GameCube Index Episode 79: Madden NFL 2003

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What a time it has been here around the GCNdex offices. Two pretty major events have occurred that I think you’ll all really enjoy. First, my daughter Sydney was born last month, and she and my wife are doing great, and my son seems to like her so far. Second, and slightly more on-topic, I acquired a component upscaler and hooked up my old Wii. This means that the game footage will look drastically better than it did before, at least for North American releases. I am much more proud of the game footage I am capturing now, and what better way to show off these improved visuals than with the yearly sports entry of Madden NFL 2003.

By now, this is the fifth football game that we have covered, so we all should have a grasp on what to expect from a new Madden title. Improved graphics, tight controls, a huge roster, and entertaining commentary. Madden NFL 2003 doesn’t skip out on any of that, and they manage to include a slew of new features to bring fans back for another year of play.

As always, I won’t be getting deep into the specific gameplay changes from prior series entries, as I wouldn’t be able to understand enough to explain them. We’re also not looking at Madden NFL 2003 in order to determine whether it’s the right buy for you, we’re revisiting the title to remember where the Madden series was at when this entry was released back in 2002. So, 2003 brought back your standard tournament and franchise modes, but it also made it much easier to just jump right into a game and start playing, without a weirdly named “Quickplay Mode.” The minute to minute gameplay is identical to nearly every other football game on the market, but it’s the different ways that you can slice into the sport that make Madden NFL 2003 incredibly appealing.

You’d expect to see a Create-A-Player Mode, and even Create-A-Team, but for the first time players have access to Create-A-Playbook. Finally, you are able to make your own formations, plays, and receiver routes from scratch, giving complete and total control to how your football games play out. It’s a surprisingly deep offering that really draws players into the action.

Madden NFL 2003 was the first EA Sports game to incorporate EA Trax, which is a program between Electronic Arts and music labels to license popular songs for use in EA titles. This is great, and exciting, mostly when Andrew WK’s “Party Hard” starts playing, which feels like every ten minutes because Madden NFL 2003 only offers eleven songs. This means that, even with just one song in the game, there is way too much Bon Jovi.

The new game mode that I found to be most enjoyable was Minicamp mode, which takes you on a tour around the country to participate in mini games to hone different skills and earn Madden cards. This serves as a great tutorial to different game mechanics, such as precision passing or punting, and you are then dropped into an in-progress situation where your newfound skill, when executed properly, will win the game.

With being a franchise that to this day can seem like each year is a carbon copy of the year before, it’s the whole package that continues to impress with every entry. Madden NFL 2003 garnered universal acclaim upon release, and is remembered as one of the better titles in the Madden series. It might not be worth going back to play today, but it’s still a nice moment in Madden’s history.

Did you ever play Madden NFL 2003? What did you think of it? What did you like or hate about the game?

For more GameCube content, including HD scans of the box art and instruction manual, visit gcndex.com. If you’d like to support the series, and get access to videos a week early, please consider backing us on Patreon.

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About Geoff Girardin

Geoff Girardin is the producer of GCNdex, a weekly series that covers every GameCube game in chronological order. He also helped make two tiny humans, and he eats so much that his wife is worried. You can follow him on Twitter @geoffgirardin, or keep up with his experience with fatherhood on geoffgirardin.com.

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