Madden 64Madden comes to the N64
but doesn't bring the full NFL license.
Publisher: Electronic Arts|
The Madden videogame franchise has always been a favorite among football fanatics. Back in the days of 16-bit gaming it all but revolutionized the way a football title was looked upon with realistic gameplay and a fresh graphic design like no other.
Over the years, though, the Madden series has grown steadily more stale as it has remained seemingly unchanged from its original format. The Nintendo 64 version, the first football game to be released for the system, changes all that.
First off, developer Tiburon's Madden 64 has shed the aged 2D sprites of past for a full 3D polygon engine. This engine is very impressive, too, boasting authentic 3D models that animate believably with real names of team players mapped on jerseys. Surprisingly, making the jump to 3D has had no real downside for Madden 64 in terms of slowdown or glitches. The game moves as smoothly as its predecessors and looks a hell of a lot better.
Electronic Arts has included a number of options to heighten the football experience, too. Players have the ability of playing a regular season, creating a custom season, a tournament mode with eight or 16 players, or even a fantasy draft. Basic options are also customizable; players can change quarter length, turn up the skill level, turn off injuries, the blitz, salary cap and so on. It's easy to see why the Madden series has always been such a favorite among football fans.
Football fanatics, however, will be very disappointed to know that Madden 64 doesn't feature the full NFL license, so real team names, team colors and team stadiums are not present. This means that you could be stuck playing the Chicago Bulldozers instead of the mighty Bears -- and they might be purple. Acclaim grabbed all the NFL licensing rights for its NFL QB Club '98 early and EA was left playing catch up. However, EA did manage to get ahold of the NFLPA (NFL Players Associaion) so real player names are present in the game.
Madden 64 does look a bit rough around the edges, especially when compared to Acclaim's hi-res football game. Grass is pixelated and players are lacking detail, but it hardly matters in the long run as EA's magic touch has paid off in a big way in terms of gamplay; Madden 64 is very responsive and fast. The football players pick up speed realistically as they progress down the field. In other words, players don't start off in a blazing run, but instead gradually pick up speed. Also, EA has put a lot of work into the small tid-bits that give games of this type that extra punch. For example, when a player dives for a ball you can actually see his arms reach out and grasp for it. In fact, upon carefully re-examination of a play via the instant replay feature, players can view a catch from any angle, and it looks damn close to perfect.
Realism is present in many ways. The weather system is second to none. Snow accumulates on the field and affects gameplay. Rain turns games into a battlefield of slippery, sticky mud and wind has an affect on the direction of the ball.
The best part of Madden 64, however, and the feature that separates it from QB Club '98 lies in the game's artificial intelligence system. Computer players cover, block, form patterns and intercept throw-away passes with an intelligence that simply isn't found in most football games. The opposing offense doesn't just sit around and wait to be sacked, either. It's smart. Horribly chosen formations could lead to a computer touchdown. The challenge is clearly present.
The menu system in the game is equally as impressive, with a number of different formations and plays from which to choose. Madden has always been known for its playbook, and this addition to the franchise is no different.
Madden 64 takes advantage of the Rumble Pak, causing the controller to kick and jolt when players come into contact with an opposing force. It doesn't add a whole lot to the gameplay, but it's a welcome plus all the same.
The sound is acceptable, but not overwhelming. Crowds chant, "Defense!" when the home team is threatened. John Madden calls plays now and again, but really, when compared to what's possible on CD -- and other Madden games that are on CD -- Madden 64 fails to impress.
And sound isn't Madden 64's only downside; it doesn't look half as good as Acclaim's QB Club '98 (which is running in 640x480 hi-res mode), either. In addition, Madden 64 doesn't have the NFL license, as we've said, and football fanatics won't be happy about that one. Electronic Arts pulled Madden 64 out of nowhere, possibly to compete with Acclaim's game, and may have sacrificed graphic finesse and NFL licensing in the process.
If you've read through the entire review so far, you're probably waiting to find out which game to buy this holiday season: Madden 64 or QB Club '98. Unfortunately, it's not so plain cut. Madden 64 has the advantages of a better AI system and faster, more exciting gameplay, but QB Club '98 truly looks like a next-generation football game and has the NFL licensing in addition to solid gameplay.
Depending on what you're looking for, either game is a good buy.