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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
9.5
Visuals
9.0
Audio
9.5
Gameplay
10
Features
9.5
Replay
9.5
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Sega
DEVELOPER:
Visual Concepts
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-4
RELEASE DATE:
January 07, 2002
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 Ryan Smotherman  on January 30, 2002

Full Review: Good things come to those who wait.


I tell ya what, Visual Concept's Xbox conversion of their premiere sports franchise really threw me for a loop. Why's this you ask? Having played only the Dreamcast versions of the series, including this one, I never expected such an enhanced, well-playing game. And I'm not just talking about the graphics either. This game is choked full of some nice tidbits that make it a totally different experience from the Dreamcast days.

Let's go ahead and get the graphical aspects of the game out of the way. In comparison, the Dreamcast version looks more like you ugly aunt Betsy, while this Xbox version is more on the lines with Alyssa Milano (growl). At the core it's a port of the Playstation 2 version that hit the stores back in October, minus the ugly clipping and slowdown problems that plagued it. So folks, this is certainly the best looking version of the game you're going to get (as it should be). All 22 characters look good and move as smoothly as ever, the characters that compose the sidelines are now in full 3-D, and the turf/grass textures a mind-blowingly realistic. And if it's speed you want, NFL 2K2 has you covered, this games flies at a rock-steady framerate. There are also a few little extra details that are sure to impress. Including some really neat-o stadium light effects and during outdoor day games you'll actually see a shadow of the blimp that is flying above you. Cool stuff.

Even though this game is gorgeous, it must be known that it doesn't really take full advantage of the Xbox's mighty hardware, and games like NFL Fever and Madden do barely edge it out. There are a few problems that hinder the visuals and stop them from being perfect. This includes a pretty tame crowd, the player's faces look fugly, some jaggies are apparent, and to put it simply ? the Xbox is just plain capable of adding tons of more details. However, this just gets me even more excited about how amazing next year's version will look.

While we're touching on the senses, let us discuss the game's overall sound department. This portion of the game has probably gone through the least amount of changes, which is definitely a good thing, as that has always been a strong point in the series. Dan and Peter are on the ball once again with their flawless announcing skills. The perfect balance of witty remarks and spot-on play-by-play is second only to none. Almost makes you laugh at Madden's senile-ness? hahaha. Not to mention the robot man found in NFL Fever. The impact sounds of players hitting one another seems brutal as ever, and players still talk a bunch of smack during the game. In all, NFL 2K2 sounds are on par with anything the competition has to offer and even better in many respects.

Now, what do you get when you combine a flawless passing game, a seamless running game, and the most responsive controls around? Why one of the best playing football games in the business no less. And all this can be found in 2K2. The passing game has been greatly improved when compared to its Dreamcast brethren. If you read my review back in September, you'll recall me mentioning that passing was a little difficult and that balls popped out of the players hands far too often. Thankfully, these two problems are mostly non-existent ? the passing game is much more efficient and the ball only pops out of the players hands maybe 2 or 3 times per game (instead of per quarter). This easier passing equals a more entertaining experience and greatly increases your chances for some huge plays. Which in turn equals more points on the board.

I'm sure you've heard this before ? the NFL 2K series leans a little more towards an arcadey feel when compared to its main competition ? Madden and Fever, who opt to go for a more simulation, momentum based system. Of course, this all comes down to personal preference. For me, I can't stand how the players move in Madden; it feels as if I don't have total control over them. This is one of the main reasons I love the 2K2 series so much. As I said, the controls are extremely responsive and result in a feeling of total control. In part, this is what makes the running game so great; being able to turn at the drop of a dime equals more yards and a running system that works. O yeah, and having the ability to stiff-arm, juke, spin, and hurdle helps out a great deal.

While things are pretty much the same on the defensive side of the ball (not much to change really), you'll be happy to know that the special teams portion of the game seems to have been improved upon. Although I have yet to do this, it actually feels as if it's possible to return a kickoff/punt back for a touchdown. Many times I've actually returned the ball to the 50 on a kickoff and I've also had like 40-yard punt returns. Additionally, when receiving a punt, instead of the camera doing a 180 as you catch the ball, it now immediately goes so a behind the back view so you can see where the players are coming from. It took a while to get used to, but I did find this to be an improvement, albeit a small one. Aside from a different graphic that displays your kick power, the kicking game hasn't changed at all, and when on defense it still fells as if it's almost impossible to block a punt or field goal attempt. But in all, improvements are aplenty.

You'll also be pleased to hear that the computer A.I. is impeccable as ever. And face it, this is the most imperative part of a football game. If the players don't respond well to the ball and do what they're supposed to, then it leaves for a game with gaps and less playability. If you don't have any buddies around to play against, don't worry. The computer puts up a pretty good fight, and all the difficulty levels seem to be well balanced.

One thing that really surprised me about the game is just how revamped the playbooks are. The Dreamcast version's playbook was essentially the same as in 2K1; this was somewhat of a disappointment that seems to have now been made up for. Visual Concepts went in and overhauled just about everything: took out some plays, threw in tons of new plays, and even changed how you select them on the defensive side of the ball. I think it goes without saying, but this leaves for a very fresh experience for those of us who've been playing the DC version.

As for the gameplay modes, they are virtually identical to the previous installments. You have your standard Season, Playoffs, Practice, Exhibition, and Franchise modes. Missing, of course, is the online play, but that should present itself in the next installment, seeing as Microsoft's online network will be alive and kicking by then.

Bottom Line
I really just can't say enough good things about this game. It went so far above and beyond my expectations that it's implausible. Considering the football season is over, the game is a latecomer, however, its lightening quick, dead-on gameplay should be experienced by anyone who loves the sport of football, even if you've already played Madden or Fever to death. And I think it's pretty safe to say that this Xbox version is the pinnacle of one of the best football series ever created. There's a new sheriff in town, indeed.


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