It isn't easy to keep making a sports title that people will buy every year, especially gamers who have bought the previous version of the game released the year before. But somehow, EA Sports keeps making enough improvements to its MADDEN series for gamers to keep buying. This year, EA Sports did more than just improve over last year's game, they made MADDEN 2004 one of the best football games ever made.
Like all of the previous MADDENs, the game looks great. Since MADDEN 2001 on the Playstation 2, the game has received some tweaks and tiny graphical improvements, but the game's interface remains basically the same. The player models have been improved a little, and the sideline animations have been improved as well. The stadiums still look as realistic as ever, and the type of field you're playing on also has significance to the game (grass fields will degrade over time)
On another similar note, the sound hasn't changed that much. Al Michaels sounds a little livelier this year, but John Madden still spouts the same quotes we've heard for the last few incarnations of this game. But, one thing is for sure, it does sound like the two are really having a conversation up there.
One of the new options brought into this year's MADDEN is the playmaker controls, one of the most innovative features I've seen in a sports game in some time. At first, the playmaker controls feel just like another audible, but the more you get into the game, the more you'll see that playmaker is a lot more than that.
At all points in the game you have some control of the game using the playmaker controls. Before the snap, you can change a direction of the play just by simply pressing the right analog stick (example, if you're pitching to a running back who is running right side and the linebackers are lined up on the right side, change up the play using the playmaker controls). Similarly, after the snap, you can direct blockers in an attempt for them to protect you from the oncoming rush. If one of safeties tries to blitz in on you, you can guide your blockers to him in an effort to give you extra time for the deep pass. Playmaker controls also work with receivers. If you see a gap in the secondary that you want to expose, you can make your receiver break off his route and head to that spot for a pass. It can be very demanding at times considering you're trying to avoid the oncoming rush of the defense, but if executed right, you'll be in the end-zone before long.
Another great add-on to the newest MADDEN is the owner mode. Taking the franchise mode a step higher, the owner mode puts you as the owner of a team in the NFL. In this mode, you look at the game as a business, constantly trying to keep the fans and players happy. If your team is doing well, you probably won't have to mess around with the prices of tickets, merchandise, food or parking (which means you'll have more money for advertising and for those off-season acquisitions), but if you keep having losing records, be prepared to lose some of your money by having to sell tickets and the like at a cheaper price. And of course, only on the Playstation 2 will you find online play.
In the end, MADDEN 2004 is the best football game of the season. Unlike a lot of football games, the changes to this game aren't just cosmetic. The result is the most realistic football game you can own. A must have for sports fans.