How’s this for irony: the NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 launched with a brand-new
Mario game, but the Madden series didn’t arrive until much later. GameCube is
the first Nintendo console to launch with a brand-new Madden game, but now Mario
is mysteriously absent. (Though no one knows for sure, rumors are floating
around that say he’s stuck in a haunted mansion somewhere.) Coincidence?
Perhaps. I’d be lying if I said that having a new Madden game is better than
Mario Sunshine would have been. Regardless, Madden 2002 is a superb title that
most gamers will enjoy.
Deciding which game mode to play first is hard because there are so many
modes to choose from in Madden 2002. The long list of game modes includes:
Exhibition, Season, Franchise, Tournament, Custom League, Practice, Situation,
Quick Game, Two Minute Drill and Training. That’s a total of 10 modes, not
including the Easy Play mode. Easy Play is located on the title screen above
Normal mode and is intended for newcomers who want to get in on the action right
away, without having to worry about getting their butt kicked. Just pick your
team, your opponent’s team and you’re good to go. Exhibition is a little deeper
than Easy Play, allowing you to select your profile, playbook and even risk some
cards, if you want. The difficulty is higher, too.
Season mode is deep — really deep. It includes everything the Exhibition
mode has to offer and a whole lot more. Before you’re ready to play through the
season, you have the option to change some of the settings of the game. If you
turn on the Trade Deadline, the deadline will be enforced and no trading will be
allowed after six weeks. To limit your budget for signing free agents, turn on
the Salary Cap. Additionally, the Cap Penalties, Fantasy and Expansion Drafts
can be turned on or off.
All of those options are great, but my favorite part is the create-a-player
mode. Choose your player’s height, weight, skin tone, hair color and style, etc.
There are 65 different faces to choose from, but unfortunately, they all look
pretty much the same. You can alter the shape of his face though, which greatly
changes your player’s appearance. The cool thing about the weight is that the
heavier players really look heavy! So you can create a short, overweight,
45-year-old football player with a receding hairline; or a tall and trim
18-year-old player with an afro. The choice is up to you.
Franchise mode is an expansion of the Season mode. The main difference
between the two is that in Season mode, the game is over when the season ends.
In Franchise mode, you continue playing new seasons. When Season mode ends, you
will be given the option to change it to the Franchise mode and continue
playing. Another addition to the Franchise mode is the coaching. Gamers who
don’t want any coaching changes should turn off that option, because if you
don’t, the coaches may resign when their points each zero. All of the NFL
coaches and playbooks are available, but if that’s not enough, then create a
brand-new coach and use him instead. Unfortunately, the coach creation options
aren’t nearly as deep as the player creation options are. Enter the coach’s name
and select his body type. That’s it. Coaches aren’t nearly as important as the
players, but it would have been nice to have at least a few more options, albeit
statistics or aesthetics.
Custom League mode is exactly what it sounds like — a custom league! You can
play with up to 16 teams or as little as four teams if you prefer. The Custom
League’s format is different from the other modes. In this mode, you can choose
to play in a round robin league and battle every other team in the league once,
or select the double round robin league to play every team twice.
If there is one mode in Madden 2002 that stands above the rest, it has got to
be the Situation mode. In Situation mode, you create your own "situation" for
the game. If you feel like you’re always losing, give yourself a few extra
points (anywhere from 2 to 99 points can be given to you and/or your opponent.
Giving yourself points is cool, but why would you want to give the other team
the advantage?). Choose who receives possession of the ball, change the quarter
length and how much time is left, etc.
The Two Minute Drill is also a great mode. Play with up to four players in
this point-collecting, adrenaline-pumping mode. If you turn on the Play For
Tokens option, players will be able to earn tokens, which can later be used to
purchase Madden cards. The difficulty can be changed to either Rookie, Pro, All
Pro or All Madden. It’s really tough to score when playing on the higher
difficulty levels, but if you do, you’ll receive a lot more points.
Lastly, there are the Practice, Quick Game, Tournament and Training modes.
These modes speak for themselves, but I must say that the Training mode rocks.
It is very helpful and is a lot of fun to play.
Madden 2002 for the GameCube is, not surprisingly, a port of the PlayStation
2 version with slight visual enhancements. It’s the only football title
available for the GameCube right now, so this is an obvious choice for sports
fanatics who own a ‘Cube. But even if it wasn’t the only football game on the
console, I doubt that anyone would want to choose a different game. Madden has
proven itself as the top football series year after year. By the time NFL 2k2
arrives, it might be too late for Sega to gain any sales. You could wait until
next year, or play one of the greatest football games of all time right now.
Take your pick.
Whenever developers release the same game on every console, there is always
one major problem to contend with: one of them is going to end up being the
best, and one of them is going to be the worst. It’s unfortunate, but true. This
time around, the GameCube version is the worst of the three because of the
system’s weird controller. But saying that it’s "the worst" may sound misleading
— Madden 2002 is an excellent game on any console. It plays great and is very
enjoyable, especially if you have three friends to enjoy it with. So truthfully,
it isn’t the worst, but rather the third best version of Madden available.
In terms of visuals, the GameCube version of Madden 2002 is only slightly
behind the Xbox version. Everything looks great, especially the players. The
reflective helmets remind me of the vehicles in Gran Turismo 3. Without a doubt,
Madden 2002 is the most impressive-looking sports title on the GameCube.
Unlike the rest of the game, Madden 2002’s sound is nothing to write home
about. If it weren’t for the clear (but annoying) commentary and the decent
sound effects, I would’ve been tempted to give the game a 4.
This is one aspect of Madden 2002 that is exactly the same in all three
versions. The difficulty is high and will kick the butt of most newbies (and
possibly a few veterans). But that’s why Electronic Arts added the awesome
training mode. Even if you know absolutely nothing about football games, Madden
2002’s training mode will make you a pro.
Madden 2002 includes more play modes than any other sports game out there.
The Training mode is by far the best and most useful addition to the Madden
series. Electronic Arts has always been good at coming up with new ideas to make
their great games even better, and Madden 2002 is even more proof of that.
The Xbox controller is more comfortable to use (with this particular game),
but GameCube controllers cost $5 less, so if you prefer or don’t mind the
GameCube controller, this is a better deal. Three GC controller = $105. You’d
have to pay $15 more to get three Xbox controllers.
Madden 2002 is harder to control than it should be. I love both the Xbox and
GC controllers (a rarity, since most gamers like one, but hate the other), but
Madden was not developed for either of them. This doesn’t take away from the fun
of the game, but picky gamers will definitely want to stick with the PlayStation
2 version. If you don’t have a PS2, then give the GameCube version a shot.