With the exception of 1998 (the year Sony's GameDay introduced the world to polygonal graphics), Madden has dominated the PlayStation football sim market. Each year the quality level grows by leaps and bounds. This edition, however, is not an extreme jump. The world-class gameplay is back, along with a few new features, but overall it's not the kind of advance we expect from EA Sports. Even so, there isn't a finer football game on the market. Playing it will immediately remind you why you love sports games. It's fortified with awesome gameplay, fluid animation, features galore, and a bounty of replay value. Oh yeah, the most important thing - it's arguably the most entertaining two-player sports game ever made. Madden for the PS2 is the only title that could possibly top it. Until you can get your hands on that stunner, you'll have to settle for this pup. That's not a bad trade-off, sports fans.
Why isn't Madden 2001 several notches better than last year's Madden? Two reasons: Madden 2001 PS2 is EA's primary focus, and last year's PlayStation version is already competent enough to coast for a year. In fact, it could probably coast for several years, but this will probably be the last in the current PS format.
Immediately you'll notice that the tackle animations are plentiful and look fantastic. It doesn't seem like much, but if you recall the early years of Madden (when a collision consisted of two fully upright players bouncing off one another like bowling pins), you know just how far it has come. When a player has enough momentum to run over a would-be tackler, you can feel it. Conversely, you can't make every tackle simply by diving in the right direction. Just like in real football, nothing is automatic. Most of the time, players slowly collapse under the weight of a tackler. It looks very realistic. It's no accident either; EA did a terrific job of factoring in the height and weight of each player and how those elements affect a collision. It's all about inertia and angle of attack. Nuance animation is yet another strong point - like when receivers turn their heads to look for the ball or hold their arms out the correct way. It sounds like meaningless stuff, but it goes a long way toward creating a realistic football experience. Additional changes have players wearing tape, wristbands, visors, and elbow pads.
Interestingly enough, EA has taken license acquisition to the next level by including NFL coaches in the action. That's right, no longer will "the brains of the game" be left out. The official NFL Coaches Club license puts every NFL coach somewhere in the fray. While the PS2 version uses real texture-mapped faces, PS owners will have to settle for random still pictures displayed on the screen. They shout words of encouragement like (said in whiny voice) "What are you doing out there? Come on you guys, let's go!" More importantly they brought their playbooks. Now rather than offering a generic selection, each squad has several unique plays. Chicago has a load of crazy pass plays. Speaking of crazy, for some reason there's a new line of player-specific touchdown celebrations. It seems someone, somewhere, thinks the little dances are cool or something, so EA keeps putting them in. They simply look stupid. Check out Robert Smith's celebration jig. It looks like a cross between the Icky Shuffle (remember Icky Woods?) and Jed Clampett's bent-knee hoedown shakedown. Weird stuff indeed.
A new kicking meter and revamped menus make their debut as well. The meter is tricky, because it moves so fast. It definitely takes more skill to nail the direction and power simultaneously. In addition, most of the new menus are clean and easy to read. Again, not a big deal, but it's nice to jump from option to option and know what you're looking at.
Yet another new feature lets you read the offensive formation and adjust the pass rushing routes, linebacker drops, and pass coverage before the ball is snapped. It's one of those things reserved for hard-core players, but it's nice to have anyway. Also for the fanatic are Madden cards. It's the same deal as last year, but now they can be traded via memory cards. Basically, if you've met every challenge, you can give your friends a break by letting them copy your cards. Cards open up hidden teams, legendary players, and stadiums. It's a cool way to keep you challenged.
If you haven't figured it out yet, Madden NFL 2001 is definitely worth picking up. It's a great game no matter how you slice it. It may not be significantly changed from last year's, but if you're not going to run right out and buy a PS2 on October 26, this is the next best thing. Besides, you don't want to be stuck playing with outdated rosters, do you?