation 2 version, especially if they owned Madden 2001 for either of Sony's consoles are more comfortable with the Dual-Shock 2's button layout. If the Xbox is the only next-generation console you have though, I doubt you'll be disappointed by the Xbox version of the game.

A great game is a great game, and no controller can bring Madden down to an unplayable level. After playing Madden for a while, you'll begin to realize that there is no point in nitpicking the game, because the more you try to nitpick it, the harder it gets. There has never been a football game with so much detail before. The only thing missing is an online multiplayer mode, but that will almost definitely be included with Madden 2003. Other than that, there isn't much more that a sports fan could ask for.

The number of options you have in Madden 2002 is almost insane. Note that I said "almost," because I always welcome additional game modes with open arms. It just feels insane because no other sports game offers as much as Madden 2002. You would think that since this is an established franchise that the developers would relax a little and not worry about cramming each and every detail into their game. Obviously Electronic Arts does not function like other game developers though, which is why they're the #1 third-party developer in the world. Of course, had the developers slacked off, NFL Fever and NFL 2k2 would've gladly taken Madden's place as the top football game. And EA wasn't about to let that happen.

This leads to one inevitable question: which game is better, Madden 2002 or NFL Fever? That's a really tough call to make. I haven't played NFL Fever enough to honestly say that it is the better game, but I did enjoy the time I spent playing it just as much as the time I've spent playing Madden. They're terrific games, and if you can afford both, don't hesitate to spend the money. Football fans have more reasons than ever to lock themselves in the bedroom and never come out.

If Madden has always been your favorite football series, why change now? NFL Gameday briefly stole the crown a while back, and in September of 1998, Blitz outsold every other football game. In 2000, NFL 2k1 sold more copies than Madden 2001 for the PlayStation 2. Madden has had some tough times, but in the end, it always prevailed as the top football game. I can't say for certain which football game will sell the most copies this year (contrary to popular belief, I'm not psychic), but I can say with much certainty that any gamer who buys Madden 2002 will not feel like they made a mistake.

This isn't a Tekken and Virtua Fighter kind of debate here. It's not like trying to decide which is the better game -- Mario 64 or Donkey Kong 64. Those answers are crystal clear, but this one is not. Sometimes there are no winners, and in this case, there are no losers either. I doubt that any gamer will ever say, "Aw man, I should have bought the other football game instead!" And vice versa. Both are great, satisfying games that you're sure to love. Embrace this win-win situation and enjoy it while it lasts.

#Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 9
I only need two words to describe what I like about Madden 2002: almost everything. I'm not going to lie -- this game isn't perfect. But who ever said that a game had to be perfect to be worth playing? Madden is a great playing game with more modes and options than necessary, but that's what makes Madden such a great game. The extra modes may seem like excess baggage to some gamers, but they're cherished by us hardcore gamers.

Graphics: 8. 9 
The highly-reflective helmets will impress anyone who lays their eyes on them, no doubt. The visuals are so impressive that all gamers (even those who don't like football) will want to play Madden 2002 just so they can eat up the eye candy.

Sound: 6
While the cheering of the crowd is good and the player sounds are realistic, overall it just isn't something to get excited over. The theme song is one of the worst theme songs in the history of video games. John Madden's repetitive commentary has never been something that attracted me to the Madden series, and Madden 2002 is no different.

Difficulty: 8
The AI in this game is so challenging, that even the Lions have a chance at winning! Okay, so I lied, no game has AI that is powerful enough to make the Lions win. Madden 2002 is a challenging game though, one that will test the skills of even the most avid NFL game player.

Concept: 7 
If you look at the score and feel that it's too high, then obviously you don't know what the concept rating is. I didn't give Madden a 7 because the idea for the game is new; I gave it a 7 because the ideas within the game are unique and were executed very well. Madden 2002 isn't revolutionary, but it pushes the envelope even further than before.

Multiplayer: 8.5
Got $120? If the answer is no, then you'd better start saving up, because no multiplayer game of Madden is complete without four Xbox controllers (and three friends). Once you've acquired the extra game pads, grab some snacks, turn off the phone and lock the door because the last thing you need is a distraction from the outside world. A Port-A-Potty would come in handy right about now...

Overall: 9
Control and sound issues aside, this is the best version of Madden 2002 available. One thing the Madden series has taught is that you don't always have to be a groundbreaking game to give consumers what they want. What they want, whether they're a hardcore gamer or not, is a game that's so much fun to play that they never want to stop. EA has done a great job of achieving that.


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