Madden NFL 2003 REVIEW

Madden NFL 2003 Review (PC)

It’s that time of year again, the market begins to get flooded with NFL titles preceding the upcoming season and that means its time for the inevitable Madden update from EA Sports. NFL has traditionally been a niche market title, but a few changes have been made to the PC version of the game to try and broaden the audience. Has it been successful? We think so.

Not many people can understand the sport of NFL unless they live in the United States, they wonder why on earth a bunch of grown men would like to run at each other for a few seconds each play for about 3 hours of game time. It is not until you delve deeper into the sport you realize why it’s so popular, it’s not the crash and tumble but more the strategies. Madden 2003 aims to improve on the 2002 edition and offers a lot more then just roster updates. For the latest version EA Sports made a few notable changes which any Madden veteran will see almost immediately, especially if they have played the console versions of the game.

The gameplay is the traditional hard hitting style of the sport but seems to flow much more smoothly in the 2003 edition of the game; this primarily is due to an engine change. Instead of keeping the old PC engine, EA decided that this years PC version will use the exact same engine as the console versions and it definitely shows. The movements of the players are much smoother and the graphics are a notch above last year’s effort. Additions to the gameplay include gang tackling involving up to two players; wide receiver catching and players can now fend off potential tacklers if they are running at speed. This allows for much more exciting gameplay as players can break tackles and open the defense up allowing for a an even greater number of strategies to be employed in a coaches playbook.

The traditional game modes such as exhibition and season are stalwarts in the Madden series and it comes as no surprise that they have been included but a few new game modes have been added to the series to increase the variety available to gamers. Franchise is again in the game and allows players to play up to 30 seasons with one club, so even if you’re not competitive in your first year of competition you can scout out new players to build up a power team, definitely one of the best features of the game. Of course as the manager of the team over the 30 years you will have to deal with injuries, trades, contracts and retirements just like a real manager. In fact the management side of Madden 2003 is so deep you can become the coach and only call the plays rather then take part in the actual weekly games.

A brand new game mode is the mini camp which allows players to hone their skills in a practice situation before trialing those skills in a real match situation. Numerous drills are available from different teams across the league and certain scores must be attained before the drill is passed. After a drill is passed the player then has the chance to use their new skills in a game situation. The player will be thrust into the middle of a game and must meet a criteria designed around the skill tested to pass the situation. For example one situation has a team needing to hold off the offence for a designated period of time after practicing their defense skills.

As you would expect Madden 2003 carries both the NFL and NFL Player’s Association licensing. This has allowed EA to reconstruct every player, stadium and franchise club into the game. Every player in the NFL is featured and can be traded by teams as well have contracts renewed. EA Sports are offering players the ability to download roster updates from the Internet which will replicate the real world situation of the NFL with trades, injuries and other changes made throughout the season. The atmosphere of the game has had a massive overhaul and it actually now feels like you’re in the middle of a pressure cooker; otherwise known as an NFL game. The crowd is no longer ‘cardboard cut-outs’ and are animated, they are also a lot more emotional. If the team is playing at home and score a huge roar will fill the stadium, but if they score at an away game the crowd will be silent.

The AI is in a word brutal; with the new gang tackling and wide receiver catches it is a very tough proposition to defeat the AI in the first game. The teams will relentlessly punish your players if the team isn’t on the game and it is almost impossible to predict their next play. To aid with this if your new to the series EA has added the madden playbook again, but this time it can be employed with defense, which is a great addition for those who don’t understand the strategies behind the sport. Madden will select a play and then it is up to the player as to whether they want to use that play for the upcoming down. For the most part the plays Madden chooses for the player are perfect, sometimes towards the end of quarters however he chooses time wasting plays which some players may not want.

Madden 2003 offers multiplayer via the Internet and LAN. The Internet gameplay is offered via the EA online service which is fully integrated into the game with a login screen on the front page.

Visually Madden 2003 is superb, as mentioned before it utilizes the same engine as the console versions of Madden 2003 so the graphics are about on par. The motion capture is once again exceptional with players acting in a realistic motion when running as well as when being tackled. Replays mimic that of NHL 2002 with big hits shown from three different angles and when an interception is made a matrix style spin around the player is shown just before the catch. Again the replays can be viewed from any angles and one of the cameras is so close to the action you can see the bump mapping on the actual ball.

The environments the games are played in are also now completely interactive. If a player is tackled on the sideline there is a chance they will knock down the first down marker and other objects which are on the side of the field, this only occurs rarely however. Another new addition designed to add atmosphere are the cheerleaders and coaches, on the side of the field both are viewable during the matches and at half time there is a show involving the cheerleaders, its all aesthetic and adds nothing to the overall game itself but the atmosphere has definitely improved ten fold for this years edition. The stadiums the games are played in are gigantic structures and each team’s home ground is an exact replication of the actual stadium. The detail is so great in the game even the advertisements and banners are exactly what appear on the boards at the stadiums.

The new edition brings a change to the commentary positions. With Pat Summorall retiring last year, Al Michaels one of the more famous NFL commentators has stepped in to talk it up with Madden. For the sideline reports Melissa Stark is in place to give you the low down on injuries and half time talks. Other then that the sound effects are great with every hit thumping through the speakers. The soundtrack for this year’s addition features a strong line up of artists including Bon Jovi and others.

Madden is the king of the PC, of course it’s the only game on the PC. With the Internet play and use of the console engine, it is king. You must pick this up if you are a PC gamer and meet me online!

Madden NFL 2003 Score
out of 10