Big John could use a change of scenery.
If guns had been developed the way Madden games have, right now our military
would be armed with the most impressive, neon-painted, super-featured (can-opener,
a watch, a nose hair trimmer, and even a demon excorcisor) front loading, flint-action
muskets in the world. We wouldn’t be able to actually kill anything, but as our
country got pummeled by Canada, we’d at least be able to sign our own death warrants
with the nifty pen that you would be able to pull out of the butt of the gun.
Despite the fact that Madden games have ruled the gaming gridiron for
years, EA Sports has done little to add anything new. Essentially, Madden
2001 is just another upgrade, and it’s becoming clear that EA has bigger
plans than the PSX…namely, the PS2.
The graphics aren’t anything special, although the animation is better than
most other Playstation games. While not nearly as fluid as games of the same
ilk on other systems, the choppy Playstation rendering is softened by a plethora
of motion-captured details, such as Funky Chicken walks and players touching
their hands to the ground to stabilize themselves after a glancing near-tackle.
Not the best in town, but hardly the worst.
Hit detection is remarkably good, but also extremely frustrating. While players rarely pass through each other, they never react or try to battle for position as real NFL players would. The effect is five or six football players standing around a circle on the ground while impotently glitching in unison. It’s also funny to see a football hit a receiver in his back numbers, go all the way through him, and wind up in his hands, since there really aren’t any catching animations.
The gameplay is mostly untouched from earlier versions. You’re given the usual
abilities to spin, jump, dive, straight-arm, juke, and speed burst, but none
of them (other than speed burst) have any real concrete uses, only arbitrary
outcomes. So, while your running back’s spins and jukes look cool, all they
do is decide what kind of tackle animation you get.
However, Madden 2001 excels in terms of balance. You’ll be hard pressed
to find those “super” plays (you know, the ‘automatic’ first down ones) that
have marred past Maddens. This makes for a better overall challenge,
one that will keep you coming back before.
and quarterbacking are essentially the same as before. I personally think it’s
about time to throw in a “coverage” indicator, something to help you determine
if a receiver is wide open. This would do a lot of good, because the game stays
locked in a semi-removed, third person point of view. It would be really nice
if the camera angle changed on its own, especially if it changed to suit the
perspective of whatever player you happened to be controlling.
Of course, these are suggestions more than gripes. The bulk of the gameplay
is identical to past efforts, so fans of the series will be genuinely pleased.
Tackles, though, are a letdown. You lay on a really good hit, yet the only
thing that’s really good about it is the sound it makes. The hits are slow and
the visual impact is unconvincing. If the sounds didn’t have to carry all the
effect, but supplemented a really violent looking hit, defense in this game
would be a blast, literally.
Once again, the big man and his partner in crime Pat Summerall are here for
the play by play. You’ll hear plenty of Maddenisms, but ugh, they just don’t
seem very smart. John always sounds like he’s calling the game while taking
bites from a hot dog, and frankly, he should stick to lunch. I advise turning
the sound off.
As always, there are literally a thousand ways you can play this game. New
to the series is "Two Minute Drill", which allows you to work on your
quick offense. It’s not bad, a fun sort of side game. Also new are "Madden
Cards." As you complete various gameplay objectives, you get these dorky
cards that unlock secrets and extras. It’s like Pokemon football. And it’s also
sort of a waste of time. They should have spent less time on this and more time
putting in better announcing.
Shoot, you can even play this game and NOT play it by choosing Franchise mode,
which allows you to control the administrative aspects of football such as trading
and paying bail (if you choose to manage the Cowboys). Not my cup of tea, but
I guess if you like to make decisions in your spare time, Madden 2001
is the game for you.
When all is said and done, Madden 2001 is just an upgrade to a series
that is dying for the move to the PS2. As it stands, it’s only for football
pedants and hardcore fans of the series. The rest of you should just wait for
what will likely be the REAL upgrade coming October 26th.