Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
Let me clarify that the graphics in Madden 2000 are by no means terrible; they just are below the standards set by other football game series. The most obvious area of graphical improvement is in small additions to the on field experience.
Probably the best of these improvements are the fully animated referees. They follow every play down field, and move (or at least attempt) to get out of the way of the ball carrier. This detail, in addition to a number of others, such as heavy breathing after a big run, pad and helmet adjustments, and rendering of the entrances and exits of the offensive and defensive squads make Madden 2000 seem extremely "live" and far less scripted than other football games.
However, these small details cannot save the fact that player models are distorted and exaggerated; variances of height and weight are grossly overdone, to almost a comical level. In comparison to another of this years football games, NFL Fever 2000, Madden looks about two years behind the pack in rendering of player and stadium graphics. EA needs to invest major development is badly in this area, and has for quite some time.
The best of all these play modes is the Situation mode, which allows you to specify every, and I mean every, detail to create the play, game, and setup of your choice. Finally you can recreate the closing seconds of last Monday night's game, complete the pass, score the points, and get the babe. Ok, maybe not, but it's a very cool addition to an already extremely well developed sports simulation. The only thing holding me back from giving full points to the gameplay of this game is a poorly designed menu and play interface. Ever year, since the earliest Madden games on Sega Genesis, I have loathed the squiggly line drawn play book, the unorganized and cultured menus and the term season saving options. It's frustrating, non-intuitive, and worst of all, in all these years, has never been improved!
On field gameplay is a mixed bag, but for the most part I can give a thumbs up for full season gaming. And I seriously mean that. If you are looking for a quick fix game in-between class, look elsewhere. If you are planning on running a 13-week virtual season along side your favorite team, this is your game.
Heavy on statistics, trends, and team/player match-ups Madden 2000 comes through for "hardcore" game enthusiasts. The running and passing games are fairly balanced. Running the ball is easier, but yields fewer gains. The Passing game is considerably more difficult, but conversely offers bigger rewards.
Another note about the passing game, it's a huge crapshoot. It takes a serious chunk of time to develop a feel for how receivers run routes, how strong your quarterbacks arm is, how well the defenders can cover, etc. I suggest gamers spend plenty of time practicing a core set of plays in exhibition before running out on into full contact season play. Even after doing so I found my passes easily intercepted, often. There are adjustable difficulty settings to accommodate this, but I found them to be of little help. So take my advice, stay on the ground until you get the feel of the passing system.
Bragging over 200 teams, ranging from all 32 NFL franchise teams to a huge amount of All Madden legend teams, this game offers plenty of return play. Multiplayer leagues and direct TCP/IP games make slamming your friends and colleagues a very distinct option. Multi-season career mode let's you play as GM with your favorite franchise; will full capability of drafting, trading, and salary cap maneuvering over decades of play. If one can look beyond the poor graphics and initial difficulties in play there is plenty to interest both the seasoned veterans and rookie draft picks. However, don't let my endorsements cloud the fact that Madden 2000 is far from perfect.
Another significant improvement in Madden 2000 is the movement and animation of the players. EA has done an outstanding job of going beyond motion-capture modeling to design animations that emulate the natural movement of real football players. In Madden 99, there was an impressive animation where a runner lost his balance and put down a hand to steady him.
In Madden 2000 there are lots of similar animations - players stagger sideways, buckle under the weight of a defender, and sometimes lose partial balance when hit.
Here's an example from a game: my slot receiver cuts sharply towards the sideline, where he leaps for a pass, grabs it, and lands. A CPU defender dives at him and partially wraps him up. My receiver is pulled halfway to the ground, but then breaks free of the tackle, spins, runs forward about five yards, where another defender hits him from the side. Still on his feet, but toppling forward, my receiver dives for the first down and is tackled by a third defender, who slams my twisting, diving player onto the turf on his side. The combination of several unique movements, reactions to different types of tackles and hits, and the realistic-looking final tackle were simply incredible. And such plays are common.
The overall effect is vastly improved realism and natural-looking player movement. In this respect, Madden 2000 has taken a big step forward.
Madden 2000 also adds new special animations that give the game more personality. Players react not only to touchdowns and sacks, but to defensive stops on third downs and after big first down plays. Sometimes you get players running up to congratulate their teammates on a big play, while other times you see several players on the sidelines celebrating a play. You'll even see players arguing with referees after a penalty. It's apparent that EA has a lot of fun with these animations. My favorite one is after a big play, when you see the opposite sideline react with disappointment, including some players making the gesture for holding, to suggest that you're cheating on offense.
