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If there is one sport I have never understood, it is American Football. I have been brought up watching and playing proper football (Soccer) and never really took any interest in American Football like other people did do. Thus I never really got interested in any American Football title, but I do remember hearing great things about the Madden series, and now I have been taught how to play it, what the rules are and its time to put this game to the test. Here are some of the new features in Madden 2002.
Installation, Settings and Loading Speeds
Installation is yet again just a simple case of putting the Xbox DVD-Rom into the Xbox DVD drive. The Madden 2002 menu loads within 26 seconds, which isn't bad going. When ever you decide to start up a proper game, the loading can take about 19 seconds, so a bit longer than the boot up time.
I won't lie - I didn't have the first clue how to play American Football when I first received the title for review, I didn't expect that I was going to be reviewing American Football titles. So the first part I can complain about here is the lack of a good training mode that teaches some of us Europeans how to play the game, and what the rules are...but then again, the most likely people to be buying Madden 2002 are going to be Americans.
So what game playing options do you get in this latest version of Madden?:
The exhibition matches are the ones I have been playing the most, this is due to the fact that I wanted to get down to playing the actual game instead of fiddling with stats, players and settings, although the other reason is that the game is much more fun when played against a friend and the exhibition matches tend to be the ones you select to go up against each other.
The season/franchise games are played out over the 16-game season. These are far more involved than the exhibition games, from the main season menu you can decide what basic rules you want to go with. These range from Trading deadlines to salary caps. In these games you can change your rosters, read stats, gain awards and buy/sell players, so as you can tell, it is much more involved than the exhibition matches, and is probably the main area you will play as a single player.
Next we have the madden cards option - you gain tokens in the game by completing various Madden challenges, these tend to be making great passes to running a certain distance with the ball. You can trade in your tokens for Madden cards, and then activate one of these cards to give your game a boost. The problem here is that gaining enough tokens to buy a pack of Madden cards takes a lot of time, and when each game can last well over an hour, i mean it really does take time to get a pack of cards.
Next up we have "Create-A-Team. From here you can do exactly what it says, create your own team or make up a single player. You can select team logos, nick names, city and states to play in etc. This area can get quite deep and involved so it is work checking out if you have the time to.
Ok so I'll try to explain the controls, which are pretty difficult to get used to, especially if you have never played a Madden game before like me. When you are in control of the ball (Hiked?) You press the A button to bring up a list of who you are able to pass to. So basically you can press A, B, X, White or Black to pass the ball...so what is the problem here? Well passing to the basic buttons on A, B and X is easy, pressing the White or Black buttons is more of the problem due to where they are positioned, so you tend to either throw it to one of the easier buttoned players or get sacked.
I would recommend having the manual handy when you are first starting out the game as the fact is you will probably be using ALL of the buttons on the Xbox game controller, so learning the controls well is a must.
This is without doubt the best way to play Madden 2002 - if can be great fun playing the games against a friend, bringing their players down and running the ball 99 yards to score a touchdown. The only disappointing side to all of this is the fact that there are not more modes to choose from to play in. Then we have the obvious fact that a lot of Xbox games are having right now, no online support or LAN support. The lack of online support is understandable due to the fact that Microsoft are failing with their plans of the online gaming system, so by the time Microsoft get their act together, Madden 2003 could be out in stores, but the LAN side of the game should not have been missed out, think how good a game of Madden would have been over a LAN?
Graphics & Sound
Madden 2002 is a gorgeous game, there is so much detail inside that it is hard to pick up all of the little details that crop up during the game, and the real surprise is that the Xbox version is basically just a port over from the Playstation 2, so the game really could have been made even better, but the main points of note over the Playstation 2 version is the fact that there is no slow down when all players are on the screen, and the increased shadow detail shown in the game.
So what are the little details that really show off Madden 2002? Shadows on all of the players, shadows and reflections on the helmets, stadium reflections, helmets can get scratched, the animation is smooth, there is a video window in most stadiums showing live footage from your game. These are all little touches, but they really do make a lot of difference. So what are the bad parts? Well players seem to walk through others during some of the cutscenes (especially through the referee).
Audio-wise the game is again a class act, the only problem is some of the repetitive speech, according to one of my friends, the games audio has really been improved this time round though. John Madden and Pat Summeral are the commentators who tell you who has the ball, the teams, who made the yardage etc and they even manage to point out your mistakes. Another low point though is the stadium noise, there is little to cheer about here...there could just be a bit more crowd interaction.
Ok so I started out not knowing a thing about American Football, I still don't like the actual sport that much to watch, but I did enjoy this game a lot. Graphically it is superb and easily the best looking American Football game out there right now, sound wise I have heard better but in terms of gameplay, Madden really does prove itself to be a great title and one that you can have a great deal of fun with.