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Game Over Online ~ Madden 99

GameOver Game Reviews - Madden 99 (c) EA Sports, Reviewed by - Jove

Game & Publisher Madden 99 (c) EA Sports
System Requirements P166, 16MB RAM, 8x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 81%
Date Published Sunday, September 27th, 1998 at 10:29 AM


Divider Left By: Jove Divider Right

Having recently released NHL 99, Electronic Arts adds to its formidable sports game lineup with the much anticipated Madden NFL 99. If you can recall last year that I reviewed Madden 98 then you can probably remember the controversy that surrounded my very low rating. This year however, I am glad to say that the Madden NFL Football title is light-years ahead of last year's version even with its several significant faults. Being a huge fan of American Football I have been waiting for this years flood of football games more so than ever. Luckily, this year had much more to offer than last, and so far Madden 99 shows itself as being far superior to all the competition.

Madden99 sports a completely new engine with 3dfx and d3d support for all of today's top 3d accelerators (as well as today's low end) such as Voodoo2 and TNT. When I attempted to run the Madden 99 3dfx exe my system reported a memory error to me and I was unable to continue. I inquired about this problem and found that about 50% of people were with me while 50% managed to operate the executable properly. I thought that perhaps it was my Voodoo2 card but I asked a friend who had the same card to try it, and his worked. Thus, if you get this game you risk not being able to run the glide enhanced version of the game. So I reviewed the wealth of options before me and ran the only other executable file around that supported 3d hardware: the d3d version. While the graphics are far superior to any other football game on the market they pale, however, in comparison with such games as NHL 99 and World Cup 98. To explain it simply, the graphics did not utilize any of the new features of my Voodoo2 and would be perfect running on a Voodoo 1 graphics card, which is by now becoming the low end. Another major ache I encountered was that the game ran incredibly slow unless I turned off all background programs and made sure Madden 99 was the only thing on my computer utilizing the hard disk. My guess is that the glide enhanced exe would have run the game faster, but since I was unable to run it, I can't make a definite conclusion. The main reason for the slow down is that Madden 99 has a very heavy use of textures, which means that a 12mb Voodoo2 card will run it faster than an 8mb one. Personally I believe that some of the slowdown is due to sloppy programming (see my editorial in the editorial section on this topic), as NHL 99, which looks much better than Madden, ran fine at all times. I would also like to quickly mention that the menus that Madden 99 uses look like they came out of someone's sketch book and could have been made much slicker (as in NHL 99). Despite this large rant of negative comments, there are positive aspects to Madden 99's graphics. The detail, for instance is pretty intricate with each tackle different from another depending on the angle, speed and power of the tackler and the ball carrier. The other player animations are all realistic and the feel of turning and running is extremely realistic (another major problem in Gameday where you could turn on the dime). The pads in the player's pants are also visible, which is a nice touch, especially when compared to NFL Gameday 99 which greatly lacked any graphical splendor. Weather and field conditions are also nicely portrayed from all of the camera angles (there must be about 8 to 10 of them) as is referee movement. The graphics could have been much more spectacular and yet they performed their duty with ease and I found little wrong with the style that was used.

The sound in Madden 99 is well done, when you hear it. The grunts of players and smacking of pads sounds like a televised game and the crowd chants can really start pumping the tension level up with the standard chants such as "DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE". The commentary however, leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, it's the best commentary available in a football game, but compared to NHL 99, it seems that Madden only has one or two comments to make about the prominent players which quickly become repetitive. Additionally, most of the comments that Madden makes greatly increase the "smack him in the head" factor. Thus the sound becomes an acceptable but far from spectacular experience that most EA games are famous for.

When looking at the gameplay aspect of a football game one must consider so many aspects that it becomes easy to get lost. In order to write a review of reasonable length I have decided to only examine the most key elements of the game so that your eyes don't get tired and so that my hands don't fall off typing. Madden 99 offers a wealth of pre-game and front office options that will allow the statistics-crazed football fan to customize most aspects of players and teams to their exact desires. The player creation system is well designed, even if it lacks spunk as are the team creation and team customizing systems. Madden 99 also offers the option to manage salaries and draft new players, which can be fun in its own right. In season mode one can also manage any number of teams they wish, make trades create new season schedules and read all about player and team stats in excruciating detail. But enough with the statistical element of the game and on to the Interception and TD ridden football field.

The gameplay can be split into four main components: offensive plays, defensive plays, player control and artificial intelligence. There is a wealth of offensive plays that can be chosen which differ according to the team you are using (the plays are customized to best suit that team's player abilities.) The passing patterns are complex, just as in the NFL and have as many as six possible receivers in motion. This is a huge difference when compared with Gameday 99's simple plays and maximum of three receivers. The running plays are also well-designed with the blockers moving in the correct way (although the efficiency often leaves much to be desired - but more on this later) and the paths being more than running into any apparent hole that you see (as in Gameday). The amount of special plays available are very welcome as I most games don't include the QB kneel play used to run down the clock, or special punt and kickoff returns. Defensive plays are also very numerous, but unlike the offense they are not customized (i.e. every team has the same plays). There is a large amount of versatility however and usually there is a play for every situation. I also liked the addition of some fancy blitzes (I am a big fan of using blitzes), pass blocking and run reading plays. I only wished that 4-4 or 4-3 formations were included, as they can be effective at certain times. Player control on offense and defense is very simple as well as realistic. There is a multitude (about 5-6) moves that a player can execute which differ according to whether you are playing RB, receiver, QB or defense/offensive line. The moves, such as straight arm, swim, pump fake and jump actually have effect on the game and can mean the difference between catching that game winning TD or having the 13th interception of the game. So now that you know player control is practically perfect I must divulge the bane of the game - the AI. The artificial intelligence seems very good at first and then you begin to learn the patterns and techniques the computer employs and eventually you will discover that you will be able to sack the QB far too often. A fellow Game-Over staffer, jube, told me that he discovered a technique to get a sack every play and then get a TD on your first offensive play, even on All Madden! While I have been unable to recreate this situation, I'm sure that other hardcore gamers may discover this problem. Most likely EA will put out a patch for this problem, as they are usually decent at fixing such problems, but why was it there in the first place? If you play fair however, the AI is good enough to have lots of fun and when you play two players, the game is a huge blast (although the TCP/IP support is pretty laggy as is the custom with EA).

Madden 99 has its faults, but it also is the best football game on the market right now and is pretty damn fun to play despite some glaring problems. With a few patches Madden 99 should stay at the top of the football pool and I know I will be playing it all through football season and beyond.

 

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Rating
81%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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