Sing it with me, Blink 182 fans. "All the...small things..ba ba ba ba da da da..."--you know the rest. It should be the theme song for the comparison between NFL 2K2 on PS2 and the latest, and best 2K2 on the Xbox. It's the small, almost transparent, changes that offer a real difference on Microsoft's black box. First off, everything just looks solid. Flicker, flutter, jaggies and interlacing aside, I knows me a good-lookin' game when I see one, and this 2K2 is the best of any console version. It gets even better once everything is kicked into action. The camera doesn't suddenly pan with the ball upfield as in the PS2 version. There's also none of the choppiness you might have seen on PSa, Here, everything operates like Brett Favre running a two-minute drill. It's all about precision, baby. Control is razor-sharp and more suited to displaying some nice twitch skills. That's in stark contrast to Madden, where players respond as if they're in the gravitational pull of a black hole. NFL 2K2 tries to mix the best elements of sim and action-style football, and I'll vouch that it does so admirably. There are some features that need ramping up, and the single-player experience is one of them. Franchise menus and options aren't conducive to long-term fun. The passing game is also fickle; long routes often seem cut short. Other than that, this is a good reason to extend your football season.
I take back what I said about the Xbox being no better than the PS2 for sports games. After my encounter with this NFL 2K2,1 see the 'box in a whole new, glorious light. Seriously, this bailer runs so well on the Xbox, I doubt I'll pick up the PSa version again. Its inspired mix of fluid animation, pinpoint control, and big-play potential is just too attractive to dismiss. Kill-joys will complain that the players turn on a dime, but don't you listen to them. Once you get proficient with the control stick, you'll appreciate the exaggerated cutting ability. It's all about faking out would-be tackles with your crazy-quick moves. Xbox + NFL 2K2 = love.
It's only taken a few months for the Xbox's football field to get more crowded than a Taliban bomb shelter, but this fantastic 2K2 game still stands out. Sega spent a few months improving upon the great (but flawed) PS2 version, and the result is more drastic than six months of Tae-Bo; this Xbox edition is a finely tuned machine. The great A.I. and lightning-fast game speed pulls off an uncommon balance of realistic football with an arcade edge. The only downers are the clunky menus and a Franchise mode that makes managing a fictitious team seem harder than the real deal. Luckily, the sweet gameplay makes these flaws very easy to overlook.
Download NFL 2K2
Each year as the leaves start to change color and fall from the branches, another phenomenon of nature occurs -- this year's crop of pigskin titles drops into the local videogame store. Okay, maybe it is not so much a phenomenon of nature as it is a phenomenon of rabid sports gamers, but work with me on this one. Anyway, some football franchises stick and we gamers are treated with the latest version. Such is the case with Sega Sports and the NFL 2k franchise. While this may or may not be the last year for this excellent franchise on the Dreamcast, it is the only football game left in town.
If you have never played the NFL 2K football games (which would be a huge surprise since it has really been the only football game for the Dreamcast), let me give you a quick overview. The game features all NFL teams, licenses and players. That means you get real stadiums, custom playbooks, schedules that match the actual NFL team, authentic logos and uniforms. The NFL 2K series is also the only console football game that lets you dial up your buddies and play online against them. Oh yeah, and they are a hell of a lot of fun to play too.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This is a football game. That should get you headed in the right direction. If you are not familiar with American football, this is not the place to be looking for insight. I assume if you have made it this far, you at least understand what you are getting yourself into, so it should be safe to jump right into the huddle feet first. When it comes to football games, there are two distinct styles of gameplay. Some games tend to be more of a simulation of the sport (think Madden for PS2). Other games lean towards more action, high speeds and slightly less realism (think GameDay for PSX). I would classify NFL 2K2 as a simulation with just enough elements of exaggerated action to keep the game fun. I have always preferred the GameDay games over the Madden games (until the PS2 version of GameDay... shudder) because they were easy to pick up and play. I never had to sit down and study a manual just to run a single running play for positive yards. NFL 2K2 is one of the easiest games to jump right in and start playing with little or no prep time, which is a huge gainer in my eyes.
