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Games: Madden 2002


Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA Sports
Street Price: $39.99
Genre: Sports

When it comes to sports games, nothing hits harder than EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2002. The Madden series has been a best seller across every platform imaginable for the past 12 years and every year it manages to tackle new technologies to keep the title on top. Meticulous player models, a realistic momentum-based physics engine, fluid player animations, and multiple point collision detection brought gamers closer to the action than ESPN ever could.

Madden NFL 2002 PC raises the bar on previous versions by doing away with a software renderer and requiring 3D hardware acceleration. From bone rattling tackles to team-specific playbooks to spectacular one-handed catches, Madden 2002 manages to one-up last year’s Madden in every way. And thanks to the NVIDIA® GeForce3™ Titanium™ series that experience hits your screen with more detail and absolutely no slowdowns whatsoever. The team at EA Sports stole a page out of the NVIDIA playbook this year by offloading the game’s Transform and Lighting to the GPU. The result is the most realistic (and recognizable) NFL players ever seen in a video game.

To understand just what makes Madden NFL 2002 the sports title to beat this year, we suited up and hit the field with Executive Producer Steve Chiang.

What are some of the major improvements in Madden NFL 2002 versus Madden NFL 2001?
Chiang: The biggest improvement for Madden NFL 2002 PC is by far the all-new game engine. This year’s offering is the most sophisticated sports title available on the PC. The new engine brings all new game play, new physics, momentum based tackling, all new animation, and it delivers a great looking and playing game. Online head to head is back, along with a very deep online franchise mode.

Is the 2002 PC version of Madden just a simple port of the 2001 PS2 Madden graphics engine?
Chiang: No, rendering 3D objects is a lot different on the PC. However, we took a lot of technology that was created for Madden 2001 and applied it to the PC version. The PC 3D pipelines is totally different in terms of methodology. The PS2 is pretty low level code-wise. On the PC we use Direct3D, which as most of you know is a high level set of libraries. For Madden NFL 2002 PC we started from 2001 PC graphics engine and made improvements from there, adapting the high level code from Madden 2001 to make it all sing.

This is the first version of Madden that requires a 3D accelerator. We felt we had to make this change, if we wanted to make huge improvements to the look and play of the game. And the payoff is huge particularly on a GPU such as the GeForce3. The power of the GeForce3 is amazing; you can play the game in very high resolution, with a very nice frame rate, and with very high-resolution textures. Also with the added power, we were able to increase the number of polygons used in the players and stadiums.

Specifically how has pass coverage and blocking AI been reworked to improve game play?
Chiang: It’s all new for 2002. By handing off more of the graphics engine to the GPU we were able to devote more processing time to AI, so it’s more aware, and more complex than ever. That said, we are always and will always be trying to improve defense, blocking and CPU offense, and we’re always working on refinements.

How much can you tweak Madden 2002’s artificial intelligence?
Chiang: It’s very customizable. Madden has AI Sliders which allows users to customize their experience. For example, if you think passing is too effective, you can turn it down. It’s a great feature because beyond the skill levels, the user has control to make it a little harder or easier.

Did the game require a boatload of motion capture sessions to get the catches and tackles just right
Chiang: We have a ton of animation. Every year we shoot a couple weeks of football related motion using the motion capture facility at Electronic Arts Canada, and we’ve been building the library for the last three years. As important as the motion, is the blending and the transitions that the Madden animation system supports. Madden NFL 2001 PC did not have all of the transitions that the 2002 game has, and as a result it was a lot choppier.

Have we seen the last of the repetitive tackle sequence
Chiang: I would like to say yes, but when you log hundreds of hours on a game, you are bound to see something twice.

How far away are we from a photorealistic Madden?
Chiang: You mean we’re not there now? Seriously though, we are getting close. When you watch the game in demo mode, it looks like TV. And 3D hardware is getting more powerful all the time. We’re excited to tap into the power of the NVIDIA® GeForce3™ Titanium™ series. Just think of what a programmable vertex pipeline will do for player realism.

Click images to enlarge

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