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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Visual Concepts
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-4
August 14, 2002
All-Pro Football 2K8

All-Pro Football 2K8



ESPN NFL Football

More in this Series
Madden NFL 2003
NFL Blitz 20-03
NFL GameDay 2003
Madden NFL 2003
NFL GameDay 2003
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on July 29, 2002

Specials: Real life predictions: Yet another one-year wonder wins the Super Bowl?and John Madden will eat Al Michaels whole by the 3rd quarter.

Ever since John Madden Football hit the Sega Genesis 13 years ago, football games, especially NFL games, have been a primary asset of any game system. Given that the NFL is the most popular sport in America, it's not a surprise that a good lineup of football games (or one great one) is necessary to make a dent in the market for any console. Given the PlayStation 2's popularity, it's not surprising to see that no less than 4 high-profile football games are hitting the system in the month of August ? each one with a different goal and style. Needless to say, PS2 owners looking for a football game to tide them over in the 2002-2003 season will have plenty of options this fall.

Just what are these games? Read on.

Madden NFL 2003 - EA Sports ? Release: August 13, 2002
John Madden Football is the standard-bearer for football games ? difficult to argue given how long EA's series has been around. Year in and year out, Madden outsells all the other football games, based on the name value of both Madden himself and the EA Sports brand that's been around for ages. The series certainly has its detractors (myself included), but there's no debate that the series is very popular and is a well-made game of football. 2003's edition is no different.

Developer Tiburon has made many adjustments and enhancements for Madden 2003 ? some necessary, others just for kicks. First off, the ancient Pat Summerall (who's Social Security number is in the single digits) has been replaced by the younger (yet still pretty old) Al Michaels, now that Madden has left the cesspool of crap called Fox Network and joined ABC's Monday Night Football. The inclusion of Michaels makes the commentary 100 times better and more tolerable, because Michaels actually sounds excited to be calling football, while Summerall always sounded like it was below him to do silly play-by-play for a video game. Madden of course is as insane and senile as always though.

Also, Madden 2003 features online play for those interested in that ? and playing Madden online is a PS2-only feature. EA has had years of online experience with their PC games, so you can expect Madden 2003 to have a well-done interface for getting into the game and playing. It should track all kinds of stats besides wins and losses ? most importantly the number of disconnects, which should let you decide to play against the honest players instead of the lamers.

Besides that, Madden 2003 is mostly the same Madden most people love ? though the game will be sped up a little bit and hopefully the over-exaggerated momentum toned down a little bit. Of course the game is still solid in the state it's in, so not much is really needed to keep the game playing well. However, I'd like to see Tiburon make a bigger overhaul for next year to make the game completely fresh again.

NFL 2K3 ? Sega Sports ? Release: August 20, 2002
Last year's NFL 2K2 was, in my view, the best game of NFL football on the PS2. While the game was a little more on the arcade-ish side than Maddenites would like, there was little argument that the game was simply the most fun to play, game in and game out. It was lacking in a few areas, like the awful franchise mode, but the main meat of the game, the on-field action, was 2nd to none. With NFL 2K3, the game gets a total overhaul in more ways than one.

First off, the Franchise mode has received a complete revamping. Instead of the very basic and clunky interface of 2K2, NFL 2K3 features a Franchise mode very similar to the amazing one in the Xbox game World Series Baseball. As the GM you're in charge of each and every aspect of the game, including many off-season and pre-season activities like the draft, training camp, and scrimmages. From the looks of things, NFL 2K3 will have the absolute deepest Franchise mode around.

Like Madden, online play is included. Knowing Visual Concepts, online play should be extremely well done, and run perfectly on 56k for narrowband users ? thanks to all the experience they had on the Dreamcast. Things like disconnects will be tracked like Madden, so don't be cutting people off or nobody will want to play you.

Finally, NFL 2K3 has injected the name brand of the biggest name in sports ? ESPN. While having the ESPN license before was a black eye (because the games basically sucked), Sega's involvement with the name means that the game will finally be something ESPN can be proud of. Every little bit of the presentation that you know from ESPN is mixed in, like the menu screens to the in-game stat layers and scoreboards. No doubt, NFL 2K3 will have Madden beat in presentation as well.

