Football season has started! There are so many choices, so little time. Picking up Madden 2003 from EA Sports was a hard choice. Considering there were so many football titles to choose from this year. Walking into Electronic Boutique I was bombarded by pimple-faced sales-teens trying to overwhelm me. They were hawking Sega s NFL 2K3. Trying to tell me about the joys of playing online. You never have to play with the computer , they said. Even the manager chimed in every now and then. The store had a giant display of the Sega game in the middle of the store. Every employee walked around with an empty Sega box in hand. Yep, it was clear on what game they wanted me to buy. I had to make a choice. It was easy, the tried and true Madden. The only problem I had was whether to get the PC version or the Playstation 2 version. If I got the PC version, I would be comfortable enough with it and all of its easily available resources on the Internet including updated team rosters. The only problem with that is, I don t play too much on-line and I only have one Gamepad Pro. On the other hand, my friends and I like to play preview games before the real games come on television and my computer room is not user friendly. The last time I had a bunch of them over to watch and play computer games, I almost died from the second-hand cigarette smoke, not to mention the weird combination of unknown body odors. Yeah, the choice was clear, I d better get the PS2 version, especially since I can trade in last year s version toward the purchase price. Now that that s done I d better get on with telling you about the game.One of the things I m not going to do is get into comparing this title with last year s version, partly because I don t own 2002 anymore. There are some things that I might be able to compare, but forgive me if my memory isn t 100% accurate. Madden 2003 gives mostly the same game play options as it did previously with a few additions and some deletions. Once you load it up in trusty PS2, you have the option of selecting from the Play Now which allows you to select any of the classic, NFL, or Europe NFL teams and play them in an exhibition match-up. Other game modes include mini-camp, on-line, franchise, tournament, two-minute drill, football 101, practice, and situation modes. Mini-camp and football 101 are two of the coolest things about Madden 2003. Mini-camp allows you to practice moves and develop skills in a training camp environment. Football 101 teaches you the fundamentals of all the plays in the game. It shows how routes are run and how lanes are suppose to work and what each player should be doing in his a*ignment. This is definitely a welcome addition to the game. In addition to the game options, you can still create players and teams as well as your own playbook. You can draft players and manage your team in franchise mode. There isn t a single season option, but you can opt to play a single season through the franchise mode.On the PS2, the game looks good, real good. There are a few more graphic tweaks from last year. The players move more realistically and there are quite a few more tackles as well. The crowds are still a little bland, but overall the crowds act in accordance with the gameplay. The game s commentary is pretty good, although the play calling lags behind a play or two. There are many more lines of dialogue, but the play calling still seems a little bit repetitive. In my opinion, the running game seems much improved over last s year s version. The offensive line does an excellent job of creating running lanes for your halfback and fullback. Your running back has a little more power and forward momentum. They re able to break more tackles while putting their shoulders down. The passing game is good too. Your receivers will leap and dive sometimes without your input in order to catch passes. One of the best things that I like is that the receivers and running backs for that matter will do some extraordinary things when they have the ball. They will make an effort to stay in-bounds by using the tippy toe technique. If you catch a pass with your receiver and your forward momentum is taking you out of bounds, the receiver will cut and stay in-bounds. I use to hate that with previous versions, especially when you knew that you were going to get big yards after catch . There are more penalties called, too many in fact. It seems that every other play the referees are calling a face mask or a holding penalty and that s with the penalty sliders at the default levels. I d hate to punch it up a notch. Speaking of referees, they don t fall down as much when you bump into them. I thought I d mention that. There are also way too many interceptions. In the games that I played, there were at least 7 interceptions between the two teams. The computer players commit penalties as well, I was happy to some off-sides calls as well as a few delay of game calls. And speaking of the CPU players, they are no pushovers, even on the easiest game settings. I did notice another good thing; warm teams don t play as well as they could in cold weather. That s another welcome addition.I m going to nit pick a minute here and tell you some of things I want to see in future versions of the game. I want to see the return of the player specific play call screen selection. This is where you select a player from your team and the corresponding plays that are suited for him. I d like to see the punters faking the fall down in order to entice the roughing the kicker penalty. When you receivers and running-backs make the big plays and are running toward the end zone, I d like to see them look back to see if anyone is chasing them. I d like to see some hair or dreads hanging from the backs of the player s helmets. And finally, I d like to see the players wearing long sleeve jerseys (all of them) in the winter. Madden 2003 was released with a flurry of competition this year, but trust me, you can t go wrong if you decide to pick this one up this year.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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