All passing and no running makes Madden a dull game.
Madden 2004 is probably the best football game available for the GBA. Unfortunately, this is more a statement on just how lacking the other games are than on what Madden does right. All the normal features are present, including 32 teams, season play, trading and creating players, and a large playbook. If EA had actually bothered to update the game in any significant way from last year, Madden 2004 could be amazing. As it stands, it’s mediocre gameplay wrapped in a very neat little package.
The graphics and sound are serviceable enough. The only major problem in this area is the limited view of the field, which would be disastrous if you needed to see the field to play the game. The movement of the players is a little choppy, and the players are considered down where their feet or knees (it can be hard to differentiate) hit the ground. So when you’re going for that 1 yard touchdown run, getting the ball across the end zone is not enough. This may not seem to be a big deal, but when you consider that running is nearly impossible, especially up the middle, it quickly becomes frustrating. You will occasionally break a run to the outside for a decent gain, but it's rare. What’s scary is that the running game has actually improved over last year’s installment.
This game is a passer’s dream. You’ll be connecting down the field so much that you’ll quickly learn to dominate the computer. You’ll soon have to ramp up the difficulty level to even pretend that the computer is a threat. To its credit, the computer will catch you if you try the same play too many times in a row. Of course, the AI can beat you downfield as well, even if you have your best pass coverage out (which you almost always will, because they can’t run either). Hey, at least it’s fair. The penalties are pretty accurate, except for the false starts, which happen in strings of two, three or even four. When it’s first and 30, you’ll probably be cursing the game until you remember that you can just bomb the ball for a touchdown. When someone does score, you’ll be treated to that player doing a little dance in the end zone, which you can’t skip. Nice touch, EA. If only the players could move that smoothly when running the ball.
The link-up works as it should, should you want to have a pass-off with another human player. If you have both the GBA and Gamecube version of the game you can trade Madden cards between them, which is neat if you happen to care about Madden cards.
The game is still football and it does provide the sport in a portable package, even if that package is nearly identical to last year’s version. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the game if you already have Madden 2003, but if you’re jonesing for some football on the go, Madden 2004 fits the bill. After seeing the sweeping improvements for the console version, I had high hopes for this game. Sadly, the game doesn’t quite deliver.