Genre : Sports
Developer : Electronic Arts
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Release date : August 12, 2003
In its 14th season, the Madden franchise has been marked by most gamers as the top in pro football. How does Madden NFL 2004 fare in comparison to previous Madden titles? Every year, the graphics in Madden have been given a boost, and this year is no exception. However, graphics don’t always make a game, and they will go to waste if not supported by good gameplay. So what possible features can Electronic Arts add to their already well-defined football play? The answer is a playmaker control, EA’s revolutionary new feature which allows the player to control members of the team during pre-snap, during the play, and blocking. How does this improve the game? Continue reading, and you’ll find out.
Once you pop in this game, you will immediately notice the game requires a 1508KB save file for franchise mode. You may choose to continue without saving, but I suggest you either get a new memory card or delete unnecessary data. The heart of the game lies in franchise mode, and boy, has it changed! They have added a training camp option, allowing you to improve at least nine players a year during the off season. You can also decide who will be in your coaching staff, hiring the necessary coaches to help your nine players to improve their skills. When the season starts, you can jump over to the owner’s box, which gives you full control of your stadium. It allows you to set up your pricing policy for tickets, concession stands, merchandise, and many more, as well as fix up the stadium.
Like the past franchise games, Madden 2004 has the following play modes: play now, play online, tournament, two-minute drill, practice, situation and Madden 101. They are almost identical to the Madden 2003 versions and are great to improve your skills. Out of all of these modes, the only improved one is the “play online” mode. EA has enhanced their online play options with quick match-up, tournament games and in-game chat with EA sports talk, as well as implementing a fair play setting, which reduces online cheating, only rewarding players who complete full games.
Let’s get to the heart of the game. If you remember in the previous versions, it took what seemed like an eternity for a match to start. In Madden 2004, the load time is actually bearable, and the reaction time has been greatly affected as well. You may have noticed in the older version that there was maybe a split-second delay before you could execute the move that you wanted. Well in this version, it’s almost instantaneous, making it extremely easier to juke and spin past the opponents and gain massive yardage. You will also feel the difference when playing one of the linebackers. If you were good at rushing before, now you’ll be even better because it is actually easier to break through the line. In the previous versions, if you played against the computer opponent, you will almost never touch the QB. Now I have a fighting chance to sack the QB and bust out my little jig afterwards. Even though these make the game so much more fun, the greatest addition would be the playmaker.
The playmaker is probably the craziest and most advanced addition to the Madden series. We all know that in real life football, the designated play does not always pan out as planned so what are the possible options? You call an audible before the play, a hot route, or a playmaker call. They all have their strong points, helping run the play one way or another, but the one I used the most is the playmaker call. The opponent does not actually know that you have somewhat modified one player’s options; all you see is a tap on the butt, showing that the player has changed its line, allowing the user to adjust a player to run into the openings, leading to more yardage or even a touchdown. This is only a description of how the playmaker is used in a pre-snap situation, and when used after the snap, the playmaker is truly amazing. Rather than always having the receivers run their designated routes, you can force the closest receiver to run to an open area. The receiver will know to run to that area because your QB will be pointing in that direction. If you can use this well enough, you can gain an allotment of yards. It doesn’t only apply to passing but also to the running game. Rather than forcing the players to run to a certain area, it allows you to force the nearest person to block the designated computer player, giving you a fighting chance to gain massive yardage. Not only is playmaker available on offense, but it’s also offered on defense. Depending on the players’ formation, you can shift your safeties to solely focus on a certain area, making it more difficult for a long bomb. After the snap, force the defense to fall in and expect a run or expect a throw, forcing the extra defenders to back off and cover the players better. Reading the play can truly change the game’s outcome so be sure to use playmaker wisely.
With this playmaker and other modifications, Madden 2004 has received a total makeover. The game has also received some graphical enhancements, the most noticeable being the players and the referees, who have been given new and improved character models which look much more realistic than before. You can see the stadium in better detail, as well as the fans in the stands as they make small efforts to create the wave. You can see very clearly that the stadium is equipped with a big screen, small banners, advertisements, as well as a scoreboard. Even though these have changed, the field still feels the same, but it’s the field … what can you really add or do to it? The one thing that I find funny is the weather effects, mainly the rain. If you watch very closely, the raindrops seem to drop in a very linear pattern. They follow the wind, but it seems that the drops go in an endless loop across the field, changing formation once they’re past the field. Aside from this small observation, I find that the graphics overall are very appealing to the eye.
Sound is always an important factor in a game, as good sound can make the game so much more enjoyable. In Madden, they have always had different types of music available for the player. During the gameplay, you will hear the voices of both the players on the field and the audience’s screams. You will also get to listen to Madden and Al Michaels discuss the game play-by-play. If you are lucky, you will also experience the sound effects from the weather. When you’re just at the menu screen and not playing, you will hear various musical tracks, ranging from R&B to rock/alternative. The quality is very crisp, and it sounds very good using Dolby digital surround sound.
I think this is a sweet game and think EA has outdone themselves once again. The game is extremely fun and definitely worth the $49.99 retail price. The game has already reached gold status through pre-orders alone. Not only is Madden 2004 enjoyable for amateurs, but it’s also great for the hardcore players. Using playmaker jukes and spins to your advantage, you can almost be an unstoppable force. I would love to see a high level Madden 2004 tournament, with the ability to play with eight players or play against another opponent online. You can’t go wrong with this game. What are you waiting for? Go out and buy it! I’ll be waiting for your challenge.
Score : 9.5/10