Madden 2002 is the best game of simulation-style football on any platform. For the Xbox, it is slightly better-looking than its PS2 and GameCube counterparts, but that's it. Aside from a few graphical enhancements, the game is a virtual carbon copy of the PS2 and GameCube versions. With that said, Madden 2002 is as good a game of football as any fan of the series could hope for, and while it focuses on technical and simulation elements a bit more than the other pigskin games on the market, the game stays true to the Madden name.
Madden 2002 features two basic difficulty modes. The primary difference between the modes is that easy play starts you off with almost every bit of computer assistance turned on, including features designed to help bring new players up to speed. One such feature is a receiver indicator that lets you know exactly when it's safe to pass the ball. In either mode, you can choose from seven different game options: exhibition, season, franchise, tourney, custom league, practice, and situation. While most of Madden 2002's modes of play are pretty much par for the course, the franchise mode, which allows you to play up to 30 consecutive seasons, is really quite extraordinary. The situation mode is also an impressive addition, allowing you to put your players into just about any foreseeable scenario--be it 10 seconds on the clock, third down, and 30 yards to go or whatever other situation you can dream up. The options are nearly limitless.
With the game's extensive general manager options, you can do everything from creating a player to creating an entire team. The create-a-player feature in Madden 2002 is easily one of the most robust create-a-player modes, in any football game, ever. The height and weight stats are customizable, and there are more than 65 faces and 20 different face shapes to choose from. The create-a-player mode also includes seven other adjustable areas of a player's body such as thighs, arms, and waistlines. Each one of these areas can be customized to have a certain amount of fat and muscle. While visually impressive, these physical traits also directly tie into the player's ability on the field. For instance, a 6-foot-8-inch-380-pound behemoth would obviously make a lousy quarterback, and a 6-foot-4-inch-220-pound player wouldn't be much of a lineman. You can also customize your player's equipment, including shoe size, visor type, and face mask configuration, among other things. The create-a-team option is just as impressive, allowing you to pick the team's logo, customize the uniforms, and even create your own stadium. If you enjoy customizing your own team and players, Madden 2002 certainly has you covered.
In terms of gameplay, Madden 2002 on the Xbox plays a bit slower and feels a little less responsive than NFL Fever, mostly due to the fact that the game features a momentum-based physics system that accounts for the weight and speed of the player when determining how fast he can change direction when running. This system makes Madden 2002 feel a little unresponsive at first, but it can be adjusted to quickly. The AI is very solid, and the inclusion of an AI adjustment scale--which allows you to adjust the AI of certain aspects of the computer's game, such as receiving, running, run blocking, and so on--just makes it that much better.
Visually, Madden 2002 for the Xbox looks great. It looks better than the PS2 version, but only marginally so. The game doesn't skip a frame of animation, even when every defensive player on the field gang-tackles a running back trying to make his way up the field. Plus, you'll notice during replays and postplay close-ups that the uniforms and helmets show much more noticeable wear and tear as the game goes on. The faces of the players look cleaner and move a little more smoothly than in the PS2 version. The rest of the game looks just as great as the PS2 and GC versions. Players' eyes move and track the ball, and their facial animations and textures look diverse and realistic. Plus, little extras like seeing the coaches and cheerleaders on the sidelines with ice chests and other players sitting on the bench really help give Madden 2002 a polished feel. The crowds are still made up of 2D bitmaps, but with the focus constantly on the on-field action, they're rarely even noticeable. The game's animation is also top-notch--seeing a player jumping through the air and making a one-handed catch is a very special treat. And the thrill of the moment doesn't stop there, as Madden 2002 has an extensive replay option that you can use to watch replays from virtually any angle.
The sound, music, and commentary in Madden 2002 are all quite good. The short hip-hop cuts that play briefly in between play selections and during the menus fit perfectly. The commentary and play-by-play banter of John Madden and Pat Summerall is fairly interesting. Pat and John have a lot of insightful things to say about the players and teams, and their style is almost conversational, giving the commentary a truly natural feel. The sound effects are very crisp, and sticking somebody with a good tackle will produce an extraordinary punch.
In the end, Madden 2002 is a great game of simulation-style football for the Xbox. If you're trying to decide between Madden and NFL Fever, it really depends on what type of football game you're looking for. If you're looking for a simulation that has incredible depth, Madden 2002 is your game. If you're a PS2 owner wondering if you should get the Xbox version of Madden 2002 because it might look better, the answer is no. The differences between the PS2 and Xbox versions are nominal at best and really don't warrant another purchase.