Madden’s NFL 2003
1 April 2005 | 0
ONE OF THE LONGEST running game series’ that EA has produced is the American football commentator’s namesake, Madden’s. From the Sega Megadrive days to the present, it has set the standard. The latest offering is now trying to make its own mark.
As with most EA Sports games, the slick presentation is as much to do with the media representation of the game as it is with playing it, but it helps give the player that immersive environment. NFL 2003 is no different, except perhaps in its choice of music. It comes with several popular tunes that may not be the closest thing to a Pro Bowl soundtrack. However, during the Franchise mode, you can select your own MP3s to play.
The overall structure of the games has been vastly expanded over the last few iterations. First of all, there are all the teams and the divisions of the NFL season. Pick your allegiance, choose your team and play. Or, there is now an option for some pre-season plays where you can hone the skills of new acquisitions or test the fitness of the old guard. A useful tool, it means that you will not make big blunders in the opening rounds of the all-important league.
Another mode allows you to practise the special key combinations for the various player positions. This mode is available independent of the league games and so you can practise ‘til you can take out a mosquito from 50 yards with a touchdown pass.
Differing from the console version slightly, the PC version comes with certain modes available from the start; All-Time and Classic Teams are available without the need to unlock or earn them.
The graphics are very good, with player animations appearing smoothly realistic. Stadia appear in all their glory and with famous arenas appearing as you play your way through the tournament. This is helped along by the commentary of American Football stalwart Al Michaels, who joins Mr. Madden to give you a blow-by-blow account of how you’re doing.
This has a rather steep learning curve. Even with the practice mode, I found it hard to co-ordinate the moves and the player switches with any finesse, and even playing with the difficulty sliders achieved little other than the lurch between ridiculous victories and utter defeats at the hands of superior teams.
Another improvement over previous games seems to be time management. Options for five- or ten-minute quarters are now more practically managed and the last few seconds on the clock as you call a defensive timeout are more usable to get the drop on that final field goal.
The franchise mode is a well executed feature that allows you to build a team over years, recruiting new talent, attracting the stars, and generally allowing you to make a Manchester United of your own in American Football. For the hardcore fans, this comes with the full intricacies of transfers, rumours, injuries, buyouts and all the other things that make the world of sport interesting.
Packaged closely with all this is the new EA Sports Online environment where the customisable aspects of the game can be really maximised. Play a league online, or more satisfyingly, play your custom team, complete with your custom designed kit and end zone art against players all over the world. Or at least the ones who have fast connections.
For a fan of the American way, this really is the benchmark by which all others are measured. It combines the stylish new packaging of all the EA Sports games, with the solid experience of a long-running franchise. Despite a steep learning curve and a less than comprehensive manual, this is an entertaining game that manages to hold the novice and the pro enthralled wherever people are given to playing football with a pointy ball. And shoulder pads.
Madden’s NFL 2003 — Specs: