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Madden 64 Review

Publisher - E.A. Sports
Developer - Tiburon
Platform - N64
Type - Sports
Score - 7/10

Madden 64 is one of the biggest surprises of the season. For most of the year, football fans have been drooling over screenshots from NFL Quarterback Club and feeling disappointed by the lack of games from EA. Out of nowhere, they announced Madden 64, then moved up the release date to directly take on Quarterback Club. Unfortunately, by that time Acclaim had snatched up an exclusive NFL license, so Madden isn't quite as complete as it could be, but it still has a lot to offer.

Madden 64 plays like most other football games. Select a play, run it, then select the next play. Repeat until end of game. Electronic Arts has been hyping Madden's artificial intelligence, and it does make a difference. The computer figures out which plays you like to use, so if you don't keep changing, you'll have a hard time moving the ball. During the play, the players all react intelligently as well, giving the plays a realistic look and feel. The way passes are thrown depends on how long you hold the pass button, with taps resulting in lobs while holding the button throws a bullet pass. An important part of the passing game is reading the coverage. Passes to double or triple covered guys will never get through, and routinely result in interceptions.

The game includes 120 teams, including the current season and historical teams known for their greatness. Unfortunately, without the NFL license, the teams don't look like NFL teams. They're not the New England Patriots, they're "Foxboro." The colors are slightly off, and there are no logos. If you're looking for verisimilitude, Madden 64 will let you down. On the other hand, if all you care about is the players, they're in there. The quarterback for Foxboro is still Drew Bledsoe.

Besides exhibition games and season play, Madden has a fantasy draft, allowing you to put together your own teams and play them in a tournament. Madden also gives you control over the regular team rosters, so you can create new players and trade players between teams. Just like real life, each player is assigned a value and you have to work inside the salary cap. In the options menu, you can turn off the salary cap and create a true uber-team and roll over the opposition. The graphics really can't compete with Quarterback Club. It's not that they look bad, just that they aren't as sharp. It might be slightly disturbing to play with teams that are close to the right colors, but a little off. The animation is generally good, although certain moves like tackles can look kind of fake. On the other hand, the celebrations after scoring touchdowns are great. The default camera angle is a little too close to the action. There can be important stuff happening off screen, and you can't always see all of your receivers. Fortunately, there are other camera angles, including the cool but completely unplayable Helmet Cam.

The play-by-play and commentary by Pat Summerall and John Madden add to the game. Madden has a variety of metaphors for describing hard tackles, and his other comments capture things he says during real games. The crowd noise is better than Quarterback Club, but doesn't really stand out. I'd rather be listening to the chants and cheers from International Superstar Soccer. The sound effects during the game are suitably grunty and crunchy.

The control is decent. There's a good range of moves available, and the players respond well to the control stick. For two player games (Madden supports up to four players) the game shows a group of three plays at a time but also lists and lets you select from the previous and next group of plays, so your opponent won't be able to figure out what you're doing.

I wouldn't expect the Rumble Pak to add much to a football game, but Madden 64 supports it anyway. Sure enough, it vibrates in response to hard tackles or injuries, but I don't think it really adds a whole lot.

In the end, Madden 64 has better gameplay and sound than Quarterback Club, but worse graphics. It's also missing out on the team names, colors, and logos. It will keep football fans happy, but I'm looking forward to some significant improvements for next year.