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Madden NFL 2000 (PSOne)
MSRP: $49.99
Number of Players: 1-8
Developer: Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Rating:
*****
out of
*****

Are you ready for some football? Well, it's that time again. The hits, the tackles, the long bomb and the search for money plays are all back for another year on the PlayStation version of Madden NFL 2000. This year's outing seeks to address some of the nagging, but not really serious, problems of last year's game. Does it succeed? Or does it simply create new problems in the process? Actually, I am very happy to report that Madden NFL 2000 may be the finest PlayStation football game ever, and that's saying quite a bit.

Last year's game was impressive, but many complained that it felt a bit sluggish compared to the relatively speedy NFL GameDay series. That complaint has been addressed 100%, as this year's Madden is the fastest it's ever been. There are none of the control response problems that many felt hindered last year's playability. The players are quick and responsive to your input. You don't have to wait for an animated response to finish before the game allows more input.

If anything, though, the speed comes at the expense of the graphics. The players are a little less detailed than last year. From a side view, especially evident at the coin-toss, they don't look quite evolved out of a Cro-Magnon state. They're sort of odd-looking -- with a strange, puffed out chest and a bowed spine -- when standing around. When in motion, however, they look great and the lesser detail isn't even noticeable. One detail that IS noticeable is that the players look like they're all the right size for the position they play. Linemen are huge compared to a wide receiver or a kicker.

Also new this year are plenty of new animations for the players, including hits that cause helmets to pop off the player at the receiving end. While it may sound like something out of NFL Blitz, it actually doesn't happen too often and John Madden will make a comment about the strength of the hit. It's something that does happen in football, and now it happens in Madden. There are also new gang tackles and more animations of players struggling to maintain balance, avoiding tackles and reacting to hits.

I couldn't find any evidence of bugs like those plaguing this year's NFL GameDay. The developers didn't seem to have bothered with trying to add as many bells and whistles to Madden as did those working on GameDay, so they may have concentrated on finding problems and fixing them. There are no licensed rock songs, ridiculous break-dancing celebrations, or Telestrators in Madden NFL 2000. There are also no replay bugs or sound problems that I could find either.

Several cool things have been added other than the speed and animations. A new situation mode, which places you in a high-pressure situation and asks you to get out of it, has been introduced. First seen in NFL Quarterback Club on the SNES, this mode puts you into a variety of possible calamities -- such as in sudden death overtime with less than three minutes on the clock or down by a touchdown with less than a minute to go -- and leaves it up to your play-calling prowess to get out of them. It's fun and makes for a quick adrenaline rush when you don't have time to play a full game.

The franchise mode is back as well, as is a Madden Challenge, that asks trivia questions that, if answered correctly, can unlock secret codes for the game.

The quality of the game is even more evident when watching the instant replays. Last year's game made it fun to study the replays to see exactly what happened. This year's game allows you to marvel at the impressive stuff that's been packed into graphics engine. From the smooth and speedy play-action to the details of the player's body movements, everything is visible in slow-mo. I think I spent 15 minute marveling at a touchdown pass from Steve McNair to Yancey Thigpen. Apparently, the game itself takes replays seriously as it will occasionally challenge a ref's ruling and will review a replay to make a decision.

When it comes down to it, the Madden series has finally overshadowed GameDay in terms of both presentation and, finally, gameplay. There is precious little I want to see added to the game as it stands now. Aside from graphics that aren't possible on the four-year old PlayStation, I am completely satisfied with Madden NFL 2000 in a way that I've never been satisfied with a football videogame before. That's a huge compliment and this is a game that's worthy of it. A must-buy sports game!

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