Madden NFL 2000 Review

For PlayStation

Rating: Awesome
   Madden NFL 2000 isn't a huge leap over Madden NFL '99, but it didn't 
have to be a huge leap to be better than its competition.
   First of all, the introduction sequence is horrible thanks to cheesy rap 
music instead of the usual rock music from EA.  The intro song gets worse 
as it goes along until it reaches the climax of the following actually 
being said four times: "What 'chu want?  THE ROCK IN THE BALL OF MY HANDS!  
What 'chu got?  I GOT JOHN MAAAAAADEN!"  At first I thought that the intro 
sucks, but now I think it's cheesy in a good way.  It's so bad, it's 
   Madden 2000 has 12 different music tracks (as opposed to Madden '99's 
one) for you to listen to on the menus, but most of them are embarrassingly 
bad.  Unfortunately, it's not in a "so bad, it's hilarious" sort of way 
like the intro, it's just annoying.
   The commentary in the game isn't that great mainly because Pat Summerall 
speaks with about as much enthusiasm as... well, something without much 
enthusiasm.  He often waits for a good five seconds after a touchdown to 
say "Touchdown!" and he repeats the same basic information way too much.  
On the average play, Summerall will say something like this in the same dry, 
un-enthusiastic voice: "Second and ten.  Ball on the 41 yard line.  
Washington lines up in a 4-3.  Man in motion."  John Madden still has a lot 
of interesting things to say about lots of different NFL players, and it 
would have been nice if there were an option to turn Summerall off and keep 
Madden on.
   The graphics aren't much different than they were last year, which is 
disappointing when you consider how revolutionary NFL 2K's graphics are.  
On the bright side, this year Madden has different player sizes.  Madden 
'99's players all seemed to be about the same weight, but in Madden 2000, 
the player models are scaled to each player's actual weight, so Dana 
Stubblefield really looks like he's 300 pounds.  Also, this year there are 
players, photographers, and cheerleaders on the sidelines, but they're all 
tiny, static, 2D sprites, and all of the sideline players are #88.
   When the time comes to re-sign your players to new contracts in the 
Franchise Mode, you'll find that different players have different 
preferences when it comes to how long they want their contracts to be.  If 
your negotiations go smoothly with a given player's virtual agent and the 
length of the contract is to the player's liking, you may be able to sign 
that player to an annual salary much smaller than his original demand.  
This may not make much difference in one player's salary, but if you're 
crafty enough in the negotiations of lots of contracts, you can free up a 
lot of salary cap room and have more money to sign a lot more big-time free 
agents.  Also, you always have the option of signing players to new 
contracts even if their current deals haven't expired yet, and sometimes 
players will actually hold out and refuse to play if they're not given a 
raise.  Re-signing players in Madden 2000 is much more involving than it 
was in Madden '99, and certainly more involving than it is in GameDay 2000.  
   Signing free agents is also a lot more intuitive in Madden 2000.  In 
Madden '99, if you made an offer to a free agent and another team later 
offered that player more money, you would have no way of knowing that 
unless you were on that player's screen.  As a result, it wasn't unusual 
for free agents to be stolen out from under your feet.  In Madden 2000, a 
little box pops up saying "X team has made a better offer to X player," so 
you always have a chance to make as many counter-offers as you'd like.
   There are a lot of other additions to the Franchise Mode that add up to 
make a big difference.  Last year you could only trade players, but this 
year you can also trade draft picks (so you could trade your entire draft 
for Ricky Williams like the Saints did).  A new screen pops up between 
seasons that tells you exactly how much each player improved or got worse 
in every single ability category.  At any point in the game, you have the 
option of leaving your team and taking over any team that recently fired 
its coach.  Unfortunately, one thing you can't do is modify any rosters 
except your own, so I failed in my attempts to start out the Franchise Mode 
with the real NFL rosters (no Barry Sanders, Vinny Testaverde, Jamal 
Anderson, etc).
   You can play or simulate up to 30 seasons with one franchise in Madden 
2000, but your ability to do this is hampered by the fact that there's no 
way to change the difficulty level in the Franchise Mode.  For example, if 
you start a franchise at the Pro difficulty level and after half a season 
you find that your skills have improved and Pro is now way too easy for you,
you're screwed.  You either keep playing on Pro, or you start a new 
franchise on All-Pro.  It would be nice if you could just switch difficulty 
levels at any time in the Franchise Mode, and I can't think of a good 
reason why EA decided not to let you do this.
   The game's statistical package is not drastically different from last 
year's, but EA has slightly reduced the loading times that you have to sit 
through when going from menu to menu.  Also, the player awards have been 
greatly expanded in Madden 2000.  In addition to seeing who the offensive 
and defensive players of the week are, you can take a look at the current 
league MVPs not only in the whole NFL, but also broken down into each 
conference, division, and team.  
   The Artificial Intelligence has some gaps in logic.  For example, the 
computer sometimes lets the clock expire instead of kicking an easy field 
goal at the end of the first half.  One time I led the Jets 10-2 in the 
fourth quarter and they drove all the way down the field and scored a 
touchdown, but they kicked the extra point instead of going for the game-
tying two-point conversion, so they lost 10-9.  As stupid as Madden's AI 
sometimes is, it's usually very smart, and as a whole it's much better than 
the AI in any other football game.
   EA has tweaked some areas of the game that didn't need to be tweaked.  
For example, interceptions take place way more often in Madden 2000 than 
they did in Madden '99, running backs and receivers break tackles a lot 
more often, and sacks take place slightly less often.  It's one thing to 
want to tweak the gameplay and make it more fun, but every major gameplay 
modification in Madden 2000 seems to make the game less fun instead.  One 
gameplay change that is for the better is the frequency of holding 
penalties being called.  Last year, holding was called way too often, but 
this year it's only called occasionally.
   Also, the jumps between difficulty levels are too big.  You might be 
able to breeze through the Pro level to the point that it's not even fun, 
and yet you get crushed every time you try to play on All-Pro.  It's not 
very fun to win by 30 points or to lose by 30 points, so all you can do is 
keep playing on the next level until you're good enough to handle it.  It 
takes a very determined gamer to do this, and I can imagine a lot of 
players giving up and never playing the game again.
   The gameplay is much smoother than the gameplay in NFL 2K and NFL 
GameDay 2000, and the running game is much more of a factor.  It's far from 
perfect, but Madden NFL 2000 is still the most entertaining football game 
on the market.

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