Madden NFL 2001 Review

For PlayStation 2

Rating: Awesome
   The NFL 2K series is the best thing that ever happened to John Madden 
Football.  The surprisingly strong competition from Sega has made EA Sports 
realize that it can no longer rest on its laurels.  As a result, the first 
Madden game on the PlayStation 2 represents a huge leap in both graphics and
gameplay rather than just graphics.
   The biggest shortcoming of Madden for the PS1 has been fixed and then 
some.  When you're controlling the quarterback, finding an open man and 
delivering the ball to him is a much more natural and intuitive process.  
It's often hard to tell whether a receiver is really open in the PS1 
versions of Madden, but this is never the case in the PS2 version.  It's 
also nice that you're given more time in the pocket before a defender 
inevitably hurries you.
   The PS1 version of Madden does a nice job of forcing you to be fairly 
close to ball carriers in order to make tackles (as opposed to miraculously 
making them from five yards away).  Madden PS2 expands on this concept by 
pumping up the tackling realism to unprecedented levels.  It takes more than
a little getting used to at first, but it eventually makes the game all the 
more realistic and rewarding.
   The increased emphasis placed on injuries is another welcome change that 
goes a long way towards making the game more realistic.  The injuries are 
more realistic and happen more often, and the proper animations for them are
finally in place.  No longer do players execute a play normally and then 
mysteriously start rolling on the ground holding their knee.  You'll never 
again have to wonder, "Why did that player get injured?" because now you can
actually see the awkward twists and bumps that caused the injury.
   It's also nice that you have the option of putting injured players back 
into the game in some cases, which is what happens more times than not in 
the real NFL.  Much like in real life, putting an injured player into the 
game can sometimes pay off, and other times it results in the player going 
down with a much more serious injury.  If all this injury talk has you 
scratching your head in a Pepsi-induced stupor, don't worry: The game lets 
you turn injuries off at any time if that's what you prefer.
   The graphics have been drastically improved thanks to the power of the 
PS2, but they're also somewhat disappointing at the same time.  The players 
are extremely detailed, but they're also too short.  They have facial 
expressions that can be incredible sometimes, but they also seem stare off 
into space more often than they should.
   Television-style presentation is something that EA has always strived to 
achieve, and Madden PS2 is almost a step backward for EA in this regard.  In
an effort to make the game seem more realistic, EA added lots of close-up 
camera shots after plays.  Unfortunately, EA went overboard and actually 
made the game seem less realistic because real TV presentation doesn't zoom 
in that closely.
   EA also dropped the ball with the automatic instant replays, which
frequently use a reverse camera angle that makes it impossible to see where 
the ball is going.  In addition, the instant replays are woefully 
inconsistent.  Almost meaningless plays are sometimes given instant replays,
and big touchdown plays sometimes aren't given instant replays.
   Achieving success when running the ball should require a perfect mix of 
blockers creating holes and runners making moves, but Madden is too focused 
on the "blockers creating holes" side of things.  The running game tends to 
devolve into a simple case of, "If a big hole opens up in the line, I'll 
make a great run.  If a big hole doesn't open up in the line, I won't make 
a great run."
   The AI of Madden's defensive backs still needs a lot of work.  Most of 
the time a defensive back gets an open shot at making an interception, he 
simply bats the ball away or worse yet, drops it.  This is much less of a 
problem than it used to be in Madden football games, but it still needs to 
be fixed.
   The sound effects are very unpolished, with some of the most exaggerated 
grunts since the Sega Genesis days.  Another problem is the spotty collision
detection, which often causes one player's arms or leg to go right through 
another player's.  Despite these problems, the game still has an 
unexplainably "physical" feel, much more so than previous Madden games.  
It's also a relief that EA gave the commentators more things to say.
   The most surprising thing about Madden PS2 is that after more than 27 
months of glorious addiction, the joy of the Franchise Mode has finally worn
off for me.  Fantasy options like this need annual improvement to stay 
fresh, and you just don't get that with Madden PS2.  Believe it or not, the 
PS1 version of Madden 2001 has a slightly better Franchise Mode than the PS2 
   The PS1 version's innovative new off-season trading options have been 
removed, and the selection of all-time records is much smaller in the PS2 
version.  The new interface for re-signing players seems like a neat little 
feature at first, but what it really does is over-simplify the re-signing 
process.  I would rather negotiate with a player back and forth on my own 
rather than having a little meter on the screen tell me what to do.
   I honestly expected Madden PS2 to be virtually identical to the PS1 
version other than improved graphics, so you can imagine my surprise when I 
found that it's actually a very different game.  The Franchise Mode is 
slightly worse, the gameplay is much better, and the overall package far 
exceeds my expectations.

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