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Review: Madden NFL 2002

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By Atomic Dawg

(IDG) -- When you're at the top of your game, you can afford to concentrate on the details. Madden NFL 2002 maintains its All-Pro rep as it heads into its second season on the PlayStation 2.

The NFL is out in force. You get all 31 teams, of course, and you can even get an early taste of the Houston Texans in Exhibition or Franchise mode. After that the Madden team count gets as crazy as ever with 126 all-time teams (spanning the '50s to the '90s), 31 franchise all-stars teams (even the-shudder-All-Bengals and All-Cardinals), and an NFL Europe Alumni team. If you still don't see what you want, this year you can use the easy Create-a-Team mode to build your own.

The graphics and animation look sharp and silky smooth. The gameplay character images actually look cleaner, and at times the animation looks so real it's eerie. This 2002 edition also ups the in-game eye candy. Post-play cinematic replays are more frequent, which is either going to turn you on or off depending on your mood. They also added close-ups of the coaches, although several of them appear to have been separated at birth.

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The sounds score extra points, too. This year Madden and Summerall don't seem to repeat themselves as much as in the past.

This year's real highlight for Madden madmen is the buffed out A.I.: On defense, the game reacts more rapidly than ever to your offensive tendencies and in particular makes tough half time adjustments.

At least the precise, dependable controls make you competitive. This year there's a welcome modification and a great addition: The modified kicking game has reverted to the three-button-press system, which produces a better test of skill than 2001's two-press technique. The ability to shift the linebackers as well as the defensive linemen is great, too.

To help you outwit the cunning A.I., you can practice more this year, too. In the new Training mode, John Madden coaches you through the basics of several formations÷a great way to learn football. Moreover, the new Two-Minute Drill quick game is a blast, but it also enables you to quickly practice your offense under game conditions.

Madden football is on a roll, and even in the face of future competition it continues to set the standard for PS2 football fare. It looks like another great season for Madden in 2002.

Graphics: Madden's graphics and animation are money, and, this year, in-game cinemas following successful plays show more camera angles and close-ups. However, some coaches like Brian Billick, George Seifert, and Jim Fassell appear separated at birth.

Sound: The roar of the crowd makes you feel like you're at the game. And John, Pat, JB, and Leslie don't repeat themselves as much as in other Madden games.

Controls: The controls are as tight as ever, which is very good. The kicking interface has been changed to a three-button-press technique that adds welcome challenge.

Fun Factor: Madden 2002 plays a sweet game of PS2 NFL football, and the A.I. has more smarts, too. This game is sure to keep hardcore football fans happy until the 2003 season.





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