Madden NFL 2004 Impressions

We take a look at some of the brand-new features for the 2004 iteration of Madden NFL.

At today's Camp EA press event, we spent some time looking over the console versions of Madden NFL 2004. Aside from the standard roster and minor gameplay upgrades, Madden 2004 also has a number of much more significant changes that EA Sports believes will revolutionize the series, including an extremely in-depth owner mode and a new playmaker control system that will allow you to make single-player route and coverage adjustments on the fly. EA also clued us in on what sort of online upgrades we can expect from the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

To start, Madden 2004's franchise mode aims to be the biggest and deepest ever created. In addition to all of last year's franchise features, Madden's now-famous minicamp mode has been fully integrated into the franchise mode. In it, you'll be able to train certain players on your team during the preseason training camp, using the minicamp minigames. If you manage to accomplish all of the necessary goals, you'll be awarded an upgradable stat point for that player. You can either just use that stat point to improve your player or risk it by upping the difficulty level and playing through the mode again, this time with the promised reward of double the stat points.

Also new to this year's Madden franchise mode is the owner mode. Owner mode puts you in charge of all the financial responsibilities for a team, including stadium management and managing your team's coaching staff, the concessions, the ticket prices, and the like. If you succeed in the owner mode, you'll be able to hire a better staff, build a new stadium, or even move the team to wherever you please. Likewise, if the team does poorly, revenues will begin to plummet, and your options will become significantly more limited.

When it comes to gameplay, Madden 2004 doesn't stray from the classic Madden style of play and doesn't seem to offer a ton of new features. However, there is one major change to the scope of the gameplay, and it's a pretty significant one. The game's new playmaker control system gives you much more control over your team during the game by implementing the right analog stick as a method of adjusting routes and schemes for specific players. So, when on offense, you can choose one receiver and move him where necessary, rather than having to call an audible and switch up the entire play, and on defense, safeties and linebackers can be moved as slightly or drastically as necessary to make sure everyone is properly covered.

Graphically, Madden 2004 doesn't seem like it will make lots of changes to the look of the series, but you will notice a great number of new animations, especially when it comes to blocking. EA Sports has addressed the issue of players simply being sucked toward blockers by adding lots of shoving, pulling, and similarly free-flowing animations to the game's blocking system. These will of course be coupled with the always growing list of catching, tackling, and running animations that have been added to this year's game.

Madden NFL 2004 will be online via the company's EA Sports Online system and will contain all the current upgrades associated with that system, including downloadable content, the ability to chat with friends on your buddy list across all EA Sports games, and online tournaments. You'll also be able to track stats via the game's new bio mode, which keeps track of all your statistics across every EA Sports game you play, and you'll be able to advance in a level system depending how well you do in each game. Voice chat will also be available via a peripheral headset on the PS2.

Madden NFL 2004 is on schedule for an August 13 release and will be available on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and PC. The game is also in development for the PSOne and the Game Boy Advance.

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