The player models in Madden 2000 are also improved. Players are scaled proportionally to their height, weight, and position. Player uniforms are accurate and detailed, and show the effects of the weather, depending on how much action they face - in a rain game, the HB's jersey gets noticeably darker as the game wears on, while a neglected receiver's uniform may stay clean. A great touch in Madden 2000 is that when you play as a classic team, they wear their classic uniforms. If, for example you play as one of the '80s Bronco teams, they'll take the field in those hideous orange jerseys.
The stadiums and fields look great. The detail of the fields has been improved so that you can better distinguish turf from real grass, and wet fields from dry ones. In snow and rain games, you can see footprints on the field. The stadiums look about the same as last year, but do a better job with shadows that reflect the time of day.
A useful new visual effect (optional) is a first down er on the field, like ESPN uses in its broadcasts. I found very helpful, as you see a clear yellow line on the field indicating the distance you need for a first down. Another new, though less useful graphical touch is that nets go up behind goalposts in some stadiums during field goal attempts. Finally, perhaps the most noticeable addition to the field and stadium graphics this year is the appearance of players and coaches on the sidelines.
Hit and tackles have also been improved in Madden 2000. Gang tackles, wrap-ups, and crushing hits are all smoothly animated and dramatic without being cartoonish. The range and variety of tackles has increased as well. After more than a dozen games, I'm still seeing new animations - players crumple beneath big defenders, get flipped, fall on their sides, twist and turn as they get crushed, or sometimes just get knocked off their feet. Some hits even knock players' helmets off.
One of my pet peeves with Madden 99 was the lifeless quality of instant replays. When the game took you to a replay last year, the game went dead silent, and often, on longer plays, the first half of the play was missing. EA addressed this area in Madden 2000. The instant replays are integrated much better into the game, with Madden and Summerall talking about the replay as it is shown, with the noise of the crowd in the background. And while long plays still may have some clipping, most of the time, replays are shown complete.
Finally, Madden 2000 is the first edition in years where the default camera angle is playable. The default "Madden" camera angle looks the best, and gives you enough perspective on the field to intelligently run an offense. The other camera angles are workable, but seem less than optimal, as the player models seem to get fuzzier and less impressive from other angles.
Perhaps on the N64 or PC version, the other camera angles won't suffer graphically, but the PSX doesn't seem capable of rendering many of the angles as well as it does the default camera angle. If you really can't stand any of the standard camera angles in Madden 2000, you're still in luck, because this year, you can define your own custom camera angle and play the game from it.
One minor gripe about the graphics in Madden 2000 is that the coin-toss scene is poorly done. The players watching the coin toss are moving slightly, as if swaying or breathing, but it looks like they are shivering. It would be a great effect in a snow game, but barring that, it just looks bad. I'm surprised EA didn't fix it, since the rest of the game is much smoother.
All in all, the graphics and animation of Madden 2000 are exceptional. EA Sports has done a fine job getting the most out of the PSX console. Still, the graphics are not quite perfect. On the nitpicky side, the players at the coin toss look like they're shivering, which I doubt was the intent, and some of the player models still some fuzziness and blotchiness at times. Overall, though, it's hard to knock the visual presentation of Madden 2000. It's fast, smooth, realistic, and detailed.
At times, Madden would be silent so long that it seemed like maybe he'd left the booth to go fix a snack. Not this year.
Pat and John seem recharged in the booth in Madden 2000. Pat especially sounds like he had his coffee and is following the game closely. He notes formations at the line of scrimmage, describes the play as it unfolds, and notes the outcome. This year, a typical Summerall line might be: "The defense comes out in the nickel package... The quarterback takes the snap... throws to the right... it's caught... stopped at the 44-yard line by Eugene Robinson!"
Pat's observations can sometimes help you on the field. On a couple occasions while I was playtesting, Pat noted that the defense had come out in the dime package, something I hadn't noticed as my offense broke the huddle. I used that clue to audible from a streak passing play to a halfback draw. In short, say goodbye to lackluster announcing. One of the most immediate and noticeable improvements in Madden 2000 is a rejuvenated announcing team.
Madden is more involved this year as well. He makes more comments during the game. While some of his "Maddenisms" are recycled from past versions of the game, many are new. After one horrific play where I let Robert Smith turn a basic off-tackle run into a 86-yard dash to the end zone, Madden coldly observed: "I think that's one of the poorest examples of tackling I've ever seen." Some of Madden's comments do get repetitive, however. For example, he seems to make the exact same comment almost every time you miss a field goal.
The crunch and crack of big tackles and hits also sound better this year, and the crowd reacts more naturally to the action on the field. I still wish the crowd would react more dynamically to the action on the field, but the overall noise and sound effects are a step up from Madden 99. Several stadiums have arena-specific sound effects, like that annoying horn in Minnesota.
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