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.

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.