Review by bearsman6

Reviewed: 04/15/03 | Updated: 04/15/03

There are some games you play just because you're unbeatable.

Every time you see the name Madden in a football title, it is guaranteed that a certain quality level will be present. However, for this first edition on the Nintendo 64, the Madden series takes a serious hit in a few areas. Gone are the challenges the AI used to present for the older consoles. Instead it seems that the producers wanted to bring a more enjoyable, more graphics-intensive game to the rabid football fans. Also gone are the times when you could go a play or more without some commentary. This happens to be the weakest area of the game, too, so nothing is quite like flaunting a flaw! Luckily, this game looks great, especially given some of the graphical shortcomings of the 64, and the easy AI might actually lend itself to being more user-friendly than later versions.

As with every new title, Madden is just plain football-loving fun. To compare it to similar games, it actually outshines the competition, such as the Quarterback Club games. I must say that I am pleased, especially since the gameplay remains faithful to all of the previous games. Picking plays are simple, controlling your players is easy to both implement and learn, and on top of that the game looks great doing it. Perhaps my favorite aspect to this game is the fact that the AI is so stupid at times. It makes the games incredibly easy, especially if you have a decent tailback that can outrun anyone, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s addictive, intense, and unadulterated fun.

The modes of play are solid as well. You’ve got the typical pickup games, and of course the season mode remains, but new to this game are the situational games. You want to relive some of the classic Superbowls of the past? Sure, we can do that. Want to pick out one of the all-time greatest teams from the past? You can do that, too. In addition to that, you have all the unlockable and secret goodness all Madden games are renowned for. If that weren’t enough, you also have a great create-a-player mode, which any good football game would be proud to call its own. My own personal incarnation in the game is superior even to Barry Sanders and Emitt Smith combined. Is there some problem with stacking a team with my friends, therefore making them unstoppable?

Graphically, this game is a bit behind by today’s standards, but they still are quite solid. Sure, the players lack individual faces, and they do move a bit more chunkily, but that is half the fun of a classic game. You might be able to count some of the polygons used, but at least they don’t clip each other too badly, and collisions still aren’t terrible. In fact, seeing players hit each other is one of the most enjoyable aspects in the game. There is still the tendency for slowdown once the ball is put in play, but it is minimized. Perhaps my greatest problem is that the ball seems to stay up in the air forever on a long pass play. I know my quarterback’s arm is good, but this is ridiculous…

Perhaps the thing that impressed me most about this game was that you had an incredible amount of control over what you did and didn’t want to hear. We all have to admit that, after having only played one Madden or all of them, the man has an incredibly annoying voice. Then they seem to add insult to injury by lining up Pat Summerall with him. We don’t like the duo on TV, why would we enjoy it any more in a game? Still, with this game, you have two options. You can either leave the commentary on and memorize the lines (and I guarantee you will if you play any more than 3 games), or you can just turn their blasted mouths off. Yep, that’s right, though the commentary is repetitive beyond reason, you don’t have to put up with it. The best part is that you can turn that off while leaving the collisions and game sounds on, even including fan sounds. They also get annoying, but it’s infinitely better than good-old John. Anything is better than our buddy John…

Besides the terrible lack of announcer lines, the rest of the music in the game is pretty good. By today’s standards, it is lacking horribly, but that’s to be expected. The background tracks are very repetitive, and the loops are too short. However, the in-game sounds are still strong. Madden titles always seem to focus more on the game than the menus anyway. I’m still not sure how many separate menu songs there are, but I know there is one I have heard far more than any of the others. It is, of course, the most annoying beast I have ever had the displeasure of listening to over and over again. It has little rhythm, probably composed by the Man himself, and could drive even OJ to confess given the right time of duration. All in all the sound is marginal at best, but if you’re only in it for the game to begin with, you’ll be fine.

One of the biggest areas of interest with sports games is how it fares when more than one player sits down to get it on. With the N64’s multiple controller slots, this game is maximized for multiplayer. You can sit with 3 of your buddies and just whack each other all day. However, you will quickly grow tired of this. Playing defense in this game is all about luck and timing. Without one, you will surely lose, or get scored on. Just pray that your opponent is as bad as you are, or worse. It isn’t unusual to see a score over 50 in just the first half, especially if you’ve got two people playing against each other. Unfortunately, with more than one playing on a team, things tend to get crowded. You have one player control the quarterback, but what happens with the other? If they ever want to touch the ball, they had better know where the play is headed, and even then they’d better run the right route, or you are both screwed. Slowdown also tends to increase the more players on the field at one time, human or computer-controlled. Basically, this game is great for bragging rights and playing head-to-head, but cooperatively I’d rather play a decent FPS, or NFL Blitz.

This game is easily ten steps above any of the previous games in the series, regardless of the console. The multiple modes of play are preserved, but the create-a-player adds incredible amounts of fun for single-player enthusiasts. On top of that, you’ve got perhaps the most annoying commentary game (and I strongly suggest you mute it quickly) to supplement perhaps the prettiest graphics for a football game of the era. As always, the Madden title guarantees quality, but this time it isn’t quite as high a mark as I had hoped.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 5/10
Multiplayer: 5/10

Overall: 6/10

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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