Do you remember when Madden had Mini-Camp Drills?
It was Madden 2003 that introduced Mini-Camp mode. Mini-Camp mode would put you in the shoes of an NFL player during Mini-camp, challenging you to complete training drills efficiently, aiming for a top score in order to unlock more drills.
Some of the drills included Trench Fight, which would see you controlling a Defensive Lineman and demanded that you do all you could to get past the Offensive Lineman on your way to the Quarterback. Or how about my favorite: QB Pocket Presence, which would see you avoiding little, yellow dots as a QB while you stayed in the “pocket” and completed passes to one of three receivers.
While these drills were fun and a nice change of pace, the thing most people enjoyed about the mode was seeing players in Training Camp gear. Seeing players in pads and shorts was a nice bit of immersion, and the training facilities were also something we hadn’t seen to that level before. Not only that, but Mini-Camp mode was a good way to practice the fundamental stick skills. Madden Mini-Camp was a nice new feature, but it was a fairly small part of Madden 2003. It wouldn’t be until the following year that Tiburon, the developers of the Madden franchise since the mid-90’s, would find an even more impactful use for their new mode.
For fans of Madden’s Franchise Mode, Madden 2004 was a large step forward. Not only did it introduce Owner Mode, with new features such as Team Relocation, but Tiburon took the Mini-Camp Mode they had debuted the year prior and found a use for it in Franchise Mode. During the off-season, you were given the option of running different players through all the Mini-Camp drills. The better you did in a certain drill, the more points you could assign to that player’s attributes. You were only allowed to do each drill once, forcing you to think about which players needed progression in that area the most. This was all on top of the well-balanced, natural progression and regression system that went on during the season.
One of the big features of Madden 2006 was an all-new Superstar Mode, where you would create an NFL Rookie and attempt to make your legend as an NFL player. In the mode, these mini-games were used to to evaluate your player’s talent level going into the NFL Draft. Superstar Mode was a fantastic feature, but we’ll save that for another time.
When Madden transitioned to the Xbox 360 and PS3, it seemed like Tiburon was not only keeping the Mini-Camp mini-games, but they were also improving and expanding on them. New drills were implemented, and the new and improved graphics showed off more detailed players in compression shirts. Things like weight benches and giant timing clocks accompanied the new drills like Bench Reps and the 40 Yard Dash. Despite the graphical overhaul, the drills were seen as much less fun than the drills seen in the previous generation of games. The mini-games continued in Madden for years, going largely untouched and never having the same influence on Franchise Mode as they once did. Finally, Tiburon ceased their inclusion in the game starting with Madden NFL 13, a game that was also controversial for re-branding Franchise Mode into Connected Careers.