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Madden NFL 2004 Xbox

Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Tiburon
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Living in the UK or the rest of Europe for that matter, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the FIFA series is the most popular title in the EA Sports catalogue. Whilst FIFA has always been a very popular game year in year out, the real jewel in the EA Sports crown has to be the Madden NFL series. The series has been running for an incredible 14 years on virtually every platform possible. In total the series has sold over 28 million copies, which is staggering. Year after year it's had brilliant presentation and always seems to add extra features that make the previous versions look inferior. Let's take a look at what Madden NFL 2004 has to offer.

As well as the usual features like franchise mode, Mini-Camp, 2-minute drills etc., a wealth of new features have been added to make this the most complete Madden game to date. You can still collect the Madden trading cards which are purchased by the tokens that you earn in Mini-Camp mode and you can still control a team for 30 years in franchise mode. However there some key changes this year that add depth to these already established features.

Out of all the new features the one that stands out the most is the new playmaker control. In a nutshell the playmaker control allows you to use the right analogue stick as a baton to orchestrate the play on the fly. The playmaker feature gives you more control and helps to involve you more in the game. You can order teammates to block the defenders and clear the way for you after the snap. You can change directions of runs on the fly too. It takes some getting used to but it is very impressive and could just possibly revolutionize the way long-standing fans of the series play the game.

The other big new feature in the game is the owner mode. You simply begin franchise mode, which allows you to control a team for an amazing 30 seasons, as normal and there you have the option to play with owner mode enabled. Owner mode is basically a business management and enables you to have total control over the financial running of your team. You can alter the price of a seat and play about with the cost of the merchandise in an effort to tempt your fans into purchasing it. You can also alter the price of parking and advertising to increase revenue. During the off-season you'll also get to choose what staff you want to help you run the club such as coaches and training staff. The Madden 101 section (which unfortunately isn't subtitled) shows a short demo of what's possible with the owner mode enabled. The demo explains that you can help appease your fans if the team isn't doing so well by lowering the prices of the tickets. The demo also explains that you can ask your advisors for help should you be undecided about what to do. Owner mode adds a whole new side to the Madden series and gives the franchise mode much more depth although if you don't want all this extra responsibility you can always turn off the owner mode option when you begin your franchise game.

The features mode returns and allows you to create a player and add them to the NFL roster. Madden 2004 even gives you the ability to create your own team. You can design their uniforms, home, away, alternative home and alternative away. You can choose the logo, the teams style of play and even design their stadium. You can also enter your created team in the Franchise mode if you wish and take them from the bottom to the top. You can create your playbook and add your own plays and formations.

Once again the Madden series is taken to new graphical heights with the 2004 version. The players look and animate superbly. Watching the replays allows you to see just how superb the animations are. All too often in a sports title you watch a slow motion replay and it reveals skipped frames and other oddities but there is no such sloppiness here. The textures and lighting effects are all spot on and you can even see reflections in the players helmets. I haven't noticed any clipping problems which is very impressive in such a high contact sport. The arenas that you play in all look impressive whether they are open air or an indoor arena and they look almost identical to the real thing, which will impress hardcore fans of the sport.

Whilst Madden NFL 2004 is most definitely the most complete NFL experience there some sections of the game which are not too good for deaf gamers. The Football 101 mode which is a superb tutorial on the value of each play isn't subtitled and is therefore not as good for a deaf gamer. The 2 minute drill mode again is not subtitled. The various video clips in the Madden 101 mode, which demonstrates the playmaker control, defensive play and advanced gameplay is not subtitled either although you can follow the gist of most of it because it displays the Xbox controller onscreen and highlights what buttons are pressed. Aside from the game commentary not being subtitled, there are no other problems. Thankfully the information in the Mini-Camp mode is delivered entirely in text, which is excellent news because not only are the mini-games very enjoyable but they actually teach you the mechanics of the game, which is essential for beginners.

Madden NFL 2004 is without a doubt the 'Rolls-Royce' of the NFL games. The variety on gameplay modes, the intelligent AI and the stunningly high production values make this the best NFL game that you can buy. As we mentioned above there are some problems for deaf gamers but these problems don't really spoil your enjoyment of the game. The new additions to the series are certainly most welcome and serve to make Madden NFL 2004 the most complete NFL experience out there.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
The series is now 14 years old but Madden is still the best, and by far the most complete, NFL game out there.

Deaf Gamers comment:
There are some problems but thankfully they don't affect the heart of the game or the excellent Mini-Camp mode.