Gameplay, Story and Value:
Much like in the previously reviewed NHL ’94, you’re treated to all the game’s options, game modes and settings straight from the main menu. From here you’ll select one of a small handful of teams, choose your game type and quarter length, and get straight into the action.
Game modes include computer controlled demo matches, single exhibition rounds, and single elimination tournaments. Just about everything you’d expect to find here is here, though again placing all the choices on the main menu can be a bit confusing at first.
Where Tecmo Super Bowl was a fast, frantic arcade experience, John Madden Football attempts to create a much slower, more deliberate football game. Movement is slow, allowing for only a few quick bursts of speed, and players feel like they have a significant weight to them. In my opinion, this weight is a touch too excessive, as controlling players feels very cumbersome and running plays are generally unsatisfying.
At the start of each down, you’re presented with your playbook from which to choose a play from. These aren’t laid out int he most intuitive way, but the most glaring issue is that you can’t go back should you make a wrong choice. 2nd down and you accidentally choose the special defense category? TOO BAD! You’d better hope they’re going to punt… Aside from that, though, controls actually work pretty well. On defense you have buttons to sprint, tackle and switch active player, while on office you can up the pass menu for passing plays, or sprint, juke and dive if you’re running the ball.
As a result of the slow player handling, defense is generally pretty boring, and for the most part you’re just hoping for the best. On offense, when making passing plays, the game actually handles things pretty intuitively. After the ball’s been snapped, any of the face buttons will pull up the passing interface seen above. Once active, you can see the status of eligible teammates and pass to them by simply pressing the associated button. This is actually kind of surprised me as to how well it works!
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Visually, Madden NFL is adequate. Some things feel a bit off, such as the color and angling of the field, but there’s nothing that stands out too terribly much. I already mentioned how much I dislike the playbook UI, and there’s really not much in the way of redeeming qualities there. One thing that was occasionally distracting, though never too much, was the score popups from other games when you were playing in tournament mode.
Music is non-existent in this game save for a single track at the title screen that I can’t for the life of me get out of my head. Madden NFL has a lot of digitized voice samples and for whatever reason they decided to weave one into the title theme and… I mean if you haven’t heard it all you can do is watch the video at the end of the review. It’s special. Speaking of those voice samples, there are a lot of them in the game, and they all work really well. Games are full of audible aublibles that sound good, and the general sound effects hold up just fine as well.
While John Madden Football did meet my expectations, I was still hoping for a little more of the game. When I was much younger I remember trying to play sports games on the Genesis and having no idea what was going on. As a result, I grew up being turned off of them. Now that I’m older and actually have an understanding and appreciation for sports, I’m able to make more sense of these games, though what made them unappealing to me is all the more apparent.