Let's start with the all-new Game Mode that everybody's talking about. No, I'm not talking about Football 101. Nope, not even the sweet Mini-Camp Mode. That's right football fans, for the first time in the series' history, Madden
has gone by way of the Internet in the Online Mode***
. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities! For starters, now players have immediate access to News and downloadable Roster Updates straight from the folks at EA Sports. However, questions and concerns have obviously been raised about the quality of online gameplay considering that broadband users are mixed with users of the slower dial-up connection.
For anyone that may have played the demo that came with the PS2 Network Adapter, you may have noticed a terrible connection rate to your server. Well, at least I did. In fact, I had to quit because it was so horrible. This made me skeptical, and I began to question the 40 bucks that I spent on the Internet add-on. I'm here to tell you that I am now playing the retail version of Madden NFL 2003 via dial-up, and have rarely suffered any slowdown or choppiness within the many battles that I have so far played. In fact, for the most part, it was very hard to tell that I was even playing online! Of course, there is a downside to online gaming this year. First off, you are restricted to one-on-one match-ups only. Secondly (and more importantly), match-ups are restricted to exhibition games only... this means no Online Franchise Mode. Let's all hope that this is one of the first additions on the list for next year's Madden.
As mentioned earlier, Madden 2003 also contains a new Mini-Camp Mode of gameplay. Just as the name suggests, you get the opportunity to run, pass, and kick your way to earning Madden Cards, as well as bragging rights with your buds. These mini-drills have varying difficulty, so the challenge (and level of fun) gets higher as you progress through the camp. After completing the drills, you then have the opportunity to practice similar real-life situations on the field. Maybe one of the greatest offerings is that, like Football 101, you are learning new skillz and techniques in the Mini-Camp that will help improve your overall game performance.
The heart of the Madden series has always been the Franchise Mode, and 2003 is no exception. This year boasts the deepest stats ever created with over 30 years compiled into progression logic. What this means in plain English is that your players will develop over time, hit their peek, and gradually have their performance tail off until they retire... just like real life, eh? Another great feature is that you can now export your franchise team for use in all game modes.
Now that all of the technical mumbo-jumbo is out of the way, I should mention that this year's game feels like it has more control than ever. Yet, strangely enough, I have one major gripe with the gameplay. Playing defense has always been tough, but playing great defense seems next to impossible. Whether on the ground or in the air, it feels like you're not fully in control of the outcome of the play. The defense's pass coverage doesn't feel as tight as it should be, and tackling a runner is sometimes like trying to catch a greased pig! Breaking tackles is waaaaaayyyyyy too easy in Madden NFL 2003, so you can almost always expect a fairly high-scoring affair (especially when playing online, it seems).