The port of Madden 2002 for the GameCube is yet another terrific version of what is the best simulation-style football game on the market. In comparison with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, Madden 2002 for the GameCube is almost identical. The game doesn't have all the graphical enhancements of the Xbox version, but it looks a little cleaner than the PS2 version. With that said, Madden 2002 is as great a game of football as nearly any fan of the series could hope for, and while it focuses on technical and simulation elements a bit more than the other games on the market, the game stays true to the Madden name.
Madden 2002 features two basic modes, easy play and normal. 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 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. 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 the gameplay department, Madden 2002 may play a bit slower and feel a little less responsive than you might think. This is 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 GameCube controller also feels a bit awkward at first as well, but after a game or two, it actually works fairly well for the game. 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 GameCube looks very realistic. The game looks about the same as the PS2 version, minus the occasional slowdown, but it doesn't feature all the little visual enhancements of the Xbox version. Even still, you're not really missing out on anything, since you'd have to really scrutinize the the three versions to notice any significant difference. Even still, one has to wonder what a game like Madden 2002 could look like if it took full advantage the power of the GameCube or Xbox instead of being just a port of a PS2 game. Whatever the case, the game still looks really great. The player's 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 jump through the air to make 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 rap and 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 more 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 GameCube. If you're trying to decide whether to pick up Madden with your GameCube at launch, it really depends on what type of football game you want. If you enjoy simulation-style football games that play well, have incredible depth, and look great, Madden 2002 is your game. If you're a PS2 owner wondering if you should get the GameCube version of Madden 2002 because it might look better, the answer is no. The differences between the PS2 and GameCube versions are nominal at best and really don't warrant another purchase.