Video Game Review

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Platform: Xbox, PS2
  • ESRB: Everyone
  • Players: 1-2
  • Genre: Sports
  • Publisher: Sega/Take-Two
  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • Suggested Retail: $19.99
  • Graphics: A
  • Sound: B
  • Gameplay: A-
  • Replay: B+
  • Fun Factor: A
  • Reviewers Wild Card: A


By James Stevenson     July 27, 2004

© Sega

There is a slight smell of desperation to a major game company allying itself with Take-Two to produce a 20 dollar game series that has always sold for 50. But desperate is exactly what Sega is given the fact that even though it may produce a stronger game than EA, the Madden House beats the living hell out of the once proud Sega Sports name.

Put aside any conceptions that this is a "budget" game. It isnâ'"t. This seems as full featured as the actual release of the game wouldâ'"ve been, itâ'"s just that Sega believes it can make more money by selling it for 40% of the original price. After you put that misconception aside, the value of this title cannot be ignored.

The first thing youâ'"ll notice when you get into the game is all of the wonderful presentation elements including narration from ESPNâ'"s Chris Berman. The gameâ'"s feature list may not be as deep as MADDENâ'"s, but there are some cool other things. The Crib is sort of an Animal Crossing style game without being Animal Crossing. I love collecting random items and decorating rooms, call it a TRADING SPACES fetish.

Thereâ'"s also the cool element of VIP profiles. Anyone who plays the game can create a profile and after a while, the game will have a pretty good idea of how you play. Say you set the computer AI to your profile â' youâ'"ll be amazed that youâ'"re actually playing yourself. Itâ'"s an interesting way to figure out how to defeat yourself and then learn how to counteract that strategy. If ESPN was ever as popular as MADDEN, this would be a super-useful feature for tournament preparation.

The game also has pre-input profiles of pro coaches, so youâ'"ll get a realistic set of play calls from the different coach you are against. That alone is another awesome feature in that when you play the team, you fell like you are really playing the team. It is a very nice touch from Visual Concepts.

First-person football also makes a return. Itâ'"s pretty cool from the standpoint that you can run the ball well and return kicks, but defense and passing are still difficult. I would really appreciate this feature to be fleshed out and to eventually get to the point where gamers could create an online league in which each player plays a position and plays on a team of 10 other people.

From the


normal gameplay standpoint, youâ'"ll be blown away by the visuals (especially the Xbox ones) when you first fire up the game. My jaw dropped when I saw the Raiders white road jerseys, the shadows and player models and even the animation. This game looks absolutely stunning and is the best looking football game Iâ'"ve ever seen. It certainly puts my copy of NCAA FOOTBALL 2005 to shame.

The sound and sound effects are pretty good, but donâ'"t really excel. A lot seems to be recycled and as much as I have liked the commentary team, I wish there was a lot more of it.

The gameplay has toned down the running game and made the passing game a bit easier. The right analog stick has been tuned to allow special moves like ducking out of a defender. Runners can spin and juke with the stick. All in all it is a great way of simplifying the controls. With all of this the game is still pretty easy on the first difficulty level.

Visual Conceptsâ'" game plays just as well as a version of MADDEN and I had absolutely no problem getting into it. Running the ball is quite solid and feels much more realistic. The passing game is still perfect with the ability to leave your receivers. I really like the way the camera zooms in towards the end of a play (similar to the real ESPN Sky Cam).

All in all, for twenty bucks, you canâ'"t go wrong. Football fans shouldnâ'"t even waste five bucks to rent it, itâ'"s worth buying at this price.

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