Jimmy Johnson's VR Football 98

a game by VR Sports
Platform: PSX
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

Move over, Madden and GameDay, because Jimmy Johnson is bringing his coaching skills to the video gridiron. Backed by the up-and-coming VR Sports team, VR Football 98 tries to take on the seasoned veterans in an attempt to dethrone the kings. Will this game be the Cinderella story of the 98 football season, or will it end up in the cellar?

VR Football 98 screams out winner from the get-go. We are talking a totally revolutionary passing interface, the 1997 rosters, one step play calling and even tips from Jimmy Johnson himself. The most original feature of this game is that you can actually draw up your own plays and save them so you can now become the offensive coordinator. If it were not for Madden and Gameday, this game would have been the best football game available. Too bad the standards have been set so high.

Gameplay

What can I say about the gameplay? This is a football game. You have 11 guys on offense against 11 guys on defense. The object is for the offense to move the ball down the field and eventually get into the end zone. The object for the defense is to stop the offense from scoring. That pretty much sums up the gameplay in a nutshell.

The keys to good football games come in the areas of realism and control. Ever since the beginning of video football, more plays, options and controls have been added. This year is the first year we have seen polygonal players which has turned things up to a totally different level. Unfortunately, VR Football 98 has stuck with sprite based players so the developers needed to focus on the afore mentioned keys to keep this game from being a real stinker.

This game has two features that really set it apart from the other football games on the market. The first feature is the ability to create your own plays. How many times have you thought to yourself that you can't find the right play? Don't worry because if you can't find it, create it. You can set the plays and add them to your play book. The best part about it is that you can save the plays to the memory card so you don't have to keep recreating them.

The other feature is the unique passing interface. The passing interface allows you to select how much you lead the receivers or under throw the passes. What happens is when you pass the ball, a trajectory arc is drawn. You can use this arc to determine the point in which the ball will come down. This means that if you see your receiver is breaking past the defender, you can lead him by moving the arc farther down field. If the defense has the downfield position, you can shorten your arc and under throw the receiver. I have heard people bashing the hell out of this system because you can tell who the ball is being thrown to. I think this argument is true in a way but if you think about it, once you throw the ball in other football games, you can tell who the pass is going to also. The only difference is that you don't see the ball trajectory.

Once you learn how to use the passing interface, the game becomes a lot more fun to play. If you don't learn how to use it or if you don't ever get the hang of it, your passing game will suck. After you get some practice, you will learn how to read defenses and know when to over or under throw your receivers. This definitely adds to the strategic factor of the game.

This game did have some little things that I thought were pretty cool as well. For example, a thin line was drawn across the screen that marked the line of scrimmage. Another line was drawn across the field for the first down marker. Since you usually can't see the whole field and the sidelines at the same time, it can be difficult to tell if you have made a first down or not. With the line, you will know if you need to dive for the last yard for the first or if you have already got the first down. This is a minor detail but it was helpful.

This game really had two glaring weaknesses. The first weakness was in the AI. You could find too many plays that would work for 15 yards a pop. This is one area that the other big boys have beefed up and I would hope that the 99 version of this game will address this problem. I would rather have a close game that was challenging than have a blowout where my running back has 425 yards and 6 touchdowns. That just makes the game more of a joke than an actual football game.

Graphics

Along comes weakness number 2. The graphics looked so 16-bit that it was not even funny. The only difference was in the amount of colors and the animated tackles. To a casual passer by, this game would look like I pulled out the old Genesis and popped in Madden 92 or something. Sure, it did not really hurt the gameplay, but when you have other football games out there that look so much better, your expectations are heightened. I warn you of getting them too high on this game, because you will be disappointed.

Bottom Line

This is a decent first effort for the VR Sports team. This game does have some decent gameplay and you will have some fun. The problem is that the competition has just set the standards at such a high level, it is difficult for a first-timer to compete. I really like some of the innovative features of the game but they still need some refining. The basic gameplay engine is pretty solid if they would only beef up the AI and graphics and tweak the passing interface a little to make it more difficult to see who the ball is going to. I think this game could be stronger next year. If you want an arcade style football game, I suggest you rent this to see if it fits your bill.

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