Madden NFL 2003 review
More for the true fan


Property of netjak.com, written by Rock_On

Once again, my dislike for the sports series has dragged me into another purchase of the 2003 Madden, Madden NFL 2003. I went into Funcoland with the intent of just to look at the upcoming games, and maybe put a pre-order on a couple(which most likely would have been Zelda and Star Fox Adventures). Every year the new sports games are released on-time for that sports on-coming series, and every year I always get my hands on them one way or another. So much of the football game debate goes on with some hot competition between Madden NFL 2003 and Visual Concept's yearly installment; NFL 2k3(we'll forget about the Gameday series from Sony). The difference between the two games? Visual Concepts rebuilds each installment of NFL 2k? from the ground up, while EA Games only takes the engine from the previous years installment and updates rosters, graphics, moves, and a couple little things that don't really mean all the difference in the world. So how about we get on with the review from a non-sports gamer and how Madden NFL 2003 stacks up against the competition.


"Once you've played one, you've played them all."

Now lets sit back in our chairs for a second and think about that for a bit...doesn't that fit the Madden series with great precision? Because EA only "updates" the features in Madden we're basically being fed the same game only with one more tackle animation, some graphical updates, "improved" commentary(trust me, commentary can never improve, "Once annoying, always annoying"), and stuff like that that other than die-hard sports fans, no one's going to notice, therefore are let down because they're being fed the exact same game as last year. Now before I go on, I would just like to say that EA has really been crawling under my skin lately, as first of all they ruin the James Bond license, and now their arrogance is starting to show greatly. For example they said this in some press release not too long ago:

"There's no way on earth we're going to hold the same market share we did last year, because there was no competition," he said. "Sega could ship an empty box this year, and it would still be an improvement for them. But Sega is going to stay the Burger King of the sports video game business--they can toast the buns, they can add more pickles, but they're still No. 2."

Those are the kind of arrogant remarks that would keep me from supporting EA with any of their games, if they're going to be so bold as to say that their game is the best and Sega is No. 2. They have no right to say that, because not everyone supports EA and support Sega, therefore Sega is No. 1 to THEM. If EA is in this for themselves and not to make the consumer(gamers) happy, then they should just pack up and leave. Anyone agree with me? Comments welcome.

So anyway, I'll start with the NEW features of this expansion for Madden NFL 2002. First of all, there's the online mode, which can't really be put to good use until the end of August, but it's still there, and the PS2 version is the only Madden that will have the online feature in it. This can be thought of as a good idea, but also as a bad idea. Not EVERYONE has a PS2, so those who have only a Gamecube, X-Box, or both are being shut out from the online community for Madden, while NFL 2k3 will support online play for all THREE consoles(although the Gamecube still hasn't been announced even though there was suppose to be an announcement weeks ago). Another sign of EA thinking of themselves and not the public eh? EA's decision to only put the online play in the PS2 game was more of a bad idea than a good idea because not only are they shutting out those who may not have a PS2, but are also shutting out more profit from the game if all three console versions had the online feature. Now my review is based upon the single player aspect, so when the Network Adapter releases at the end of August and I've had time to get online play time in, I'll come back and update my review with more information on multi-player.

The next newest feature is the Mini-Camp mode where you tour the different NFL cities in "the Madden Cruiser" to compete in mini-games that will definitely test your skill. There are like 4 different difficulty levels including Rookie, Pro, All-Pro, and Madden-Pro and once you beat a certain drill, you'll then use the skills you just learned in a game type situation. Once you complete that as well the same drill on the next difficulty will open up, or you can do another drill on the same difficulty you're on. Aside from those features, the only real other feature would be the Create-a-playbook which I will never bother with. In case you didn't know, I don't get to in-depth while playing sports games, which means I don't go very deep into the game and I'll just fire one up every once in awhile when I'm bored and play a game or two. So most of the modes in this game(or any sports game)is basically useless to me, however for those sports junkies out there, there's lots of depth for you.

So now that we've covered the newer features of the game, how bout' we touch up on the main game shall we? First of all you've got your Play Now option which is what I usually use to select a team and get out on the field to start playing as quick as possible without going through a whole bunch of options and stuff like that. Then you've got the online section which we've already gotten into a little, tournament, two minute drill, football 101, practice, situation, and the so-called "Deepest franchise mode ever." The training drills like the two minute drill, football 101, practice, and situation are of no use to me as I don't go "in-depth" with sports games. So as for the franchise, once again you're put into the position as the head-honcho coach with lots and lots of options that can all be left to you. So as the big cheese coach, you've got the ability to trade players, organize your playbook, and do other fun coach stuff for a 30 season, the one goal for each season being to make it to the Super Bowl and become the Champions.

