While fans of the Madden series may initially have a hard time noticing the differences between Madden 2001 and this year's game, a closer examination not only reveals a bevy of new features and options, but some tuned-up AI as well. The biggest addition you'll find is the Madden classic mode, which is basically the 16-bit classic game with updated rosters. With everything that's included in Madden 2002, fans will find more than enough reason to get the latest and best version of Madden football we've seen on the N64 yet.
The Madden classic mode is one of the coolest extra features that has ever been included in a Madden game. This mode lets you play Madden 2002 as though it were running on a 16-bit Sega Genesis. The mode has all the current teams and rosters, but it plays and looks like the classic Madden '92. It's an incredible extra that makes you feel almost as if you're getting a whole other game for free. Another new addition in Madden 2002 is a mulligan feature that lets you take another shot at any play you'd like to. For instance, say the game is tied, and you're only 10 yards away from the end zone, with 15 seconds left on the clock. You go for the touchdown but realize that it was a mistake as your receiver drops the pass. Now, you can simply take a mulligan and try it again.
Madden 2002 comes with all the features and options you've come to expect from the series, including all the current NFL teams, players, and stadiums. The game also once again includes the Madden cards, which now feature cheerleaders. These digital trading cards are unlocked by completing Madden challenges during a game. These Madden challenges are specific objectives that you can try to complete--tasks like throwing five consecutive passes in a game or running for more than 200 yards with one player. These challenges add a bit of extra fun and depth to what is already a very deep game.
Controlling Madden 2002 is very enjoyable, since the game strikes a good balance between delivering true-to-life physics and just being responsive. You can pretty much get a quick running back to go wherever you want him to, when you want him to. The artificial intelligence of the defensive backs and line has been tweaked a bit since last year. Defenders can simply get beat, and linemen are now more accurate, both of which help add a better sense of realism to the game. You'll have to identify mismatches in the game and substitute people in and out accordingly.
Visually, Madden 2002 doesn't look much different from last year's game, which looked really good. The player models are a bit blocky, but smooth and realistic animations make up for the lack of polygons. The various tackling animations are once again the most notable, and they include everything from shoestrings to one-man drag-downs. The animations of the players executing their various moves, such as catching, throwing, and running, are all very realistic as well. The game's broadcast-style camera angles and commentary from Pat Summerall and John Madden round out what is a very well-done presentation.
So while Madden 2002 isn't dramatically different from last year's offering, EA has really tried to put in everything it could. The game's got the Madden classic mode, which is almost like a completely different game, and you can play two players in the two-minute drill. EA's also added more Madden telestrator action in with the coach's corner. In any event, Madden 2002 for the N64 is a wonderful re-creation of the sport of football that controls well, looks good, and has enough packed in to keep you busy for a while. But most importantly, the game is just superfun.