The blitz is on. About this time every year a huge amount of
football titles hit shelves and all us football game fanatics go into
frenzy mode. Which game is worth playing through an entire
season? Which one has the best graphics? Which has the best
multiplayer? And perhaps most importantly, which has the most
realistic slow-motion cheerleader cut-scenes? All these questions,
and a number of cheesy football clichés, were on my mind when I
went into the huddle with Madden 2000. So Let’s hit the field and
see if this play is a touchdown. *cringe*
Let’s be honest with ourselves here folks, the Madden series has
never been the champ when it comes to graphics. In fact, it has
consistently been beaten by a host of other titles, most notably the
Gameday series. And this year’s effort does little to break that
trend. Let me clarify that the graphics in Madden 2000 are by no
means terrible; they just are below the standards set by other
football game series. The most obvious area of graphical
improvement is in small additions to the on field experience.
Probably the best of these improvements are the fully animated
referees. They follow every play down field, and move (or at least
attempt) to get out of the way of the ball carrier. This detail, in
addition to a number of others, such as heavy breathing after a big
run, pad and helmet adjustments, and rendering of the entrances
and exits of the offensive and defensive squads make Madden
2000 seem extremely “live” and far less scripted than other
football games. However, these small details cannot save the fact
that player models are distorted and exaggerated; variances of
height and weight are grossly overdone, to almost a comical level.
In comparison to another of this years football games, NFL Fever
2000, Madden looks about two years behind the pack in rendering
of player and stadium graphics. EA needs to invest major
development badly in this area, and has for quite some time.
Sound and Play-by-play is an area that the Madden team has
excelled in previously, and it’s no surprise that this year offers
more of the same sweets sounds of gridiron mayhem. All the hits,
chants, taunts, slams, and crunches and are here for your listening
enjoyment. This installment offers a slightly more detailed version
of last years play-by-play by John Madden and Pat Summerall.
Many of Madden’s comments and quips are noticeably re-used
from last year, but many of Summerall’s calls about formations
and play setups seem new.
Gameplay is broken up into two recognizably distinct categories. A
new addition to the Madden series, Arcade mode simplifies the
gaming experience with easier play calling and extremely lenient
refereeing. Obviously a response to the success of other
arcade-style football titles, like last years NFL Blitz, the arcade
mode in Madden 2000 seems fairly uninspired and thrown
together. The second category of gameplay in this game is the
substantially more meaty simulation mode. Offering a huge
laundry list of play modes Madden really aims to please all comers
for simulation, career, season, playoff and exhibition gaming.
The best of all these play modes is the Situation mode, which
allows you to specify every, and I mean every, detail to create the
play, game, and setup of your choice. Finally you can recreate the
closing seconds of last Monday night’s game, complete the pass,
score the points, and get the babe. Ok, maybe not, but it’s a very
cool addition to an already extremely well developed sports
simulation. The only thing holding me back from giving full points
to the gameplay of this game is a poorly designed menu and play
interface. Every year, since the earliest Madden games on Sega
Genesis, I have loathed the squiggly line drawn play book, the
unorganized and cultured menus and the team season saving
options. It’s frustrating, non-intuitive, and worst of all, in all these
years, has never been improved!
On field gameplay is a mixed bag, but for the most part I can give
a thumbs up for full season gaming. And I seriously mean that. If
you are looking for a quick fix game in-between class, look
elsewhere. If you are planning on running a 13-week virtual
season along side your favorite team, this is your game. Heavy on
statistics, trends, and team/player match-ups Madden 2000 comes
through for “hardcore” game enthusiasts. The running and passing
games are fairly balanced. Running the ball is easier, but yields
fewer gains. The Passing game is considerably more difficult, but
conversely offers bigger rewards. Another note about the passing
game, it’s a huge crapshoot. It takes a serious chunk of time to
develop a feel for how receivers run routes, how strong your
quarterbacks arm is, how well the defenders can cover, etc. I
suggest gamers spend plenty of time practicing a core set of plays
in exhibition before running out on into full contact season play.
Even after doing so I found my passes easily intercepted, often.
There are adjustable difficulty settings to accommodate this, but I
found them to be of little help. So take my advice, stay on the
ground until you get the feel of the passing system.
Bragging over 200 teams, ranging from all 32 NFL franchise teams
to a huge amount of All Madden legend teams, this game offers
plenty of return play. Multiplayer leagues and direct TCP/IP games
make slamming your friends and colleagues a very distinct option.
Multi-season career mode let’s you play as GM with your favorite
franchise; will full capability of drafting, trading, and salary cap
maneuvering over decades of play. If one can look beyond the
poor graphics and initial difficulties in play there is plenty to
interest both the seasoned veterans and rookie draft picks.
However, don’t let my endorsements cloud the fact that Madden
2000 is far from perfect. There are plenty of areas that EA should
revise, most notably the player graphics and horrible menu
interface. With that said, and the clock ticking down, let me leave
you with one last football cliché. Hut, hut, hike!