Like the Niners in the 80's.
The Madden series has just dominated the football game market. The only game to even challenge was Gameday, though last year was hardly a contest. Once again, football season is right around the corner, which means it's time for the console football game wars. First up is John Madden's Madden NFL 2000, and it looks pretty tough to beat.
All the usual modes of play are available, including Exhibition, Season, Custom Season, Tournament (complete with a fantasy draft), Practice, and Franchise. The newest addition to the list is the "Situation" mode. This allows you to play in one of 10 classic games, entering in at the most critical moments. The goal is to win the game, and perhaps rewrite history along the way, of course. Users can even set up their own situations, which is very cool.
Madden 2000's Franchise mode has a few new features to it. One of them is the NFL Draft Preview, where you can view the players in the upcoming draft. This is important because you now can trade any of the four draft picks with other teams. Did you find a player you need, but are too low in the draft to pick him? Not a problem...just trade up!
Another new addition is the Madden Challenge. In this mode, you can receive up to 2,000 points for fulfilling 100 pre-determined goals and correctly answering 200 trivia questions during gameplay. For example, if you complete a pass for more than 30 yards, Madden Challenge bonus points are awarded. You can receive a different amount of points in a number of different categories. The points vary by difficulty level.
Speaking of the difficulty levels, you can now adjust each facet of the game individually (in addition to the standard difficulty level options). It is left up to you to decide just how strong the defense should be.
This customizability extends even further. Both the offensive and defensive AI can be adjusted for running and passing, so finding the right balance is easy. There are also settings for how often the CPU will run vs. pass, and how aggressive the play calling will be. EA really lets you build the game to suit your tastes.
As far as the rosters go, players can be traded, created, edited, released, and drafted. In the Franchise mode, you are able to see the length of the contract left for players, and give them contract extensions if you wish. For those gamers who own NCAA Football 2000, players can be even drafted from that game into Madden 2000. EA wants to keep it in the family, it seems.
Gameplay in Madden 2000 is very similar to Madden '99. New to 2000, however, are route-based passing and hot routes. Route-based passing lets the QB throw the ball before a receiver has made his cut. By holding down L2 while throwing, the QB will lead the receiver to where he should be based on the route he has been assigned. Hot routes are basically audibles for individual receivers. Before the snap, you can alter any receiver's route with a couple of button presses. The running game has been improved as well. Unlike last year, it is now possible to run the ball and actually gain good yardage!
The graphics have been updated as well, with new player models that actually correspond to the real-life counterparts. This means that the big, bulky blockers are actually big and bulky, wheras the small, lithe receievers are thin and nimble. There are quite a few new animations this year, like helmets popping off from hard hits. The motions are smooth and the action is fast.
One new feature in Madden 2000 is the 'coach cam' option that lets the user see the player assignments before the snap. While this is a nice feature on paper, EA Sports didn't quite implement it right. If this option is turned on, you can see the CPU assignments as well as your own. The same can be said of the play name switch. When turned on, you not only know what play you called, but what the other team did as well. I doubt this is what EA Sports had in mind when they included this option, but it renders the option a bit pointless.
The crowds are relatively intelligent, cheering and booing at the right times. On big plays, they can get really loud. You can also try and pump them up if you're the home team and playing defense. The R2 button will cause your defender to raise his arms, which livens up the crowd. On offense, the same button will make your quarterback plead for silence. Back doing play-by-play is Pat Summerall, and of course, John handles all the commentary with his unique blend of insight and nonsense.
Overall, Madden NFL 2000 is an excellent game. The improved Franchise mode, awesome customizability and new passing features make this a worthy upgrade to Madden '99. I really thought it would be hard to improve on last year's title, but EA Sports has done it.