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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
9.3
Visuals
9.5
Audio
9.0
Gameplay
9.0
Features
8.5
Replay
9.5
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
Sega
DEVELOPER:
Visual Concepts
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-8
RELEASE DATE:
November 19, 2001
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
All-Pro Football 2K8

All-Pro Football 2K8

ESPN NFL 2K5

ESPN NFL 2K5

ESPN NFL Football

More in this Series
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on December 07, 2001

Full Review: Time to put Madden on a platter next to his 6-legged turkeys.


For the last few years, Sega and Visual Concepts has been fine-tuning their fast-rising NFL 2K series into something to compete with the juggernaut of John Madden Football. The 2000 and 2001 versions of this game were on Dreamcast only, and because EA decided against supporting that console, the pair never went head to head on the same console. However, now that Sega has gone the way of the 3rd party, we now get the chance to see NFL 2K2 go head to head with Madden NFL 2002, on equal ground, on PlayStation 2.

And for this year, the edge goes with Sega. NFL 2K2 is an incredible improvement wholly over the already great Dreamcast version, with most issues from that game worked out this time around. No, it's not as deep as Madden, but the plain and simple (and most important) fact is; NFL 2K2 is simply more fun to play than Madden is. Madden is a good game, sure; but NFL 2K2 plays better than anything out there in the football genre. Madden die-hards are a tough group to crack, but they shouldn't pass up giving this game a try, because chances are, they may like it as much, or even more. It may not be as deep as Madden, but when it comes down to the actual game of football, 2K2 is second to none.

NFL 2K2 offers a myriad of different options of play ? from basic exhibition games, to a season, or a 16-team tournament, to the main draw; a huge franchise mode. However, no online play this time around, however VC claims it will be in next year's version.

One of my favorite aspects of the season and franchise modes is the fantasy draft. You pick your team and draft an entire team from scratch, giving you the opportunity to build a dream team. This spices up the game with fresh rosters. The only nag for realism junkies is the amount of retired players that are free agents who get mixed in, along with the jersey numbers being way out of whack. Still can't figure out why they gave Kurt Warner #25.

The Franchise mode is nice, but extremely flawed and rather half-assed. The stats are tracked nice, but one small problem; the playoff stats are tacked on to the regular season stats! So at the end of the year my back had 2,000 yards rushing because of the 3 playoff games that were played. Those stats are not supposed to be included with regular season stats, making things very unrealistic.

Also, when doing Pro Bowl voting, it doesn't happen during the regular season like it's supposed to, but in the playoffs. Eh? Stranger yet, picture this scenario: On the Bears, James Allen is the running back by default. But Anthony Johnson is the starter now (well when he's not hurt), yet you know who got more Pro Bowl votes? Allen did, and he didn't carry the ball at once in my season, and Johnson got around 1700 yards. That doesn't make much sense.

The rest of the post-season is pretty pedestrian and tolerable, yet still rather bland; there's no feeling of competition when you're out signing free agents like Madden does. It just kinda ?happens? and then suddenly you're in your new season. This is definitely an area I suggest VC do some work on, to better round off their game.

The new Houston Texans are included in 2K2, however unlike Madden you can't use them in a season or franchise, nor do they jump into the mix for the 2002 season. This is definitely one thing Madden has over 2K2, but it isn't a huge gameplay deal; just a realism deal. You can play as the Texans in their new digs in exhibition games, with fake players given names like WR-A and QB-B.

When it comes to the actual gameplay, however, NFL 2K2 has all the goods delivered. Yes, it's much faster paced than Madden, but the problem is, Madden is very sluggish at times which drains the fun right out. Madden 2001 really wore out its welcome with me because of how slow the game played. 2K2 is much faster, but not too fast so it seems like a copy of NFL Blitz. Or even NFL GameDay in its prime.

But looking past the pace, 2K2 has many great things about it that increases the enjoyment level. For one, they finally got rid of the annoying Mario Running that hampers most all football games. Of course, Mario Running is a term from Super Mario Brothers, in which when Mario hits a wall, he keeps his running animation, even though he isn't going anywhere. This translates to football games when your running back hits his linemen and stops dead in his tracks; yet still is running. In 2K2, they allow the backs to ?go skinny? by running sideways to get around the pile of big linemen. This changes the running game and adds 10 times more enjoyment to running the football up the middle. No word on whether or not they'll mix in the ability to jump on a players' helmet and kick them down the field Koopa Troopa style to replace the Mario Running.

For the rest of the game, 2K2 feels exactly like previous 2K games have played, just with a lot more refinement. Each team has its own set playbook of offensive and defensive plays unique to their playing style, which offers up many more options to pick apart the opponent. Actually 2K2 features a giant amount of plays, more than any 2K game to date. The balance of nice passing plays and nice running routes allows for mixing things up against tough opposition.

On offense, you'll need a lot of skill to move the football; if you're planning on throwing into triple coverage, prepare for an interception a time or two. When running the ball, don't repeat the same play more than once, or you will pay for it dearly most of the time, against the better defenses. For example, when playing the Baltimore Ravens; have a good time trying to run against them, because you'll have a difficult time because of how good their defense is. However when you play a terrible defense like the Lions, you'll be able to just tear the field up getting yards.

Same goes for passing; unlike some football games, each secondary has its ups and downs. If your wideout isn't one of the elite (Moss, Rice, Keyshawn, Boston, etc) and is going against the elite DB's like Charles Woodson, you'll have a more difficult time getting the ball into the hands of that receiver. Balls will get batted away or forced to be dropped, but not to the level of ridiculousness. You'll even get intercepted a time or 2 (or 3, or 4). The passing game feels very real; you can't just throw the ball and expect it to be caught; instead your receiver must work their way open for maximum yardage.

