A triumphant return.
NFL 2K marks the reemergence of Sega Sports, the once proud publisher of quality sports games for the 16-bit Genesis. The death of the Saturn and the demise of Sega from the video game scene meant curtains for Sega Sports, who found themselves without a system for which to make games and without a consumer base to support them.
The times have-a-changed, however, and now Sega Sports finds itself staring at a dreamy new system and embracing a newfound desire to get back on top. And if NFL 2K is any indication of what's in store, it won't take them long to reach that summit. This is, without a doubt, the single greatest football game to grace a console and is reason alone to go out and buy a Dreamcast right away. Hike!
By now, we've seen a few Dreamcast games. We know how powerful this system is, we know how impressive the games can look, and we know that we're dealing with a new breed of gaming. But, this one is just awe-inspiring. At times, you'll actually forget your playing a game . . . and this time, I mean it.
NFL 2K truly shows off the power of the Dreamcast with absolutely stunning graphics. Over 1300 motion-captured moves only begin to tell the tale of this polygonal feast. NFL 2K uses a physics system rivaling that of a high-end flight sim. Players react with acute detail to hits and collisions, ricocheting off one another without a glitch or pause between animations. The ball will actually land in a receiver's hand; otherwise, it will bounce off his arm/leg/helmet and react accordingly. Facial mapping and real-life body sizes are here for every player in the league. All 31 stadiums are recreated faithfully, down to the fan created signs and city specific billboards. Play in varying degrees of rain or snow and witness the frosty breath in cold weather. I could go on, but I might break a blood vessel. Hands down, this is the best looking console game I've ever seen.
In all fairness, some of this can be attributed to the system the game is running on . . . but who cares? It still looks like a million bucks, and until we see a better looking game, I'm giving credit where credit is due - to the developers, Visual Concepts.
We all know that graphics only go so far in a sports game, and, thankfully, NFL 2K puts its money where its mouth is with terrific gameplay. You'll find all the basic game modes, including Exhibition, Season, Tournament, and Playoffs. You can also Practice offensive sets or special moves, check out a Tutorial to get a better feel, or start a Fantasy season complete with full league draft.
The game excels in its dedication to realism. Teams actually play the way they're supposed to - the 49ers tend to pass well, while the Steelers give it to Bettis and get out of the way. Offensive linemen will pick up blitzers and block them. Running backs will improvise if caught in a bad situation. More than any other football title, NFL 2K immerses you in the essence of the game.
This realism carries over into the AI, which doesn't seem to fall for the same tricks over and over again. This means you have to work to keep up with the computer. If you get burned on running plays time and time again, the CPU will keep running the ball. Likewise, if you keep trying the same couple of plays, you'll find the computer intercepting the ball and sacking the QB. The game actually learns from your habits and uses them to beat you down, which forces you to rethink your game plan. Calling the intelligence 'artificial' just doesn't seem fair.
The control is also done well. Most of the basic moves are here, like spins, hurdles and dives. One neat addition is 'Maximum Passing,' in which you use the analog pad to slightly alter the placement of your pass. This is handy when you have to beat tough coverage - just add a little more to the pass to make it a foot race, or throw it short to make your receiver come back to the ball.
I also applaud the play selection. Unlike the mini-windows you usually cycle through, plays are set against the actual field. This really helps in play selection. Need a first down? Just one glance will show you whether or not your pass routes will eclipse the first down marker.
As an added benefit, NFL 2K includes the unique option of VMU playcalling. This is particularly useful in a two-player game, as plays are shown on each player's VMU rather than on the TV. However, the full passing/running routes are too complex to be shown on the little LCD screen, so it's just a text option. Good for experts, but novices should stick to the standard.
More glowing praise must be given to the sound. NFL 2K features over 11,000 different announcer comments, the most in any game, ever. The chatter gets a bit irritating, but it does in real life as well, so no points off.
No game is complete without a player/play creator, and again NFL 2K scores big. You can customize just about everything in your player, from his faceguard (over 30 choices) to whether or not he wears a nose strip. Good for the guys with allergies, I guess.
So, is there anything wrong here? Frankly, the only thing I can think of to gripe about is the inordinate amount of VMU memory blocks this thing takes up. In fact, you need 1 entire VMU worth of free blocks to save your game. Ouch. However, it's worth the extra money to just go buy a new VMU.
Also, I should note that the difficulty level is high. The game is default to Rookie setting, but once you beat that (and you will), the jump to Pro is enormous. The game suddenly starts walloping you. I tried one game at the All-Star level (the highest setting) and picked up negative yardage. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Football has always translated well as a video game. The venerable Madden series, the upstart Gameday franchise, and the impressive Quarterback Club games have elevated gridiron gaming above most other sports. With strong graphical traditions and new advances in gameplay, these titles represent the highest achievements in pigskin programming. . . until now. NFL 2K has raised the bar in football video game design with astonishing graphics, tremendous gameplay, uncanny realism, and endless depth. Even non-sports fans should check this one out.
Psssst....hey, Sega....welcome back!