Madden NFL 2001 for the N64 is the most complete and refined version of the game thus far. While not a great deal has been added or changed when compared to last year's game, fans of the series will undoubtedly appreciate the new Madden challenges, the tweaked AI, and the new two-minute drill mode.
EA has placed everything that you've come to expect from the Madden series and more into this year's game. All of the teams, players, and stadiums come packed in as usual, along with eight modes of play such as exhibition, season, franchise, custom league, tournament, practice, situation, and a new two-minute drill mode. The two-minute drill mode allows you and ten other alternating players to compete in a two-minute exercise in which players are awarded points for completing passes, gaining yards on the run, and even managing the clock effectively. The player at the end of the competition with the most points wins bragging rights. The mode, while a minor addition, is fun and fast, making it a sort of Madden-style party game. The already incredibly in-depth GM modes have been made even deeper than before. This year you can pick offensive playbooks that are coach specific, which means that if you think Mike Holmgren is the best offensive coach in the business, you can select his playbook as your own. You can also create a new coach from scratch, which allows you to set his offensive and defensive tendencies, anywhere from very conservative to very aggressive, in addition to make other selections. In addition, Madden NFL 2001 once again features the wonderful Madden challenges that were introduced to the series last year. The Madden challenges are specific tests that motivate players to learn new skills by setting goals in all areas of play that can only be reached by experimentation. Some challenges run along the lines of simple tasks such as completing five passes in a row or making a run of 60 yards or more, while others are more complicated. Completing these challenges will unlock secret players, special All-Madden teams, secret stadiums, and cheats.
While the options and features in Madden NFL 2001 have obviously been reworked, the actual gameplay and control options on the field haven't changed a bit. On the field, the game is basically a carbon copy of last year's game in terms of presentation and control.
The controls are responsive and match up with the game's visuals well. You can control the players on the field with the analog stick or the D-pad. The AI of the computer is a little tougher across the board this year, even on the regular setting. Turning up the difficulty in Madden NFL 2001 is just about asking for a loss, even for experienced Madden players. The cornerbacks play as if their lives depend on it, and only a perfectly placed pass can ensure your receiver will even have a chance of catching the ball. Running the ball is another one of Madden NFL 2001's strong points. Maneuvering your back between the tackles as your offensive line clears a path is extremely fun and easy to do if you catch the defense unprepared.
Visually, the game looks almost identical to last year's, which was a great-looking game even by today's standards. If you own an Expansion Pak for your N64, Madden NFL 2001 really does look nice. The player models are detailed and smooth, and the game's frame rate is almost always constant and speedy. The animation of the players performing their various moves and post-TD celebrations look better than any other N64 football game. In the sound department, the game does a fairly decent job of re-creating the sounds on the field and those of the broadcast booth. Pat Summerall, James Brown, and John Madden provide play-by-play calls during games and also add their unique insight. John is still the master of summing up a play with a "boom" or a "pop," while Summerall is still good at letting you know what down it is. The sound effects and the voices that bust out taunts after a big play really add to the experience and make the game feel complete.
Overall, Madden NFL 2001 - while not dramatically different when compared with last year's game - is a slightly more advanced version of the game. Everyone who's a fan of video game football, whether a fan of the Madden series or not, will surely enjoy the game's solid control and presentation. The tweaks to the AI and the small additions like the two-minute drill and coach-specific playbooks are more than enough reason for fans of the series to pick this year's iteration up.