A couple flaws do exist on offense; first off, there are a few passing money plays that work nearly every time. Any sort of outs or crossing pattern passes are practically guaranteed first down or close to it yardage. Sometimes you'll have trouble with batted passes and quick tackles for a short gain, but 90% of the time its easy money, on every difficulty level.

And running the ball is slightly easier with this new ?skinny? animation; and because the computer can't tackle anyone up the middle without a pileup, it makes 5-10 yard gains on every play possible. This is toughened up with increase of difficulty, but still can be very easy against the less skilled defenses. As with the passing flaw, this can be toughened or weakened depending on the defensive skill.

When playing defense comes into play, there's one great thing; you can actually PLAY defense! Instead of losing control of the game on defense due to it being too difficult in some games, NFL 2K2 lets you do it all, be it heading to sack the quarterback, stuffing the run, or playing pass defense.

However it's not perfect; for one the amount of defensive plays per team is nowhere near as large as offensive plays. This doesn't give the game a lot of mixing up when you're playing on defense. Most of the time for me I just let the game pick me a random play to mix things up somehow.

Also, while playing defense, there are too many interceptions, partially due to somewhat lackadaisical computer offense AI. When Kurt Warner throws 6 picks against the Bears, there is something very wrong. What's worse is most of the interceptions are made by linebackers; Brian Urlacher lead the Bears in INT's by a wide margin in my season with them. Increasing the difficulty helps, as always, but there are still too many picks.

But it's also a joy to play 95% of the time; the computer actually does have a nice balance of running and passing plays, and won't give up the run game if they get behind early. Sometimes they even hammer it in with more force with their star backs. That's another cool thing; if you're playing against a team with a strong runner, there is a chance they'll have a great game against you. So if Jerome Bettis gets 100 yards on you, it's because he had a great game and beat your defense.

Better yet, the computer doesn't cheat at the end of the game. If you beat them, you beat them; plain and simple. This isn't like Madden where they'll complete every pass in the 4th quarter and recover almost all the onside kicks to cut a lead to nothing; instead the computer tries to beat you, fair and square. Amazing, isn't it? The computer capitalizes on your mistakes and makes you pay for them, especially late in the game.

In short, this game actually feels like football should. Funny, considering how many like to call NFL 2K2 an 11 on 11 version of NFL Blitz. Yet nobody says a word when the worst teams in the league turn into supermen while playing Madden football.

Visually, NFL 2K2 is the class of the PS2 football crop. Instead of looking like little midgets, the players look like football players, with realistic body sizes and heights. And compared to the Dreamcast version, they don't look disjointed with monkey faces. As a matter of fact, almost every player's face has been modeled accurately onto each player; you truly can pick out which player is Emmitt Smith and which is Marshall Faulk. And as the game goes on, the emotions of the players show, from the joy of making a catch to the feeling of pain as they get knocked on their ass. Also their uniforms will collect dirt and mud as they play. Simply put this is as realistic looking as possible, in every way.

Replays are an awesome spectacle; the close-ups of the detail on the players, from the Reebok logo on the jerseys to the exact lettering font on the back, and the cool lens flare reflecting on the screen, replays are actually worth sitting and watching, especially when you break open that big run as you shake off tacklers like they were stick-men. And when the color guy starts playing with his telestrator highlighting a player or situation, you'll have to wonder if this is just a game.

The stadiums are accurate down to the turf; stuff like grass looks completely different than turf does. As the game wears on, the grass in the middle of the field starts to wear down and turn colors while you play ? an awesome effect that doesn't just ?appear? it gradually wears on. The rows of fans are actually not cardboard cutouts, but low-polygon people; and most stadiums feature the skyline surrounding the area. However it seems the only building in Chicago is the Sears Tower.

Oh, and I'm fairly sure the first time you notice it getting dark overhead, and then realize it's the Goodyear Blimp floating over, your jaw will drop; it's THAT cool. Talk about attention to detail.

As usual, the sounds are up to Sega Sports' excellence ? despite being recycled from the Dreamcast version. The same old grunts and huts are used again, which isn't a huge deal but it kinda shows that VC doesn't really care about that sort of thing every year. The crowd as always is smart and knows when to boo and when to cheer like crazy. It's rather passable.

The play-by-play and color commentary is still top-notch, with a bunch of new lines along with the old lines. Dan Stevens and Peter O'Keefe (2 imaginary people played by actors) do the game, and unlike most football games; they actually seem like they're in the booth together, interacting like you might expect from a TV game. They do a fairly good job of repeating, and don't make many bad errors (like saying ?turn in for the regular season? after a game even though it's week 12). They did remove the ?Joy of Six? touchdown comment that I thought was kinda silly from the Dreamcast version of 2K2, however. Unfortunately, they don't bother to ride your ass about being up 40 points and then going for it on 4th down like prior games; gosh, I so miss being insulted by computer voices!

Bottom Line
Despite the flaws that NFL 2K2 has, it's easily the best football game this year. It's not as deep as Madden, but when you look at how a game plays, and how much fun it is to play a game of football, 2K2 runs off in that category. I can only imagine how good 2K3 will be, considering this game was somewhat of a rush. Sure the game is flawed, but every game has faults. But none of these flaws ruin the enjoyment of the game ? you'll learn to live with them because you're having so much fun playing. So if you're one of those who haven't played a NFL 2K game (because you didn't see a reason to support Dreamcast, why I'll never know), give this game a try with an open mind. You might wind up liking it.


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