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Newest Madden is the best yet

Observer Scene | Tuesday, September 9, 2003

For more than a decade, the Madden series of football video games has been turning out quality games and has become the clear-cut leader of the genre. While it would be easy for EA Sports to take this into account and offer little to no innovation each year, they have instead outdone themselves once again with their latest edition of Madden, Madden NFL 2004. Playmaker controls and owner’s mode, the two major additions to this year’s game, are the most revolutionary ideas to be implemented in many years.

Playmaker mode incorporates the rarely-used right analog stick into the game in order to perform a variety of functions. While learning the new controls can seem overwhelming at first, it is both fun and extremely effective once mastered. With playmaker mode, you can use the right analog stick to change defensive coverage, the primary receiver’s route or the direction of a running play before the snap.

The most important application of the new controls presents itself when you are running downfield with one defender and one lead blocker between you and the goal line. In the past, you may have been dismayed to watch your lead blocker ineptly run the other way as you got flattened, preventing what would have been a sure touchdown. Now, simply point the right analog stick in the direction of the defender, watch your runner point at him and call for help, and watch your lead blocker flatten him with a bone-crushing block as you high-step into the end zone.

Owner mode is Madden’s newest improvement upon the ever-popular franchise mode. Before, franchise mode gave you the power to sign draft picks and free agents, negotiate contracts with your current players, negotiate trades with other teams and cut those who just couldn’t hack it in the NFL. Owner mode provides us with a multitude of features we never even noticed were missing.

After spending the preseason setting ticket prices, concession prices, parking prices and merchandise prices, I couldn’t help but wonder how I ever played without owner mode. As the owner, the levels at which you set prices and the success of your team directly affects the bottom line. Set prices too high or lose too many games and watch attendance plummet as you struggle to find enough cash to pay your players. Lower ticket prices to below the league average and win the Super Bowl, and you’re on easy street for the next year or two.

If that sounds too detailed and mundane for you football fanatics out there, owner’s mode can be turned off to avoid the extra work. If it sounds great to the rest of you, I agree. The number of features and surprises contained in the game cannot nearly be described in one small review and, without a doubt, EA Sports’ latest offering is a must-have. Once you experience everything there is to do in Madden NFL 2004, you will wonder how you ever got along without the new features.