Now once you get onto the field for a game, whether you're on defense or offense, you're presented with the same plays that the real life teams use. For defense you've got the different formations for different routes of attack, and on offense you've got the different formations such as shotgun and "I" formations, and you can also use the reverse side of a play for a different attack. Right now, I'm preferring last years NFL 2k2 more than this game because of the difference in the way plays are ran. Also, unlike NCAA Football 2003 on the Gamecube, Madden 2003's controls for sprinting, stiff-arming, etc. aren't mapped out COMPLETELY different for each team(defense, offense, passing, receiving,) and you're not going to try to sprint using the "Triangle" button on defense when the "O" button was used for sprinting on offense. This got totally confusing and when I'd try to run faster I'd dive instead and if I tried to stiff-arm I'd jump...so the controller mapping is done rather well on here. Speak of the devil, you've got the basic offensive and defensive moves like stiff-arms, new receiving animations, run-stuffing gang tackles(you get to smash one of the players on the other team into a nice sandwich), jumps, dives, pulls a spin-move, etc.

So playing the game out on the field is easy enough, one button to do this, another to do that; everyone's happy and no one gets confused(hopefully). So now what's left? Well for those who like depth, you could try out the create-a-player and create-a-team modes. Like NCAA Football 2003 there are lots of options for each create-a-_____ including facials, height, skin colors for your player creation and mainly anything you can think of for the team creations you can probably do. So this was a really nice touch for the gamers who require "depth".

Again, like last years Madden and 2k? series, Madden 2003 yet again has a main focus on the rushing game than passing. I haven't had a chance to play NFL 2k3 yet, but I'm pretty sure that it'll continue it's pattern as having a bigger focus on gaining yards with passing. Personally I hate to do running plays, ever since I was little when I got like 4 concussions in one game from getting pounded by linesmen, I've preferred receiving over anything else(for offense that is). I'm waiting for a football game that's going to balance it's playbook out so you've got a good mixture of both types of plays, because Madden's is more touchy on Rushing plays while all the passing plays are basically the same thing with maybe one receiver going a little bit farther than he did on another play or cutting back a couple feet.

The nit-wits at EA are arrogant yes, but at least they come through in the graphics department creating some of the better visuals yet with smoother character models and character animations, and the stadiums have been worked on to look more life-like...same goes for the sky when you get a panoramic shot in a replay or something. EA achieved good looks in this years version of Madden, however the looks aren't everything and it's what the gameplay has to offer that really counts(thought I was gonna say "however the looks aren't everything and it's the inner beauty that counts" didn't ya?). The character animations have been worked on since last year as they run more fluidly and aren't as "robotic" as they run or take a sharp turn anymore, although my bigger gripe about the graphics comes from the fact that the models aren't as "detailed" as far as their pads go, because you could see the rich detail put into the player pads in NCAA Football 2003 on GC . Of course this is going to happen when you release a new football game every year, as technology matures so do the football games, so it's not really much to say that EA has created something masterful(maybe if they made each year's game from the ground up like Sega, Madden would be a better series).

First of all the commentary, Al Michaels and Melissa Stark team up with Johnny boy this year to do the play by play action of all the games, and I must say they're not THAT bad, although my thought on any commentary in any kind of sports game is, "Once annoying, always annoying". I don't care how much more sophisticated they get each year, everything STILL gets repeated over and over and over again until I can't stand it anymore and I shut the game off so they'll stop and then I realize that I was having fun with the game and I'll turn it back on to play my game again and I suffer through the commentary just to play my game(although there's always the option to turn the commentary off or the volume of it down, I just like to do everything the hard way). The sound effects are good and once again you're part of the team as you hear every bump and clash of each players helmets and shoulder pads and the grunts and sweat and the dirty gym socks and...ok so forget the dirty gym socks, but the sound effects bring you into the game("EA Sports, it's in the game!"...oh ya? well how bout' you get your minds into YOU and start developing for the COMMUNITY and not yerselves, eh?).

Now for the music, I can't quite remember last years Madden all too well to recall what kind of songs that were there if there were any, but there's years "EA Sports Trax" include Nappy Roots(POD remix), Bon Jovi, Good Charlotte, Andrew W.K., and 7 other artists that you'll enjoy listening to. My favorite of curse would be the "Aww Naww" remix from POD that is SUPPOSE to go "Aww naww hell naw, no ya up and done it, Aww naww hell naw, now ya up and done it", but of course because little children could be playing the game, it goes like this; "Aww naww, hey you, now ya up and done it, Aww naww hey you, now ya up and done it". It may not sound that bad from reading it, but after hearing what it sounds like you'll laugh your...ears off.

Rock's Thoughts:
Madden NFL 2003 was quite a mixed bag for me this year, as not only did EA's arrogance come into play, but they just tried to hard and pretty much failed in my eyes. Of course this is coming from a non-sports gamer, but even though I don't really like sports games...this year's Madden was a let-down as it's basically an expansion of last year's Madden with updated rosters, better graphics, and the online capability. So for this year's "football war", I'd have to say to go with NFL 2k3 as Sega has yet to disappoint me and I'm sure all of you will appreciate it also. Speaking of online, the servers for Madden 2003 will only last through the 31st of this month next year, as the Madden 2004 will have already been released...my thoughts? A bunch of bull, they need to keep the servers up for those who bought Madden 2003 cause not everyone is going to want to buy the same game two years in a row; there they go again. The graphics are nice, the new hot music tracks are enjoyable, and the online capability was a nice touch; however I'd have to recommend this as a rental only.

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