The New Classic...again?
In times of turbulence and unrest, people cling to the sane and the normal in an attempt to buoy themselves to the reality they are afraid they may be losing. Enter EA Sports' new Madden 2002 for the PSX. If you're looking for something stable, consistent and extremely predictable, then Madden may just deliver the static moments of Zen-like gaming tranquility you're looking for.
New to the 2002 edition are two features in particular: the "Mulligan," which allows you to redo botched plays at the cost of a time out, and the new "Classic Mode" (oxymoronic for a reason, baby), which is the equivalent of an old Genesis Madden game.
The Mulligan feature is a nice new addition that allows you to recall your previous play. Say you run a halfback sprint and you pick up 15 yards, but wind up fumbling the ball at the end of the play...it's mulligan time! And it only costs one time out. However, as you only have 3 timeouts per half (and timeouts are pretty valuable if you're down), you only have 3 mulligans, so you have to use them pretty wisely.
Classic mode plays the role of that favorite toy you lost in your closet only to find again several years later. You scoop it up, amazed that you could ever let such a treasure go by the wayside, only to throw it back into the closet an hour later when its novelty has worn off.
As much fun as we had with the 16-bit Madden games, they don't hold particularly well over time (hell, there were like twenty of 'em) and they definitely don't warrant 50 bucks. However, Classic mode does pave a nice little road down memory lane that is absolutely worth a rental.
Both Classic Mode and the regular game are totally updated for the 2001-2002 season, complete with the brand-spankin' new Houston Texans (well slap me with a polecat and call me redundant!). All of your favorite Madden modes are also back for 2002, including some new Madden Cards. Even though you still can't have Hawkeye as your QB or The Thing as your center, these cards do add depth, variety and challenge
The gameplay is largely untouched if not just a smidgen faster. Offensively you've got sharp, precise control over your running backs, but that doesn't mean you won't get tackled all the time. Due to some lackluster animation, defenders literally come out of nowhere to make lightning fast (because they only use two frames of animation) tackles.
Also, even though the post tackle animations are well fleshed-out and painful looking, they don't always make sense. For example, sometimes your guy will take a tackle to the midsection, which you think would result in him folding over the shoulder of the tackle like a sack of potatoes and then getting slammed to the ground. But instead, he sorta crumples into a fetal position and phases through the tackle's knees. Just like Nightcrawler!
Defensive gameplay suffers from the usual maladies, like getting sucked into blocking a guy and tackling in directions that make no sense at all, which often leads to an undeserved touchdown for the other team. It'd also be nice if the camera would pan up to show at least one of your guys on the field at all times, as otherwise it's impossible to know who has the best chance of catching a sprinting running back.
The passing game is relatively untouched, still with no means of controlling the placement of the ball. As a result, there's a schism between play and player which takes a lot of gameplay out of the game. But if you didn't mind it before, you won't mind it now.
The same jagged, unsettling animation rears its ugly head during most tackles, and the sound FX haven't been improved at all. Given, this was never really a selling feature, since most of us haven't been able to stand Madden's dumb witticisms for the past few years.
In truth, there isn't a whole lot more you can do with this series on the PSX. Even though it dons the irritating pretext of "newness" and even though there are now definitely better football games to be had, Madden 2002 is a comprehensive ending to a good, if not repetitive, chapter in video game history. May some things never change.