Fumbling its way from the TV to the CPU.
With technology reaching new heights by the hour, things just aren’t as easy anymore (pretty ironic).
Case in point: when my editor (a most patient man) handed
me a copy of ABC Interactive’s Monday Night Football ’98 to review, it
wasn’t until a full month later that I was able to really play it. And
with all the hardware and software and joystick configuration problems that
I encountered along the way, I’m pretty amazed that I was able to review
this game at all. Don’t get me wrong, ABC’s Monday Night Football ’98 may
be the most strategically advanced game on the market, but in this case, it
seems as if the production staff has lost sight of the main idea of a video
game – to play and enjoy.
When I first tried to
play this game, I encountered several bizarre glitches. And after contacting
technical support, I was informed that this game has an upgrade patch at their
website that you need to download and then unzip. To be fair, the patch repairs
most of the glitches.. But what if you want to play this game and you don’t
have the Internet capabilities to download their patch? Unless you don’t mind
having your offensive tackle run back kicks, watching replays of plays that
never occurred, or being unable to control the away team during league play,
you need to be online. If you’re not online (ie. you’re using a friend’s computer,
a work computer, etc.) you’ve just got to deal with the glitches, and this game
is swimming in them. Simply put, the game was released too early and should
have been tested more thoroughly.
I mentioned before that this game is advanced strategically. This is an
understatement. ABC Interactive’s Monday Night Football ’98 offers more
advanced options than probably any other football game out there. If you
know of any aspiring defensive coordinators, look no further for their
holiday gift. The instruction manual exceeds 100 pages. And it’s not
as if it’s 100 pages of useless filler material: you need most of the info
to play this game.
One of the best things about the game is that if you want to revise one
of the plays, like having your receiver run a post instead of an out
pattern, it’s just a mouse click away. But at the same time, some NFL
coaches would have a tough time following this stuff. For instance, you
can change your team’s offensive and defensive profiles. How? I don’t
know – but apparently you can.
The gameplay itself seems to be of secondary importance.
It’s fun, and at first, pretty competitive. But as soon as
you get the hang of it, you’re demolishing your opponents by halftime. I
once beat the Super Bowl Champion Packers by a score of 63-3. And I was
Chicago – a team that hasn’t won a game this year. I also noticed that teams
don’t always follow their realistic tendencies, even though you are
supposedly playing with (and against) their actual playbooks. For
instance, when playing against the Cincinnati Bengals, whose quarterback
throws the long ball, they didn’t throw over twenty yards once. Where’s
the deep pass? In fact, no team has completed a bomb against me. It could
be, of course, my stellar defense. But I doubt it. The coverage downfield
is just too tight, and defensive backs stick to deep receivers like glue.
So there are very few, if any, deep passes.
The graphics are decent
in Monday Night Football ’98. The details are sharp and the picture only
pixelates when you get an extreme close up. The players movements are very good…especially
on offense, where the running backs can spin, juke, jump, straight arm, or just
barrel over you if you’re in their way. Unfortunately, all of the players have
about the same body type, and they all look white. This detracts from the reality
of the experience.
Some of the game options are nice. You can change the weather for each
exhibition game. The league games have random weather settings, which adds
a nice touch to the realism. Also, there are 10 camera angles with which you can
view the game and instant replays. And the replay setup is the best
I’ve seen. It’s like watching game films. Not only can you view the play
frame by frame, but you can also fast forward to another play altogether.
In football, few broadcasting crews are as well respected as The Monday
Night Football team of Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf, and Frank Gifford. In
ABC Interactive’s MNF ’98, they try to keep you on top of the action
throughout the game. They’re okay at first, but after you hear every one
of the sound bytes they recorded, you’re thankful that you can turn these
guys off. And often, the inane comments they blurt out (mostly Gifford and
Dierdorf) are at the wrong times and in the wrong situations. I once
marched 90 yards down the field, ran over their defensive line to score a
touchdown, only to hear Dierdorf bark out, “This defense is playing like a
fine tuned machine”. Hey Dan, wake up buddy!
ESPN’s Chris Berman gives his two cents at halftime of each game. One of
the best in the business, Berman is pretty much useless here. Aside from
having to click your mouse on him after every sentence to hear analysis,
when he does offer his insight, it sounds terrible. When referring to the
teams, he doesn’t say the team’s name, but “the home team”, or “the away
team”. You’d think that with all that went into this game, they could at
least have sound bytes of the teams’ names. Hmmm…or maybe you need to
download those as well.
I was pretty excited when I received Monday Night Football ’98 to review.
That feeling wore off quickly when, halfway through a game, I’d get an
error message saying that “This program has performed an illegal operation
and must be shut down. If the problem persists, contact the vendor.” All
I’d done was check my player roster. What’s so illegal about that? And
that happened a dozen times – the kind of thing that turns an enjoyable
experience into a nightmare. If you buy ABC Interactive’s Monday Night
Football ’98, you may enjoy it once you’re able to play it. And after the
month that it takes, it’ll take you only five or six games before you
completely slaughter your opponent. I’d advise a more complete product, perhaps Front Page Sports: Football ’97.