The main gameplay will remain the same, but with a smidge of momentum mixed in. Not as much as Madden, but just a little bit to give 2K3 a little more realism than before. But still, expect the same fast-paced gameplay that made the game so great in years prior.

NFL GameDay 2003 ? SCEA ? August 12, 2002
Sony's 1st party GameDay series has fallen on hard times. Gone are the days when GameDay was Madden's equal on the PlayStation ? instead the 2001 and 2002 games on PlayStation 2 have been a disaster, with 2001 being one of the most piss-poor football games ever conceived. 2002 was a minor improvement ? but GameDay 2003 looks like it will actually be able to come off as a decent game. There's no doubt that the developers can get GameDay up to compete closely with EA and Sega ? it's just a matter of when they'll get there.

GameDay's biggest asset is the online play ? but with Madden and 2K3 featuring online play, this inclusion is more ?me too? than a big deal. Early details of online play aren't known, but most likely GameDay's online mode will feature the usual means of finding opponents and getting into the game.

The main engine of GameDay is finally getting a real makeover ? 2001 played like the PSX GameDay's, just with slightly enhanced graphics, and 2002 was a little more tweaked to play like a next-gen football game should. 2003 will finally be the year that GameDay sheds that and comes up with something different ? though the balance of gameplay should still be the sim/arcade feel that made the first 4 or 5 GameDay's some of the best football games on the PlayStation consoles.

One teeny factor that might jumpstart sales ? the price tag. While the other games here list for $50, SCEA's games all retail for $40. This means that some (perhaps less bright about game purchases) will see the lower price and go for the game. Of course, if the game winds up being pretty good, this will only help SCEA more ? but if it sucks like the last 2, then the price won't make much of a difference. Guess we'll see how that goes next month.

NFL Blitz 20-03 ? Midway ? August 12, 2002
The NFL Blitz series has always been a very popular alternative to the hardcore football simulations. First released in arcades as the NFL version of NBA Jam, Midway's Blitz goes for a more brutal and true arcade football experience and pulls it off well, creating not only a great multiplayer game, but one that is accessible to those who aren't major football fans and still want to play a football game that doesn't have a really steep learning curve.

Blitz 20-03 is the latest addition to the series. No longer is Blitz in the arcade (new versions anyway), but the PlayStation 2 game maintains all that was great about the arcade version, with a few new tweaks. No online will be found here, but Blitz '03 features a create-a-player for the first time, letting you make your own vicious quarterback-killing monster, or a sure-handed receiver with the strength to wipe out anyone in his path. The impact player idea from '02 is back, and Blitz maintains the 8 on 8 lineup from last year (the original didn't have so many players per side).

Multiplayer will surely be the best way to play Blitz ? though the one-player game will get more replay value now with the create-a-player mode, because you earn upgraded attributes with each victory up the ladder of all 32 teams (including the Houston Texans). But still playing with others is the way to fly ? even though the game becomes one of luck when experienced players go head to head, it's still better than the infamous cheating computer that has driven many people away from Blitz in the past. Still, Blitz is the only real alternative to the other 3 simulation football games, which of course begs the question ? when will Tecmo resurrect the Tecmo Super Bowl series?

What about the PlayStation 1?
For those poor souls lacking a PlayStation 2, you may wonder what the original PlayStation has to offer football fans in a time where the PSOne is on its $50 deathbed. Thankfully, SCEA and EA Sports aren't depriving you of a football game, as NFL GameDay 2003 and Madden 2003 will be making their way to Sony's ancient console. Nothing really will be different from last year (which was the same as the 2001 games, which was the same as the 2000 games?the price of playing games on an old console that's been phased out by the manufacturer), besides updated rosters and new stadiums/teams. Most likely this will be the final year these games are released for the PlayStation ? but that's what was said last year, and the year before. Guess we'll find the answer to that when we do this again in 2003.

Closing Thoughts
Given that football is the New Pastime these days, it's not surprising to see so many NFL games hitting the system this coming month. All of them have something to offer a football fan, from a pure simulation, to pure arcade, to deep Franchises and online play. Picking a game may be as simple as personal preference for veterans of video game football, but anyone else might be hard pressed to pick out the one that's right for them. But no matter what NFL game you may choose, rest assured that each of them will be enjoyable in some way, giving you your money's worth.

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