VG Sports Virtual Playbook 2002 REVIEW

VG Sports Virtual Playbook 2002 Review (PC)

I have never considered purchasing a strategy guide to accompany any video game. At times I have been somewhat offended by employees of some electronics stores using 'You're not going to be able to beat the game without the guide' as a suggestive sell technique. However, after accessing the VG Sports' Virtual Playbook 2002 for use with all versions of EA Sports' Madden 2002 I reconsidered my position.

Composed of two separate pieces, the VG Sports package combines a conventional hardcopy guide with a unique on-line feature to create an effective product. The Virtual Playbook bares the most resemblance to conventional store bought books. Within its pages various aspects of Madden strategy are addressed in a surprisingly printer friendly format. This simple to the point guide is accompanied by a website that represents a true departure from standard print books. VG Sports' Virtual Filmroom embellishes upon the strategies discussed in the playbook along with providing instruction in more advanced techniques through regular updates. By enhancing a standard print guide with a constantly evolving website feature VG Sports has created an invaluable strategy resource for Madden 2002.

VG Sports conveys several key strategic items in the Virtual Playbook; meanwhile, maintaining a clean and printable presentation. Laid out as a series of interlinked articles, the Virtual Playbook's design is functional and effective. VG Sports has simplified navigation though the guide by briefly describing each section on the index page. These articles are composed predominately of text and use basic 'X and O' type diagrams very sparingly. This simple design makes the playbook amazing print friendly by limiting each section to no more than three pages. Despite their short nature, all of the articles in the Virtual Playbook contain a vast amount of strategic information geared toward increasing success on both sides of the ball.

One simple line of gridiron truth, "Defense wins games!!" opens the first half of the VG Sports Virtual Playbook 2002. This factual statement sets the tone for a strategy guide that explains key tactics needed for success while maintaining proper perspective. VG Sports' introduction to the defensive game lists the primary objectives along with do's and don'ts to remember while playing. Using these concepts to provide perspective the guide then dissects into four sections explaining coverages, blitzing, playbooks, and stopping certain plays. Important strategic information related to playing defense is found in the coverage and blitzing sections. Individual descriptions of the cover 1, cover 2, cover 3, cover 4, and man-to-man schemes comprise the 'Coverages' article. After defining the responsibilities for positions in the secondary and detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each coverage type the guide then shifts its attention to the front seven. In 'Blitzing' VG Sports explains pressuring the passer in two articles. Following a description of the objectives and shortcomings of blitz packages the Virtual Playbook continues into essential tactics for enhancing the blitz in 'Blitzing-Attacking the QB.' The accompanying section, 'Alternate Defensive Formations', details creating the 4-3 Bear, 4-4, and 3-4 50 defenses by using simple line shifts, audibles, and player motion. After expounding on the principles of defensive play VG Sports then added the 'Defensive Playbook.' This area of the guide simply diagrams each major formation's plays for use as a printable reference. Composed of three short articles 'Stopping Specific Types of Plays' closes out the defensive part of the playbook. Within this section important techniques in 'Stopping the Sweep', 'Defending Against 5 WR Formations', and 'Slowing Down the Slant Attack' are outlined. By opening the Virtual Playbook 2002 with an impressive set of defensive articles VG Sports has laid the solid foundation on which offensive success can be built.

Unlike the defensive section of the Virtual Playbook, the offensive area is broken into two components covering coaching tactics and game strategy. 'Game Plans' outlines the coaching aspects of Madden football by utilizing strategy sheets. Within this topic of study VG Sports has included simple forms for scouting, scripting, and a calling a game. 'Scouting the Opposition' consists of viewing an opponent's defensive roster and finding its weakness in personnel. The VG Sports scouting sheet simplifies this process by listing every position and a few key attributes that need to be analyzed for each one. Exploiting the soft spots in the defense relies on play calling. Through the scripting and call sheets an offensive attack is designed that focuses on the defenses weaknesses. A list of 10 to 25 plays is laid out in the scripting form and used to explore these areas in play between the 20's. Offensive strategy for special situations is laid out in the 'Call Sheet'. This tool helps create an easy access list for play calling inside the red zone, 3rd and long situations, and backed up inside the twenty. After designing a solid game plan the only remaining single point of failure resides in execution. VG Sports has addressed this essential topic under three headings: 'Ground Pounder', 'Vertical Passing Attack', and 'West Coast Offense'. After briefly describing each type of offense the Virtual Playbook then lists the requirements for success and follows with an article explaining key techniques needed for proper execution. A section titled 'Running Inside' complements the 'Ground Pounder' area and explores the tactics for beating an offense between the tackles. Stretching a defense through multiple wide receiver sets directly contrasts smash mouth football. In 'Vertical Passing Attack' and the complementing 'The Vertical Passing Game' article VG Sports explains going deep, picking up the blitz, and controlling the receivers before diving into reading coverages in separate pieces on attacking Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 4 defenses. Playing with the west coast offense is discussed in a series of short paragraphs covering passing, mobile quarterbacks, and playcalling. The offensive half of the Virtual Playbook 2002 closes out with two sections. First the guide lists each available offensive formation and a short synopsis for every play in the set and finally VG Sports lists the complete offensive playbooks for each team. By dissecting Madden offense into two logical divisions explaining coaching and playing VG Sports creates a strategic guide encompassing all aspects of offense.

Through a clean and concise design VG Sports presents the fundamentals of Madden football in the Virtual Playbook 2002. A unique on-line feature builds upon this solid foundation of football basics. The Virtual Filmroom represents a break from conventional guides in its constantly updated format and list of contributors. Unlike traditional manuals that only cover one version of Madden the annual filmroom access fee includes all updates including information about the latest game. In another separation of philosophy VG Sports draws information from a variety of sources including Paul Gleason of MaddenGuides.com and Lou Tillery current Madden Nationals Champion. These two unique aspects further enhance an on-line guide that perfectly compliments the Virtual Playbook.

Broken into three sections the VG Sports Virtual Filmroom covers a variety of topics by using written word, screen shots, diagrams, and video. The filmroom discusses the finer points of Madden technique and strategy under headings 'Stick Control and Special Moves', Playbooks and Breakdowns', and 'Strategy and Tactics'. 'Stick Control and Special Moves' covers individual player movements from running against the grain to using the spin move to get to the QB. Along with dissecting new topics the filmroom also complements information found in the Virtual Playbook. While the downloaded guide stops with explaining the basic coverage assignments a set of articles in 'Playbooks and Breakdowns' reveals the individual positional responsibilities for every play in each of the four major defensive playbooks. This area also contains articles covering enhancements to the blitzes and glitch or 'money plays'. The final topic of study, 'Strategy and Tactics', contains further information on stopping specific types of plays, using mobile QB's, and recognizing coverages. All the articles in the Virtual Filmroom cover with as much detail as those in the playbook, meanwhile, backing up the information with better visual aides to drive their point home.

By defying convention VG Sports has created a strategy guide that is sure not to start collecting dust after just a couple weeks. The frequently updated Virtual Filmroom will deserve a look every few weeks to check for new updates. Meanwhile, the Virtual Playbook despite its simple layout seems to provide some new piece of information every time it is viewed. For additional information go to www.maddentips.com.

VG Sports Virtual Playbook 2002 Score
out of 10