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  Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Let's play: Madden NFL 2003

American football enthusiasts always look forward to EA's annual update of their best-selling Madden NFL series - and this year is no exception.

While rival NFL 2K3 smacks most of the competition in the face, Madden NFL 2003 outclasses it.

Now in its 13th year, the series, which takes its name from legendary coach John Madden, has sold over 19m copies worldwide and this latest version features some quality updates.

The most interesting - in the PlayStation 2 version at least - is the inclusion of online play.

  Madden NFL 2003
Format: PlayStation 2
Price: 39.99
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: American football
Also Available: PC, Xbox and GameCube

It allows gamers to find and challenge opponents on the internet, chat with friends and other football fans, as well as offering the option of downloading up-to-date statistics and team information.

UK users will only be able to experience this, however, when the PS2 internet option becomes available over here.

Among the other additions is a new mini camp - in which you travel to all NFL cities aiming to take control of players in practice gear and become an expert in all player positions.

Overhaul

There's also create-a-playbook, where you can customise player formations and your team's entire playbook.

Franchise mode enhancements allow you to evaluate rookies and export a franchise team, while the Ask Madden option sees the coach offering strategy advice.

Visually, the game has also had an overhaul.

  Gibbon's verdict
Graphics: 86%
Playability: 92%
Sound: 67%
Realism: 85%
Overall: 87%

The textures and animation for each player are near-perfect, stadium lighting looks superb and even the reflections on the helmets have been expertly done.

EA Sports have clearly worked on the gameplay side too - it is much faster and overall playability is a lot more fun.

Getting the hang of the control system is surprisingly easy and in a matter of minutes you'll feel like an old hand.

And while NFL 2K3 still has slightly better graphics, Madden's updated controls, the excellent franchise features and its heavenly tactical play make it one of the best sports games ever to grace the PS2.

If you're an American football fan - this is an absolutely essential addition to your gaming collection.


Let's Play..
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