August 21, 2002
Madden NFL 2003 - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Rating Players Price
1/10/2002EA SportsEA Sports1-8$99.95

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Graphical improvements yet again.
When it comes to NFL football any new console needs to have a strong showing. The Dreamcast really suffered due to EA's franchise missing on the system, despite the fact the Sega Sports released NFL2K which was at least equal to the Madden games. Rack this game up as the 13th in the series, but it doesn't look like being unlucky, in fact for fans of the series this looks like being the biggest update since the move to polygon based players on the PSOne. So what's the big change? Can anyone say online? Yes Electronic Arts are including an online mode where you can not only download the latest player rosters during the NFL season (including trades, position changes, and injuries) but can also play online head-to-head with other gamers. The only problem is that given the lack of a networking adapter here in Australia this feature may not make it out here. Let's start praying that it's left in then for when the adapter is eventually released.

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Check out the facial detail.
I won't go through all the details of the game, if you've ever played a Madden game in the past then you know what to expect, pick a play, and then try to complete the pass, or run. Make the 10 years and it's a new first down. This years game includes a few new features during the play, but nothing that changes the gameplay dramatically. As stated in the EA press materials the game includes faster game speed; players follow through, making hits on people without the ball; tighter control with quicker animations and reduced player momentum; more finely tuned passing game; independent audibles for defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. Enhanced ground game with all new spin moves, stiff arm moves, and inside running; all new receiver moves and routes; improved screen plays and quicker play action; more intelligent pass coverage.

Of course the biggest change is the online gaming. While it may not make it to PAL territories we can only hope. This online gaming features an online lobby area where gamers can meet, greet, chat and play Madden head to head, as well as download current player rosters throughout the real NFL season (roster update includes trades, position changes, and injuries).

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Brushing aside the tackle.
The actual gameplay isn't the only area that has been updated at all with the game also including a Mini-camp where you join John Madden's Cruiser Tour Bus travelling to all NFL cities to complete skilled tasks. Take control of players in practice gear and become an expert in all player positions in your ultimate goal to earn unique Madden cards. The game also includes a Create-A-Playbook for those more skilled, or wanting some slight gameplay changes. Also included is a Franchise mode for those wanting to go all the way to evaluate and check the progress of rookies, free agents and created players during a four- game pre-season; Export a franchise team to exhibition play; Rookie Scouting Reports serve as a new way to evaluate rookies. Thirty years of player progression logic with full career stats and enhanced computer managed team logic for trades and drafting.

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Graphically, Madden NFL 2003 remains faithful to last years version, with several improvements. Electronic Arts are promising new signature player animations like sidearm QBs, gang-tackling, stand-still receiver catches; new cut scenes with high-poly cheerleaders and additional emotion-based bench scenes; more than 300 realistic player faces; cinematic approach to camera positions gives new, more natural feel. Finally the game includes completely redone stadiums and fields to provide an exceptionally realistic playing environment. Once again the sound will be provided by John Madden and Al Michaels while Melissa Stark will provide the sideline reports. Electronic Arts are also promising better on-field sounds and crowd reactions.

As I mentioned one of the biggest drawcards to this game is the online components. Unfortunately due to the rather small number of gamers in PAL territories, and the lack of the online adapter to date this feature may not even be useful in this game. Still the enhancements to the core gameplay, graphics and various game modes should keep any NFL fan happy. This should quite easily be the best game in the series ever. Expect a release in Australia towards late September.