ESPN NFL Primetime 2002
This year Madden, and to some extent, NFL 2k1 will get some tough competition from ESPN Primetime, Konami's long-awaited re-emergence into the gridiron arena. Featuring commentary from Chris Berman and Tom jackson, expect the glossy treatment featuring all manner of ESPN logos in your face.
The jury is out on how the game actually plays, but the visuals seem to be in place, even at this pre-alpha state. Konami is putting serious effort into more than just the graphics though, with a full-fledged general manager mode, full season mode, practice camps and various tournament options. Konami definitely has a fighting chance since both Primetime and Madden are technically first-generation efforts, but who's gonna score the big touchdown remains to be seen. ESPN Primetime is due this winter.
Download ESPN NFL Primetime 2002
If you are a fan of football games, the Xbox has been delivering the goods. You have versions of Madden, Fever and NFL 2k2, all of which can be argued as the supreme gridiron king. Not wanting to be left out in the cold, Konami cranks up their ESPN license and ports NFL Primetime 2002 from the PS2 to the Xbox. Did they fix the problems that plagued the PS2 version or did they give us a straight port? While they made some improvements, this game does not hold a candle to the big boys.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Any gamer that lives and dies by their sports games will tell you that it is very difficult for a new franchise to have success early on. There are very few games that have pulled it off (NFL Fever), NFL 2k2 so it should come as no surprise that Primetime falls short in almost every category when compared to the other football offerings.
The first, and probably the biggest reason the game does not hold up is that it just does not feel like you are in a football game. After calling a play, the camera shows the players walking up to the line at an angle. As soon as the quarterback gets under center, the camera abruptly changes to a view behind the QB. Other games work around this by having a natural flowing TV style camera presentation. The camera would slowly sweep around behind the QB. In this game, it really felt like they decided not to worry about making the presentation feel realistic and it really detracts from the game. The above criticism, however, would be forgivable if the gameplay was solid. While some aspects of the gameplay were solid, other aspects just completely missed the mark. The running game was probably the strongest feature as it was fairly well done. Hitting the holes with a speed burst was pretty satisfying. On the other hand, the passing game was absolutely abysmal and frustrating. Get used to hitting your receivers in the chest with passes only to have the ball bounce 10 feet in the air and then land harmlessly on the ground. It got so bad that I would almost never throw passes because I knew I had just as good of a chance, if not better, to run for it.
The game did feature a "catch" button but it never seemed to make a whole lot of difference if it was pressed or not. The game also features tight controls which helps enhance the solid running game. The players acted quite responsive and the control scheme was laid out nicely. Spins, jukes, speed bursts and hurdles were all effective moves. The players did react in a more arcade-style way, stopping on a dime and switching directions but it fit the flow of the game. Graphics Football games have come a long way and my expectations are very high when it comes to the graphics. While I won't say Primetime was terrible, it is still not up to par with the other football titles out there. There were some minor clipping problems as arms would magically disappear through legs of other players and the like, but it was not too terrible. Some of the animations were bad and some were decent. I particularly enjoyed it when a ball carrier was tripped up and they were stumbling forward. I really got the feeling that my player was reacting and stumbling like they would in real life. Since this game carries the ESPN license, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson do the play-by-play. While Chris Berman's act is getting a bit tired, overall, the announcers do a decent job. There are times where they sound a bit robotic but they were usually pretty accurate in their calls and the commentary was informative. Bottom Line
I honestly could not recommend this game over any of the other football games on the Xbox right now. While part of the reason is because this game has some flaws, the other reason is that the crop of football games out there is just so good. This game really lacks the small things that make you feel like you are in a football game. The blocking that is done so well in NFL Fever is nowhere to be found and the level of realism found in Madden is never approached. Hopefully they will build on this year and make a game that competes with the big boys next year.