|Publisher: Aspyr Media Genre: Sports|
|Min OS X: Not Supported CPU: 603e @ 180 MHz RAM: 32 MB 4x CD-ROM|
Sports gaming on the Macintosh has taken a quantum leap thanks to EA Sports' Madden 2000. The Mac used to be home only to a rag-tag group of sports sims, most notably Links LS, Trophy Bass Fishing, Deer Hunter, and NASCAR racing, with a few shareware ventures rounding out the collection. Now the Macintosh has the undisputed long-term king of sports franchises, Madden NFL Football, and its arrival could herald a new era in Mac gaming.
There are many features that set Madden 2000 apart from its sporting peers on the Macintosh, and other sports games in general. Madden has all 31 NFL teams, every player on each team, each team's stadium gloriously rendered for the 3D-acceleration card du jour, configurable AI — the list seemingly never ends. It's possible to simulate 30 straight seasons as the coach of your favorite team, and Madden handles the college drafts, free agency, player retirements, and contract negotiations to make the game as close to real life as can be imagined on your personal computer. But in my zeal to introduce you to this new world, I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let's systematically see what Madden has to offer to you and your Mac.
System RequirementsThe price of admission to a game of Madden is pretty reasonable, at least on its face: 180 MHz 603e, Mac OS 7.5.3 and a very low 32 MB of RAM. These low numbers are a bit misleading to the naive, however. Though a rev A-C iMacs might fall well within these requirements, the game will not exactly resemble the screenshots on the package. Even on my 240 MHz G3-upgraded StarMax with 96 MB of RAM and a Voodoo 2, I found the game much more enjoyable in software mode than in 3dfx mode due to processor strain in 3D.
When first playing Madden, each gamer should take a few minutes to see what configuration is going to work best for them. Each time the game starts there is the opportunity to manually switch graphics mode. If you have a powerful 3D-acceleration card, Madden will find it and set up some default settings for your first game. Try playing, and take note of just how choppy the gameplay becomes. If there are often pauses in the middle of a play, or your running back skips when trying to take the corner, quit and try the software. It really is a shame to lose the beautiful 3D graphics, however. Occasionally I cut off the audio completely in Madden's System Settings to free up some processor power, and the game runs fairly well on my machine. The bottom line is to maximize your playability. Experiment! The software renderer, outside of Veterans' Stadium in Philly (see the bug report) is actually very good.
GameplayThe game play is outstanding. The graphics, even in software rendering, are sharp. In OpenGL or 3dfx mode with the models turned up and with the screen at a high resolution, the scene is breathtaking. Each player is scaled not only by height but also by weight. Momentum is evident; players often careen into huge piles after a play's dead simply because they can't stop. The refs are fully rendered, not 2D cutouts, and each stadium is faithfully reproduced down to the pirate ship in Tampa Bay. Once the crowd noise starts up and John Madden and Pat Summerall start their play-by-play, at times it's as if an NFL game was being shown on your Mac's screen.
Defensive plays and their execution are highly realistic. In past versions of Madden on other systems, it was often easy to rush an extra linebacker and easily stop the pass. Now each position has responsibilities that, if ignored, can cost the team dearly. Rushing the linebacker leaves the tight end that he was supposed to be covering wide open, for instance. Madden 2000 also offers noticeably improved blocking AI on offense compared to past iterations. Offensive linemen no longer blindly follow preset tracks allowing for easy penetration for the defense. In M2K it is no longer a trivial decision to "bring da noise" down on a QB; in Madden 2000 improvising from within a defense without being familiar with the consequences is a big risk.
Offensive plays are really quite complex, and can be downright intimidating to someone who hasn't played another flavor of Madden in the past. Many formations offer as many as six receivers. Sprinting RBIs in front of your blockers to beat the defense to the corner is not always the best idea. Even the way the QB throws a pass is up to the gamer; a swift tap on a button or key for a pass lofts the ball high in the air and a longer hold bullets it in there. The height of the ball and the height of the defender are also taken into account. A lofted ball might make it over the 6'5" lineman only to be easily picked off by the opposing cornerback but the 6'5" lineman might have the passing lane for a low bullet cut off. Gamers must be more than proficient with their gamepads; they must play smart.
Each team also has a customized playbook with formations and plays to match each team's style. Miami has more variations on the shotgun than Washington, for example. You are able to choose a different playbook or customize yours with plays you've created, but the team-specific playbooks, at the very least, help the computer opponents play in the style you'd expect from each team. Familiarity with the playbook is also paramount to a player's success. Not only must you beat the play clock, but Madden's AI remembers your favorite plays and starts calling defenses in certain situations to stop them. To move the ball, each drive needs to mix many plays from a number of formations.
The complexity doesn't end at the impressive play selection; player control is also elaborate. In past versions of Madden, offensive players could do two things once they had the ball: dive for extra yardage or spin to try and break a tackle. In Madden 2000, the man with the ball has no fewer than seven special moves: jukes left and right, bursts of speed, a jump to hurdle fallen defenders, dives, stiff-arms, and spins. Though the Rookie or Pro levels can be played successfully without mastery of these moves; each move is essential to reach the All-Madden level of play.