Aaaaagghhh... Steve Young just put me in a full nelson!
The big hits, the slick moves, the scoring, the taunts, and the end zone dances. That's what most football lovers crave and that's what 989 Sports has delivered in the sequel to NFL Xtreme. Basically stripping down football to its most vulgar, violent, and exciting aspects, NFL Xtreme 2 is the NBA Jam of football. But then again, so is NFL Blitz.
A couple of years back NFL Blitz debuted in the arcades and was an instant success. It offered a new twist on the idea of exaggerated professional sports. As is the formula for success in the arcades, emphasis was taken away from strategy and focused on the action. When it came time for home console ports, NFL Xtreme tried to jump the gun on Blitz and steal the market - but it didn't quite do the job. Of course, a sequel is the just what the doctor ordered. But did they add enough this time around to beat the master?
No, not really. But this is certainly a better game than the original.
NFL Xtreme 2 is played with five players per team and all of the NFL teams are represented with their actual players. Choosing plays is fast and pressured because you're only allotted about 10 video-game seconds (as opposed to 'real' seconds). Instead of the standard ten yard first downs, each first down is supposed to be 20 yards. But the 20-yard markers are pre-designated, so if you gain enough yards on a play your next first down may likely be less than 20 yards away. Most importantly, there are no flags or refs. Thus, you can hit after the play has stopped, you can interfere with passes, and you can put sleeper holds on the offense. I prefer the body slam.
Yes, that's why it's called NFL Xtreme. Anything goes, the scoring is fast and furious, and the taunts and dances come from all directions. There is a turbo button for the times you need an extra burst of speed or enough strength to midget-toss Emmit Smith. You can also perform the ever-impressive jump-flip to escape the 'D'.
In addition to a 'quick game' mode where you just choose teams and play, you have the option of playing a full NFL season, the playoffs, or an eight-team tournament. Pretty self-explanatory.
This year's version of Xtreme has smoother graphics than the original. Since there are only a total of 10 players on the field, there's a lot more polygons to go around per person. Thus, there are much better looking players than in normal football games like Madden or Gameday. Also, less players moving around means faster frame rates. And this time around, the players sometimes take off their helmets and you can see that their true-to-life images have been mapped onto the heads.
The sounds are pretty standard. There are taunts supplied from 23 different NFL players (including Terrell Davis, Antonio Freeman, and John Elway), but you probably won't be able to recognize any of them. It really sounds like only two different guys did the voice-overs. On the plus side, there are plenty of taunts, so it doesn't really get as annoying as Madden's repetitive jabbering. Other pluses are the great moans, groans, and bone-crunching noises. The game really sounds like it hurts.
Thanks to the quick frame rates, the gameplay is fast and frantic. The moves are easy to perform, icon passing is as simple as always, and the controls are tight and responsive. The only complaint here are that there are no jukes or dives.
The game AI is pretty smart. It calls time outs when needed and takes the big chances when the time comes. It will give you a run for the money.
So everything sounds pretty good so far... are there any reasons why you shouldn't buy this game right now? Well, first of all, this is definitely an arcade-style game, which means there is little in the replay value department. Sure, it's fun to play when you're waiting for a movie to start, but I don't think you'll be playing this like you played Madden '99.
There are a bunch of annoying quirks that hamper the game. For one, I don't like the way first downs work. They're just too easy to get and lead to easy scores. Another problem (also seen in the first Xtreme) is that there is no forward movement of the ball when a player goes down. The ball is always downed where the player's feet are instead of where he lays down the ball (which he doesn't do at all). It's frustrating when you see turnovers and missed first downs because the ball is downed in the wrong place.
The gripes continue. Team statistics seemed to be a bit off. For example, the Browns are apparently the worst team in the league (according to the game statistics), but they play a hell of a lot better than the Dolphins. The inconsistency is annoying. And finally... I think scoring is WAY too easy. Maybe it was intentional, but scoring is so simple that the outcome of most games is determined by whomever scores last. Again, I think this has much to do with the way first downs are made.
As a sequel, NFL Xtreme 2 more than makes up for its lackluster rookie year. This is as good as the original NFL Blitz. However, NFL Blitz came out last year, so you do the math. Wait, I'll do it for you. If you liked Xtreme the first time around, then by all means check out the sequel. But fans of Blitz and those new to the whole concept shouldn't waste their money on this one with Blitz '99 right around the corner.