Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
It's late in the fourth quarter. You're down by six with only seconds left on the clock. In desperation to save your perfect record, you resort to the little cheat you have scribbled next to your desk that is only supposed to be used in extreme emergencies and you win the game by exploiting its weak AI. In the past, computer football games have been missing in one important area, which is intelligence. That's where John Madden '99 ups the ante a bit.
If your looking for content then Madden is the game for you, with its full NFL licensing it gives you access to more than 100 past and present NFL teams, including all 30 current NFL teams, 85 all-time and super bowl teams and a whole heap of secret teams. You get all this plus new player moves and easier controls.
In a time when the consoles are getting all the attention in the sports arena, it is nice to see a game like this come along. EA Sports has taken advantage of the computer's processor power and storage capacity by offering the most diverse football game to date. There are several different modes of play. Two of the most interesting are the Franchise mode and Arcade mode. In Franchise mode, the player becomes the GM of the team and has to make the correct trades and free agent signings to keep the team competitive. It is played like a career and the wrong moves will get you fired quickly. Arcade mode takes on the attitude of NFL Blitz, but adds the realism of referees and rules. Basically, it is Madden '99 on steroids, with all the bone-crushing hits that go along with that. On the control aspect, you have more moves and animations. One issue answered finally in Madden 99 is you can actually complete a pass. Yes you heard me right pass competition. Unfortunately, the run game is extremely easy and skilled players will score more.
The graphics in Madden 99 are stunning, the players have been constructed excellently and so has the atmosphere. If you can run 1024x768 this makes replays more entertaining than in previous versions of the Madden series. The amount of different player tackles keeps Madden 99 from being boring and repetitive. More on the player models, they are more detailed with player muscles, and rippled pads, which can be a real sight to see. In 3D accelerated mode (the native Glide version is best) the realism is absolutely stunning. The recommended system requirements are good as well, but you won't get the same quality without a 3D accelerator. Because without the right video card, the framerate dips drastically, especially when there are several players on the screen.
One of the game's biggest faults, however, is the sound. When working properly, it is very impressive, with all of the sounds you'd expect to hear on a football field. The commentary of Pat Summerall is top-notch and even Madden is good in this latest episode. The problem is that the game is very finicky when it comes to soundcards and drivers. On three different systems with three different cards (SoundBlaster Live! Diamond Monster Sound, Crystal Audio) the sound was inconsistent. Sometimes both speakers would work, sometimes not. It is a bit frustrating, but downloading all of the latest sound drivers did eventually fix this problem.
As you should expect from EA titles, the graphics are set to new level. Somehow some way the EA team comes up with more things to do and show. Too bad the sounds took a break. Very inconstant sounds some times becoming frustrating. Despite this very insignificant flaw, the gameplay is fun and the controls are not hard to learn. You'll be happy to know it is not impossible to complete a pass now, which in previous versions was a freak of nature. This is by far one the best football sim's I've seen to date.