The game doesn’t bite. The announcer does.
Who can resist a free poke at Marv Albert these days? Certainly not me. Luckily for Acclaim, NFL Quarterback Club ’98 has more to offer than Albert’s bedroom voice commentary. And they better – producing a football game to compete with the long-standing Madden line in the inaugural year of N64 gridiron is no easy task. But no one told that to Acclaim. Quarterback Club ’98 is a good versatile game that will provide season after season of bone crunching fun.
Noticeably missing in this game is an opening movie, which is okay by me. Opening scenes take up substantial programming time and cartridge memory space, and we really only watch them once. QBC ’98 forgoes the glamour and gets right down to business with all the pre-game options: take charge of a team’s roster by trading, releasing, and signing new players (watch the salary cap), enter a cheat code (what’s a cheat code?), take a closer look at the NFL’s current starting QB’s, start a new season, or just jump into a quick game before going to class (or work, what have you). Quarter length can be set to 1, 2, 5, 10, or the standard 15 minutes, and QBC ’98 gives you control over the very fabric of time itself – ‘real’ minutes or accelerated. You make the call.
As you would expect from a game with this title, QBC gives options to the Quarterback that you can otherwise only get on the field. Some of these options include: 5 programmable audibles and 21 “hyper” (preset) audibles, the ability to send players in motion, call a hard count to draw a penalty, pump fake to get a man open, or throw the ball away to avoid the sack. Other players on the field have multiple moves as well. As with most football games you get turbo, dive, spin, and hurdle; but if you order now at no extra charge you will receive: the up-and-over dive, the forearm shiver (not to be confused with the stiff-arm), a juke move, the power to hold an opponent, and the Almighty One Handed Grab. Remember, this is not a limited time offer.
So let’s be positive before a few “constructive” criticisms. You get touch-pass control, allowing lobs to bullets (as much of a bullet as some QB’s can throw). The viewing angle of gameplay can be manipulated in a variety of ways, from action-cam (behind and above the QB) to blimp-cam to ‘create-a-cam’ (cool!) and more. The viewing options in instant replay mode are even more amazing; with zoom capabilities, you can get right into a play and check out a striped ball or amazing catch from every conceivable angle- even from in-between the players making the play.
The animation during gameplay has both pros and cons. On the positive side, the players are less blocky and less bulky, with motions more realistic than some other games out there. When the huddle is over, these guys strut and sway their way up to the line, as opposed to skating up to the line as in those “other” games (okay, go check out Madden 64 already). Once the linemen settle, however, you may notice some similarity in their form. In fact, everyone looks just like everyone else. Call me a perfectionist, but Bruce Smith just shouldn’t be the same size as Don Bebe.
Player celebrations, referee animation, and commentary can be switched on or off, but for I’d like to see a “realistic” mode. Again, perfectionism, but Jerry Rice just doesn’t pound his chest, do a back flip, or shake himself silly after a TD pass reception. I’d also love it if Bryan Cox would coming running out and flip off a fan, or for Emmit Smith to get an unsportsman-like conduct penalty for removing his helmet.
A playbook included in the instruction manual would help in terms of getting used to the game, but the multicolored play diagrams help guide the eye toward the hole a RB needs to hit, or what area a CB might be covering in a zone defense. Speaking of the play calling menu, it is interesting to note that the computer does not force you to the line when playing defense; it is only when both sides have decided that play and the play clock will continue. The clock is in effect while playing offense vs. the machine, however. Also, depending on your settings, some information will pop-up after a play (2nd and 7, or whatever) and does not go away until you push a button – this stops the clock as well. It would be nice if these stoppages of play could be controlled as an option, but alas, there are some things that even a master of time fabric cannot control.
Overall, this is as complete a football game as we’ve seen, and easily the best one out for the N64. With super hi resolution graphics (they’re set at 640×480, the first time this has been done for a TV) and solid gameplay, NFL Quarterback Club ’98 is a great title and worth the money.