Madden NFL 2001 Review

For PlayStation

Rating: Awesome
   While the gameplay hasn't changed much since Madden NFL '99, Madden 2001 
is still worth the money due to its extremely deep Franchise Mode.  EA 
Sports appears to be resting on its laurels with the actual gameplay, but 
the Franchise Mode has been expanded to make it more like the real 
experience of being the general manager of an NFL team.
   The gameplay and Artificial Intelligence aren't drastically different 
from Madden 2000 or even Madden '99, but they have been slightly improved in
some subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  In general, the physics engine is much 
less exaggerated than it used to be.  You now have to be closer to ball-
carriers in order to tackle them, so there are no more tackles from 10 feet 
away.  Your defense will also respond much more naturally to men in motion 
rather than going through one of three robotic, pre-set animations.
   When running the ball, the juke button isn't too useful for its own good,
which was arguably the case in Madden '99 and 2000.  It still comes in handy
if you use it correctly, but it's no longer a case of, "I'm going to run 
until I get near a defender and then go wherever the juke button takes me."
Control of the runner is now more in your hands and less in the juke 
button's hands, which makes the game much more realistic.
   What makes Madden 2001 worth buying isn't the gameplay, it's the 
remarkably expanded Franchise Mode.  It's extremely addicting to learn the 
intricacies of the Franchise Mode all over again, and discover along the way
that these intricacies have gone through a lot of changes in the past year.
The very first night that I got my hands on Madden 2001, I spent about six 
and a half consecutive hours with the Franchise Mode.  
   The trading system has been improved by allowing you to put three of your
players on the trading block, and also name three positions in which you 
could use an improvement.  The game considers your three "trade bait" 
players and your three needed positions, and then proposes tons of trades 
that you can either accept or reject.
   The annual NFL Draft has been expanded from four rounds to seven, which 
allows you to place much more of a focus on signing up-and-coming prospects.
As a result, there's no more releasing players based merely on their salary;
you now have to consider who's an up-and-coming prospect and who doesn't 
really have a prayer of being a starter in the future.  It also seems that 
players now improve less from season to season, which makes each draft pick 
somewhat of a risk (just as they should be).
   The brief, but annoying loading times in the menus and have been reduced,
and the interface as a whole has been made much easier to navigate.  Also, 
injuries now play a much bigger role in the game, which is a welcome change.
Injuries still don't happen as often as they do in real life, but they do 
happen more often than they used to in Madden.  This is one of many things
that makes the game as a whole seem more realistic.
   EA has added a feature called the NFL Record Book, which tracks all-time 
records in a wide variety of categories.  Unfortunately, a bug in the game 
causes the all-time records to reset themselves without warning every few 
years.  If EA gets this feature to work properly in future Madden games, it 
will add a huge amount of depth to an already deep game.  Another missed 
opportunity for EA is that the first names of players still aren't listed in
the Franchise Mode.  This makes the players seem less like real people (even
if you know most of the players' first names in the current NFL).
   The new Madden Card feature has been getting a lot of praise, with many 
people saying that it accurately recreates the thrill of opening a new pack 
of trading cards.  The problem I have with this line of thinking is that to 
me, it's not much of a thrill to open a new pack of trading cards, whether 
it's virtual or real.  If you collect trading cards in real life, you'll 
probably enjoy the Madden Card feature a lot more than I have.
   This game's commentary manages to somehow get worse every year, and this 
year is no exception.  The game may as well be called Summerall NFL 2001, 
because Pat Summerall talks a heck of a lot more than John Madden.  
Summerall no longer says, "First and ten!" dozens of times per game, but 
this has been replaced by another annoying phrases.  Is it really necessary 
to say, "He gets it off!" after every single kick and "He skies this punt!" 
after every single punt?  
   Even John Madden falls victim to EA's increasingly repetitive commentary 
programming.  Madden says, "When you talk about precision passing, that's 
what you mean" after most completed passes, and he says, "That might have 
had too much pop!" after most incomplete passes.  Thankfully, if the 
commentary ever gets so annoying that you just can't handle it, you always 
have the option of turning it off in the options menu.
   As solid and entertaining as the gameplay is, it's admittedly starting to
feel outdated.  If this game didn't have a Franchise Mode, its rating would 
probably drop down to "Good."  Fortunately, the Franchise Mode is back and 
better than ever, making Madden NFL 2001 well worth buying.

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