Madden 2001 for the PlayStation 2 is the best iteration of the game we've ever seen. EA Sports has delivered just about everything a fan of the series could hope for, and while it focuses on technical and simulation elements a bit more than the other games on the market, the game stays true to the Madden name.
The game has more features and options than any other Madden game before. It includes all of the fundamental options, like exhibition and season modes, and all of the in-depth options, like franchise, create-a-player, and Madden challenges. The Madden challenges have a bit more to them this year, since the completion of each one earns you tokens, which you can use like money in the game. You can purchase special items like cheats, secret players, and teams. You can even use the tokens, with the help of a couple of memory cards, as currency to wager with when challenging another player. The Madden challenge cards, which are displayed when you buy items, were made in conjunction with Upper Deck and look like really cool digital trading cards. They add a whole new incentive for playing the game and completing the Madden challenges.
The control in Madden 2001 is pretty much just like any that of any other Madden game, although some will find the overall feel of the game a bit too slow and unresponsive. The game uses a momentum-based physics engine, which is supposed to make the gameplay all the more real. The only problem is that it plays a bit too real - players have to literally stop their momentum when making a change in the direction they're running, just like in real life. This, while physically correct, just doesn't translate into fast-paced, hard-hitting football action. Instead, it causes the reaction time of a controller command to be a tad too slow, leaving the game feeling a bit sluggish. In time, you do learn to accommodate for this, and the effect isn't nearly so bad. The AI of the game will surely to seem familiar to fans of the series, particularly those who've played this year's PlayStation version. The AI's easiest setting will let you get away with a lot and teaches you early on that the game is all about knowing your team's plays and your players' abilities. Knowing which players to go to will help you blow the doors off the computer on the lower skill settings, but once you start to move up, you'd better have more than just a few tricks up your sleeve.
Visually, Madden 2001 on the PlayStation 2 is unsurpassed in its detail and polish. The game is almost perfect in its visual replication of the fields and players of the NFL. The textures used for the fields, jerseys, and skin of the players is incredible. Grass fields look just like real grass, which can actually get lodged in the corner of a player's facemask after he sinks his head into the soil after a missed dive tackle. During the game's replays, you can actually see the individual bumps of the pigskin on the football. All of these little visual details really make the game look and feel real. For instance, line judges will hastily drop the line markers and move out of the way when players run out of bounds in their direction. The animations of the players themselves are extremely fluid and realistic. The players move and perform stiff arms, catches, and tackles quite authentically. The multiple point collision detection system of the game allows the tackles in the game to look more realistic and be based more on individual situations than ever before. When you blindside a quarterback, he really goes down in a real "lights out" type of collapse. Speaking of lights, the lighting effects in Madden 2001 are fantastic. When you play a game at a field that has an open dome during the day, you can actually see the difference between the shadow of the partial dome and the direct sunlight shining down from above. Even when you're playing a night game, the shadows cast on the field by the players from the stadium lights look real. To aid this realistic looking lighting, the helmets of the player's are extremely shiny and reflect the player's surroundings. While the reflection off the helmets is a convincing effect at first, it loses something after you see it in every post-play close-up. This is also the case for the faces of the players as well. When you first see the player's faces, they appear extremely articulated since they come complete with intelligent expressions that react to plays and situations with appropriate responses such as a smile or a scowl. After a few games, though, you realize they are a bit over the top and actually appear a little too plastic looking. There are, of course, a few other minor visual flaws that you could nitpick about, like the way the ball magically switches from one hand to another or the minor clipping that occurs when multiple players tackle the ball carrier. But most of these things are only noticeable during replays and not during play.
In the audio department, Madden 2001 isn't nearly as impressive. This is largely due to the lack of excitement in John Madden and Pat Summerall's typical commentary, which consists of the dry play-by-play provided by Summerall punctuated by the occasional Maddenism like "boom" or "pop." The rest of the sound effects are all very authentic and sound fantastic with a surround-sound system. The crowd actually sounds quite real, as their cheering is tied into the action - you'll even hear them chant the name of a home team favorite when he makes a big play.
In the end, Madden 2001 is the most realistic and complete video game interpretation of the sport of football ever. The level of detail in the game's presentation and feel is so dramatically superior to previous football games, it's unbelievable. If you enjoy football in the least, the game is a must-have PlayStation 2 game, and even if you don't like football, you may want to pick the game up just to see how amazing it looks. In any event, the game is easily the best iteration of the Madden series. Though it may be a little heavier on the simulation side than the previous games, it's still a Madden game at heart.