Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


EA Sports proves that the best can get better

It was one of those moments that you never really forget. It was a cold winter morning in the mid-to-late ’80s, snow falling, dark as can be, and I was in my den playing Nintendo’s “10 Yard Fight.” “Fight” was one of the preeminent football games to emerge from the eight-bit powerhouse that was the original Nintendo.

Moments before I was to trudge through the snow to get to class, I did the unthinkable. As a small, brown blip moved across my rotary-dial Sears television to symbolize a kickoff and that the second half was underway, my little, red blip that was supposed to symbolize a player took the ball 90 yards for a touchdown. Sadly, I had reset the system many times in what turned out to be many foiled attempts at returning a kickoff.

The Nintendo Entertainment System proved a great foe in my childhood and early adulthood. While a majority of my friends mastered “Metroid” before they finished grade school, I spent 13 years trying to beat Mike Tyson in “Mike Tyson’s Punchout.”


You old-school players know what I’m talking about. The secret code to get your chance at Mike was 007 373 5963. How many times did you punch that code in before you finally beat him? A few? For me it was closer to 7,373,5963 times. I finally beat Mike on a scorching summer day in 2000. I could finally move on.

As the video-game revolution moved through the graphical powers of eight, 16, 32, 64 and into the present tense of super-powered processors, there is one name that sticks out in the consciousness of sports-game lovers everywhere — EA Sports.

From its early incarnations of Madden football for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo to its current blockbusters that span almost all sports, EA has consistently produced games that have proved far superior to its fly-by-night and cut-rate competitors.

With a catchphrase of “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game,” EA Sports leaves nothing to chance. Its attention to detail, fluidity of mind-bending graphics and high-octane audio produced games that a young subset weaned on “10 Yard Fight” could have never expected.

The two current cornerstones of EA’s football franchise are Madden 2003 and NCAA Football 2003. It’s only appropriate to start with the granddaddy of them all, the Madden series.

“Madden 2003”

Its namesake alone is an immediate seal of approval. Any guy who can locate a six-legged turkey to wheel out to the 50-yard line after the Thanksgiving Day game gets my seal of approval, and if “Madden 2003” says anything, it’s that the best can continue to get better.

The newest edition of Madden is loaded with all the updates and extras that fans of the series would come to expect — just kicked up about 10 notches on the Emeril Lagasse “Bam!” scale.

A new feature, “EA Sports Trax,” adds a previously missing youthful vigor to the latest release, as 11 tracks from well-known artists find their way onto Mr. Madden’s digital classic. Tracks from Andrew W.K., the Nappy Roots feat. Marcos from P.O.D., Quarashi, Good Charlotte and Bon Jovi provide a little bit of every style of music for Madden’s diverse group of fans.

Music cuts fill the silence between plays, quarterbacks often hush the crowd and the fans react with excitement or dismay to your level of gameplay. It’s a much more intelligent use of sound than past releases.

For those kicked-up gamers who like to take their game online, users now have the option of accessing an online community via their Playstation 2 console where they can download rosters, mingle and play against “Madden” experts across the country.

The graphics are reminiscent of recent “Madden” releases but are much more fluid, as is the gameplay. New stiff-arm moves, brutal tackles and dazzling catches add fresh nuances to the already-classic gameplay of the “Madden” series. The addition of all the stadiums (even the new ones) adds an extra sense of realism that makes playing at Lambeau or at the Metrodome even more fun.

The voice of Monday Night Football, Al Michaels, takes the reigns on the play-by-play, and Madden adds his classic color-commentary for a lighter touch. The addition of football femme Melissa Stark adds a bit of spice to the mix.

A new mini-camp mode allows users to hone their skills before hitting the gridiron — and for good reason. The defenses and offenses of the updated teams on “Madden” provide a much more formidable foe than the average gamer is expecting. A little rusty, I found myself down 21-7 as my former hometown heroes, the Detroit Lions, were smacking my beloved Packers upside the head.

If the preset plays aren’t doing the trick in your attempt to whip Kurt Warner and the Rams, then use the “create-a-playbook” option to make up your own offensive and defensive plays.

The “Madden” series just keeps getting better. By the time 2099 hits, EA will just send some big lugs over to tackle you in your living room. The enhancements to the newest edition of “Madden” leave no doubt that this is the best pro-football game on the market and the best edition of the series yet.

“NCAA Football 2003”

So maybe you like the youthful energy and reckless play found at the college level. If that’s the case, then “NCAA Football 2003,” the college portion of EA’s sports franchise, is also running ahead in top gear.

The pageantry of college football collides with all of the grit and excitement that makes the real game as popular as it is. With over 200 fight songs, 3D cheerleaders and 144 Division 1-A and 1-AA schools, there is no doubt that you’ll find what you’re looking for with “NCAA Football 2003.”

Like the “Madden” series off which the college game was designed, the 2003 version of the game has made many significant improvements over its very noteworthy 2002 version.

Right off the bat players get a chance to personalize their gameplay. They have the opportunity to personalize their game interface with their favorite team’s fight song, mascot (if applicable), logos and school colors. It adds a nice touch to the game and fires you up for an exciting battle.

Due to legalities, the players on “NCAA Football 2003” cannot go by their names, so they are referred to by their numbers. While this is a slight drawback, the gameplay is so solid that you hardly notice.

Taking you along for the ride are announcers Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso, all of ESPN fame. Their play-by-play rivals that of Madden’s, and Nessler makes for one of the best commentators on the college circuit.

To add additional realism to the stunningly detailed characters is the option of playing in just about every stadium on the college circuit. From a brawl at Ann Arbor’s Big House between Michigan and Ohio State to a war at Camp Randall between the Badgers and the Gophers, the stadium graphics are very realistic and you can almost see the big guy next to you who’s trying to take up two seats as he spits his chew tobacco.

“NCAA Football 2003” also allows the user the opportunity of building a franchise or dynasty. Users can create their own school and schedule, recruit athletes and redshirt players on their path to creating a collegiate powerhouse.

With graphics as fluid and bone-crunching as the “Madden” series, “NCAA Football 2003” is also the best installment yet of one of the best competitors to the “Madden” throne. EA Sports wins either way. It has continually developed the best sports games available.

The graphics, sound, gameplay and level of challenge increase with each release, and it is nearly impossible to find a dud in the multitude of releases that sit behind the little glass counters in stores across the country. Whether you’re a fan of the college or pro game, you’ve got two great choices in “Madden 2003” and “NCAA Football 2003.” Just remember that it’s a good idea to go to your classes at some point.

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