The development team at EA Sports has made a few changes and additions for this year's version of Madden. Most will probably notice that the momentum aspect of gameplay has been toned down, allowing you to perform sharper cuts up the field and generally have a little more control over the players on the field. But the changes to the gameplay are insignificant when compared with the sheer number and depth of the modes that Madden 2003 offers. There's a new minicamp mode that offers dozens of incredibly fun minigames, an in-depth franchise mode, numerous customizable features, and one of the most versatile play editors to date.
There's a new minicamp mode that offers dozens of incredibly fun minigames, an in-depth franchise mode...
If you're relatively knowledgeable about the sport of professional football, then you'll want to check out some of the customizable options, namely the playbook editor, before jumping into a game. Like with most other playbook editors, you can scour the various playbooks of coaches around the league and pick plays that you'd like to add to your own repertoire, but this option also gives you the ability to create your own unique formation and then create an entirely new play using that formation. Basically, you'll be presented with a grid and a series of circles representing the players on the field. You can move the receiver, tight end, and running back circles almost anywhere on the grid, which gives you the opportunity to create some really weird-looking formations, but you can only move the quarterback in a line perpendicular to the center. In addition, you still need to have the proper number of players at the line of scrimmage, so some limitations have been added to accommodate the rules. When you're done setting up the formation, you can go into the create-a-play option and decide whether it will be a running or a passing play. If it's a running play, then you can indicate which direction the running back has to go and indicate blocking assignments for offensive linemen and receivers. Conversely, if you're creating a passing play, you can either use one of the preset routes (such as a post, a streak, or a curl) or create your own route--needless to say, you can create some pretty crazy routes that will undoubtedly make things difficult for the computer- or human-controlled opponent playing zone coverage. Finally, you can test the play and make any final adjustments before integrating it into your playbook. The defensive play editor is almost identical--it lets you make your own formations and place defensive players just about anywhere on the grid. Other editing options include the ability to make your own team and players and adjust rosters before starting the game.
...numerous customizable features, and one of the most versatile play editors to date.
As with any football game, the heart of Madden NFL 2003 is its franchise mode, in which you can take a team through numerous NFL seasons while trying to get to the Super Bowl every year. After you select your team, you can go through the roster and switch players around or just look at some statistics to see who some of your better players are. You can also make changes to your coaching options by selecting a primary defense type, as well as your preference for offensive and defensive strategies. In addition, there's a league news section where you can find out about all the latest transactions or injuries that have occurred over the course of the season. Making trades, signing free agents, and other such front-office duties are a pretty straightforward affair--you can trade up to three players at once, offer contracts to free agents, release players, or re-sign players and extend their contracts. When you attempt to sign a free agent, you'll receive comments from that player's agent explaining what the player wants, whether it's a long-term contract or money. These agents are pretty staunch individuals, and they tend not to give in unless you meet a player's demands, but of course, you always need to keep the salary cap in mind when making trades or other transactions, otherwise you could end up hurting your franchise down the line.
Naturally, the franchise mode starts with the preseason, which is actually a valuable period in Madden NFL 2003 because it gives you a chance to develop some of your players' skills, particularly those of your rookies. At the end of the preseason, you'll have a chance to see if any of your players have developed and what areas they've developed in, such as speed and strength. You can then go through the full season and attempt to make your way to the Super Bowl.
In the off-season, there are several things you'll need to take care of. First, you have to see which players are retiring and then adjust your rookie scouting accordingly so you can fill the position with an adequate player as quickly as possible. The scouting in Madden NFL 2003 is handled pretty well--you'll be given a big list of rookies and a limit on the number of players you can actually scout, so you have to make some wise selections based on the projected round that the player will be drafted in. After you've made your selections, you'll get some basic physical information on the player, such as his 40-yard dash time, and have an opportunity to schedule additional scouting sessions with the players you've selected.
You'll undoubtedly enjoy the numerous modes it has to offer.
Next, you'll have to re-sign players and go after any potential key free agents who might be available before entering the draft. The NFL draft lets you go after any rookies who have the potential to be great players in the NFL, and in Madden 2003, you'll be able to look at a list of all the rookies and a list of the rookies you've scouted, both of which can be sorted by position. After several rounds, the draft will end and you'll then have the option to sign any of the rookies you've drafted, but like with free agency, a player's agent won't necessarily give in to your initial offer, so you might have to negotiate a little before signing that key rookie. When you're done with the signings, you can reorder the roster and start yet another season.
The franchise mode is probably where you'll spend most of your time in Madden NFL 2003, but there are several other gameplay modes to choose from, one of which is the incredibly fun minicamp. This mode is essentially a collection of minigames spread out over different NFL camp facilities across the country. You can participate in a variety of different drills, ranging from pocket presence (in which you have to avoid tennis balls being shot at you while staying in a small circle and complete a pass to a dummy receiver) to linebacker chase and tackle, where you have to tackle a running back as he makes his way up through a line of moving blocking dummies. In addition, upon completing the minigame, you'll be moved into a game situation that mimics the skills taught in the minigame. This mode is incredibly fun and can be quite challenging, but the fact that you can gain points to unlock Madden cards (which can unlock secret teams and options) provides enough incentive.