Madden football is back once again, and it has more features and options than ever before. With the new play editor, Madden Challenge feature, and faster gameplay, fans of the series will undoubtedly call Madden NFL 2000 the best incarnation of the series thus far.
The game is by far the best version of Madden football on the N64 yet. Madden NFL 2000 features the usual array of game modes, like exhibition, season, franchise, create-a-player, and so on, and it includes the full NFL license with all the teams and players. EA beefed up the franchise mode by allowing you to play up to 30 consecutive seasons, with statistical tracking for your dynasty. Along with statistics this year are fluctuating player attributes that allow players to have hot and cold streaks. A player in a slump will fumble the ball more often than someone who's in the zone and catching everything you throw at him. This little feature really makes you pay close attention - if one of your guys is going through a rough time you'll know to avoid giving him the ball. In addition to these extras, Madden NFL 2000 has three really big new features - a play editor, arcade mode, and the Madden Challenge.
The play editor is rather nifty; it lets you create your own plays by assigning each player his own route and/or command. The editor doesn't really let you make any crazy plays, but it does let you do just about anything within reason. While the play editor is an enjoyable extra that is sure to keep football fanatics busy for quite awhile, I'd like to see it become a little more in-depth and easier to use next year. The arcade mode really isn't anything special - the only noticeable differences are superficial things like a weird glow that surrounds a player when you press the turbo button. Plus, just about every hit results in a dramatic animation of a player flying through the air as though a car hit him.
The Madden Challenge feature is by far the best new thing about the series. The Madden Challenge is just that - a bunch of specific objectives that are outlined for you. For instance, you must complete a pass for thirty or more yards, complete three passes to three different receivers, hold a team in a game at seven or fewer points. Once you complete one of these goals in a game, a little icon comes up on the screen to let you know. At the end, it tells you which ones you completed and what secrets you may have unlocked for completing them. The secrets include hidden teams, bonus stadiums, and modes like more injuries. This new feature really adds fun to the game. Sure, for the average football fan, Madden football is good enough already, but with these little extra objectives you'll really want to keep playing to see what you can unlock.
In terms of gameplay, M2K feels pretty much the way a Madden football game should, although with a distinctly tighter feel this year. The controls are extremely responsive and match up with the game's onscreen visuals quite well. The analog stick really lets you put your player right where you want him, when you want him there.The AI of the computer is actually quite easy on the regular setting, although for us Madden veterans, if you crank the difficulty up, the AI kicks in and plays a bit more aggressively. The receivers and cornerbacks play the ball well and really make you battle to get a hand on the ball, whether you're on defense or offense. The running game of the computer is strong, although every once in a great while the running back will get stuck behind one of his own guys. While this is annoying, it is literally one of the only flaws in the game, and it happens very rarely.
Visually, the game looks great, especially if you have a RAM expansion pak for your N64. The frame rate of the game and the animation of the players running, catching, and tackling look incredible. The game moves at a brisk pace and captures the feeling of fast, furious, hard-hitting football action like never before. The player models are scaled differently, so that the linemen are bigger than the receivers and quarterbacks, giving the game a more authentic look than before. The player models still don't look as detailed as those in Acclaim's NFL Quarterback Club, but it's a small price to pay for a fast and smooth frame rate that more than makes up the difference.
Madden 2000 delivers authenticity in the audio department as well. Pat Summerall once again calls all the play-by-play action along with John Madden, who, of course, provides his unique color commentary. The calls and comments are usually right-on, although every once in a while you'll here something from John that doesn't fit the situation at all. It should be noted that when you play the game in the new arcade mode a different announcer takes the mike, and it's actually the guy who belts out the "EA Sports! It's in the game!" slogan at the beginning of every EA sports title. His dialog isn't so good, but the on-the-field sound effects and the player voices that bust out a taunt after a big play really add to the experience.
Overall, Madden 2000 is the most fun I've had playing a Madden game in a long time. The control and new Madden challenge mode are reasons alone to pick this game over the competition. Madden 2000 just has a great feel to it; the game looks great, controls well, and is a whole lot of fun for both the football novice and the seasoned veteran.