This is His Game.
Well football video game fans, you have waited 12 grueling months for the answer to one simple question: what football game will reign supreme in 1999? And after a bloody standoff complete with fancy terms like "Authentic Football Intelligence" and "super hi-res poly graphics," the football game franchise left standing is none other than the venerable Madden.
It was, however, a damn good fight.
How, you ask, does Madden NFL '99 manage to beat out a game that looks much better? The answer is in two simple words - depth and realism. Madden '99 is quite simply the most in depth console football game ever made, and where Gameday '99 falls short in unconvincing gameplay, Madden excels.
The big thing about Madden '99 is that it has finally stepped up to Gameday in the graphics department. Gone are those annoyingly blocky sprites in favor of beautifully detailed NFL powerhouses. Not only that - Madden boasts a whopping 250 new animations that are just spectacular. The hits and cuts are straight out of Monday night football. Say you're sweeping to the right with Barry Sanders. You hit the juke button, and some punk taps your right leg. But you can't get Barry down that easily; he stumbles a bit, and pushes off the grass to regain his balance, gaining another 7 yards. Receivers track incoming passes, pass rushers talk trash, and the hits are huge. New moves include the aforementioned juke button (a must for the running game), right or left stiff-arms, and a swim move on defense.
Admittedly, this all happens a bit slower than in Gameday; Madden's polys run at 15 fps whereas Gameday clocks in at 30. What Madden lacks in speed, however, it more than compensates with gameplay. After playing the game for hours and hours, I have yet to see a move that doesn't look real. Period.
Other additions found in Madden '99 include Franchise Mode, Arcade Mode, One-Button Mode, Practice Mode, team-specific playbooks, and oh yeah, the Play Creator. For the uninitiated, Franchise Mode is a multiple-season extravaganza that will wow the pants off those of you who dream of being the next Carmen Policy. You release and draft players and sign free agents, all the while watching your coach rating - if you suck, you're headed for Boise State. Arcade and One-Button Modes both capitalize on a market spawned by no rules, easy-to-play games like NFL Blitz. The One-Button Mode is especially interesting in that you can play a decent game with someone who's never touched a control pad before. And a new EA delight that will no doubt be a staple of future games is the Play Creator. You can design your own play right down to the block pattern, and save it to your own custom playbook that will be available every time you play.
What all these new goodies mean is that it will take longer for you to get bored - this game will outlive its opposition.
Another thing Madden '99 absolutely has over Gameday '99 this year is Artificial Intelligence. Although Gameday's AI is good, Madden's is superb. You will see everything from defenses shifting on the fly to cover the play-action fake, to offensive tackles clearing a path for a streaking running back. And a warning to all Madden veterans, you will be forced to mix up your game.
Of course, Madden '99 includes all of the features that have made the game the NFL giant that it is. Good 'ol John is back alongside play-by-play man Pat Summerall, and James Brown (not the funky one) gives season updates from the studio. This year's Playstation version comes complete with "Star Talk" commentary - a feature that allows John and Pat to give pertinent information on a key player (i.e. John went off for about 30 seconds about how Jerry Rice is the best player to ever play the game after he caught a 30-yard TD pass). And although their comments are a bit sparse, John and Pat never say anything out of place.
What all 750 of these words mean is that Madden '99 is the best Madden ever, as well the greatest leap a Madden title has ever made in one year. It has improved even more than '97 improved over '95--the year(s) Madden went from 16-bit to 32-bit (Madden '96 was never shipped). Quite simply, it doesn't get much better than this, folks.