Another thing that really determines the success or failure of a football game is responsiveness of the controls. There is nothing worse than trying to make your player turn and have the sluggish controls not register your input. NFL 2K2 does a great job of balancing the response to your control inputs while keeping it somewhat realistic. You will not stop on a dime, switch directions and not slow down. The game just feels like you would expect a real football player to realistically accomplish. I really felt if my player did not make the move I was attempting, I must have done something wrong.
The AI was also pretty good for the most part. Money plays were nearly impossible to find and the computer-controlled teams acted as you would expect a human-controlled opponent to act. I was most impressed with the way the computer AI would mix up the play calling just enough to keep you on your toes. For example, I found myself on defense and the computer had a third and inches play. I jammed the line to stop the run, sure that the computer was not smart enough to actually try catching me off guard and throw a pass. Well, 6 points later, I looked up and smiled. That is what AI is all about.
While the game is a lot of fun to play and the AI is solid, there are a few minor problems. One thing that has always been a problem with the NFL 2K series is catching a ball thrown right to you on defense. This used to be a problem with receivers from time to time, but that seems to have been fixed. It still seems, though, that all defensive backs have no fingers because the ball will hit them right in the paws and flop harmlessly to the ground. It is frustrating when playing defense because you put yourself in a position to make a play only to have the guy drop the ball through no fault of your own. It also makes playing offense less risky. I had no hesitation throwing the ball down the field because I knew if my guy did not catch the ball, it would just drop to the ground.
My other gripe is that the game hasn't changed all that much from last year. The biggest change is in the menu and play-calling interface. Does that warrant purchasing a new game? I expect to see a bit more for my cash. If you skipped over last year's version and are looking for a football game, though, you will not be disappointed.
Multiplayer is what really makes football games fun. NFL 2K2 gives you two options: play against your buddy sitting next to you on the couch or dial up the Sega Network and play people over the Internet. I have to commend the developers for creating a solid Internet experience in a console. They have fixed a number of the problems and complaints people had with last year's version. The biggest area of improvement is in stat tracking. Now when you pick a person to play, you can see his history including the number of games he has bailed out on (a common problem when you are kicking another player's butt). Again, seeing how well the Dreamcast handles Internet gaming, it disappoints me all the more that this console is going away.
For the first time, I can actually say that the Dreamcast is starting to show its lack of power compared to the PS2. Maybe I shouldn't start this section off this way because for a Dreamcast game, NFL 2K2 looks great. The problem is that I have been playing Madden 2002 for PS2 and the level of detail in Madden is far superior to NFL 2K2. Again, this is like comparing apples and oranges but I did feel it was worth mentioning. Once you get past this, you will find a nice-looking game of football. The graphics are sharp and clean. Some of the players look a bit out of proportion but overall, the player models are better than in years past. The game also sports some great animations when running, juking, tackling and catching the ball. I found myself smiling from time to time because of a particularly vicious hit or one-handed grab by a receiver.
This is another area where NFL 2K2 shines. The commentary is witty, humorous and mostly accurate. There are a few instances of mental lapses from the announcing crew, but I can't think of a single football game that does not suffer from this same problem. Also, the in-game sounds are a great representation of football. Big hits sound painful, defenders yell out coverages, and the taunting is never-ending.
If you want a new football game and your only console is a Dreamcast -- well, it's a choice between NFL 2K2 or, umm, NFL 2K2. Fortunately, even with this being the case, you will find an entertaining game. If you are a fan of playing online, you will have a blast. Sega Sports is porting this game to the PS2 and I am really interested in seeing how it turns out. The tempo, controls and overall feel of the game just feel right. I do wish they'd made more improvements over the previous year's version but hey, there is always next year... or is there?