Well, here it is, the first week of October and the pro football season has kicked off, so enter in EA Sports’ Madden 2002. Some critics of the series have blasted it as being a port of Madden 2001 for the Playstation 2, others have hailed it as being the game that saves the Madden series. We’re going to call it the game that brings back some respectability to the Madden series. Madden NFL 2002 takes all the great things about football, hard hits, long bomb passes, the running game, kicking game, clipping, spearing, late hitting, piling on, roughing the kicker, roughing the passer, roughing the receiver, and unnecessary roughness and puts them into what is perhaps the greatest football game ever made. The graphics are gorgeous, the instant replays are incredible, the plays are lifelike, and the hits make you shudder, the only thing that is lacking is the color commentary by Pat Summerall and John Madden.
First of all, let’s start with the negative things about the game. The commentary by Pat Summerall and John Madden is lackluster to say the least. For example, let’s say you throw a bullet pass to one of your wide receivers and he misses the catch, Pat Summerall might say “That was a zinger.” And then John Madden will add in “Yeah. I think that one had a bit too much pop.” Another situation, there is a fumble, you are sure you’ve recovered the ball, but, Pat and John don’t say anything. There is no “And the Baltimore Ravens recovered that fumble.” In close calls in the end zone, you have no clue if you’ve scored a touchdown or you landed out of bounds on the catch, you only know afterwards, after you see the points on the board.
When a player gets injured all that happens is on the screen it will say “So-and-so hurt his head on that play” or “So-and-so hurt his arm on that play.” There is no update on the player during the game like there is in NHL 2001. If a player got hurt in NHL 2001, sometime during the game the commentators might say “We’ve just got news from the locker room, Adam Oates will be returning to the ice next period.” Nothing like that happens in Madden NFL 2002. It would have been nice to get an update during the game, instead, you have to wait until the game is over and go check in the League News section.
Unfortunately, there is no half time show – how disappointing! I think it would have been great for some videos of each team’s cheerleaders in action during halftime. Instead, you are taken to the In Game Menu so you can take a short break before resuming play. In the Super Bowl, in previous Madden games, when your team won the Super Bowl, fans would rush onto the field and push over one of the goal posts. You don’t see that here. And there seems to be no celebration either. I’m going make another NHL 2001 comparison, when you won the Stanley Cup, there was a five minute victory segment of the winning team and key players in the game would hold up the Cup and skate around before they passed it off to someone else. Then there would be a segment where the entire team is out on the ice for a group photo with Lord Stanley’s Cup. A feature with a post game super bowl victory celebration would have gratified the die hard gamer willing to go the distance and succeed with their respective team.
However, enough with the negative, lets talk about the positive. The graphics in Madden 2002 are just incredible. They will leave you in awe as you see the sun or the stadium lights reflect off the helmets of your players, and really complements the instant replays as well. The games can be played in the morning, afternoon, dusk, and night, in all types of weather, including rain, snow, sunny, and windy. With the weather changes, different things will happen. For example, if it is really windy, you are going to have to aim your field goal kicks in a different direction just for them to be successful.
Speaking of the weather, the effects are pretty spectacular. When it rains, after awhile, your players will have mud caked on their uniforms, when it is snowing, you can actually see the players breathing. It’s a pretty impressive sight to see.
As an added bonus, included with Madden 2002 is what is a feature called “The Greatest Games of All Time”, in this mode, you get to replay some of the greatest moments in football history. The idea of it is rather sound, for example, in the first scenario, it’s a reinactment of the 1957 playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. The situation is this: It’s half time, the Lions are down 27 to 7. Through the thin walls of the locker rooms, the Lions can hear the 49ers celebrating their victory. This encourages the Lions to play better football and the Lions comeback and win the game 31 to 27. With each game you win, you unlock the two teams featured in the game and you also unlock the next scenario. There are plenty of games to unlock and plenty of teams to unlock as well.
Just one more note on the color commentary. After a brief run through of several exhibition games with the teams that was created for the game, I noticed that the team names seem to be mysteriously left out. They are referred to as either the “Home Team” or the “Visiting Team.” Rather strange, don’t you think?
Madden’s new in game engine is the most impressive upgrade over the 2000 and 2001 editions. The defensive AI was by all means exasperating, but with new enhancements, the gameplay is tons better. Jeremy Strauser, Producer of Madden 2002, was quoted to TFH as saying, “…the PC game play was almost completely different from an AI stand point – new blocking, new passing, new running, you name it, it was mostly new in PC.”
Indeed, the new AI makes games against the computer a much more satisfying experience. When considering the enhancements to AI, the improved graphic engine, and the added features of the season mode (customary free agency, drafting, fantasy pool options), Madden 2002 is definitely a winner, and many times its predicessors.
However, when all is said and done, Madden NFL 2002 is probably the best football sim out on the market.
FINAL SCORE: 85%