Madden NFL 2003
Game Info
PS2, GC, Xbox
EA Sports
Official Website
ESRB Rating
The Good

• Lots of modes
• Looks and sounds like real NFL
• Great fun to pick up and play
• Easy to pick up control scheme

The Bad

• Minor glitches
• Commentary is generic


Let's be honest - the Madden series of football games has been champ on Sony systems for some time. Since the launch of the PS2, the series has been rock solid, only making minor changes in the formula, tweaking small things here and there. This time around is no different. Along with John Madden now is Al Michaels at play-by-play. Players can choose to play one game, try out the extensive training mode, mini-camp and a full blown multi-season franchise mode, all with drafting, salary cap and player trades.

The first time you play, you'll either be surprised at how easy the game is to pick up or by the sheer amount of options before you. In fact, you may be intimidated by the amount of, well.... everything available to you. Even starting up a Play Now game can require some choices as you can select one of the 32 teams, World League Teams, fictional teams that you can unlock and even an assortment of classic teams. In the game modes, you have the choice of mini-camp, two minute drill, situation, franchise, tournament and even online (when Sony's network goes live). And, if that wasn't enough, you can even create your own playbook, team or player. Control freaks will be pleased by the sheer amount of control they have over the game.

The gameplay for Madden is easy to pick up. In fact, if you've played any of the Maddens before, you'll know what you're getting into. You select plays grouped by Run, Pass, Deep Pass or Punt/Kick. Once the play is selected, you can look at the formation on the field by pressing the R2 button. Passing involves hiking the ball with the X button and then passing to one of your players by pressing the button assigned to that receiver.

One of the nicer aspects of the game is the inclusion of the Madden Cards system, which rewards you for performing a variety of tasks, like scoring touchdowns, sacking the quarterback or by holding your opponent under a certain score. You gain tokens for each of these tasks, which can be spent to buy a pack of cards for you collection (just like collecting real football card, but without the bubblegum sticks). Each of the cards carries bonuses that can be used during a game, like giving a team member a boost in skills during a quarter or half. The sheer collectibility issue of the Madden Cards will keep you going back for more.

Madden NFL 2003 looks really good. From the detailed textures of the jerseys and fields to the reflections on the helmets, just about every aspect looks sharp. Animations and lighting are all well done. The stadiums all look pretty good, even if you don't get a good overhead look at them like in NFL2k3. The only real flaw in the graphics is that the facial models don't really look all that accurate. Also, once you take the helmets off of the players, most of them look pretty average. While just about everything in the game looks sharp and is animated well, you'll find a few minor, although rare, glitches, like sections of the stadium disappearing for a moment. Also, after plays, don't be surprised to see one player model walk through another, as if there's no collision detection for the cutscenes.

While the menus are garnished with tracks from Andrew W.K., Bon Jovi, and (hed) P.E., the in-game's audio focus is on the sound effects and commentary, which are developed to make the game sound like it's taking place in a real stadium. Both Madden and Michaels commentary are nice, but they tend to be fairly generic (don't expect them to name too many of the players) and Madden's one-liners get repeated way too often.

Madden's newest offering is a huge football game that fans of the genre should enjoy. There's lots here to do. In fact, the franchise mode alone should take you months to wear out. While I wish that the Madden series would try to pick up some televised branding (like Sega did with ESPN) to make the game sound and look more like televised football, I don't have too many complaints that are anything more than cosmetic. Once again, EA Sports has made another topnotch Madden game.

- - Kinderfeld

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