Sega goes platform agnostic, and the first fruits
begin to appear on the Xbox in pigskin form.
The sport of football has made its way onto the Xbox in
a huge way. Represented by Madden 2002, NFL Fever 2002, and now NFL 2K2,
the Xbox has turned into a safe haven for all those pigskin lovers out
there. But which title rises above the rest to take home the crown for
the greatest Xbox football game ever created? You didn't honestly expect
me to tell you now did you?
Sega Sports has been a staple of the gaming industry ever
since the days of the Genesis. The 2K series has represented a rebirth
of sorts for the beleaguered company. Having announced the company's
entrance into multi platform development a year ago, Sega Sports had
a great many gamers sitting by their consoles awaiting the release of
the line of sports games coming to the Xbox. NFL 2K2 is the first to
grace Xbox gamers with its presence and it certainly is a doozey.
The graphics of NFL 2K2 are the only aspect of the game
that lags behind just a bit. When compared to Fever the visuals don't
impress, but when compared to its PS2 counterpart there is thankfully
a marginal improvement. The player models in the game, (especially the
faces) are where some dissatisfaction arises. The faces look like cardboard
cutouts - while it's no DOA3, it does fair a bit better than the likes
of Max Payne. Player movements seem as lifelike as any other game and
actually look a bit better than those in Fever. The grass and crowd in
the game don't appear as three-dimensional as other titles' and both
don't flex the Xbox's full graphical muscle. While the visuals don't
degrade the gameplay experience by any means (in fact, they may do a
bit to enhance it), they just don't show off the Xbox's capabilities.
We're holding our breath for the next installment.
One thing that has irked many people about NFL Fever was
the commentary. Dick Stockton and Ron Pitts did a wretched job of conveying
the action that was playing out on the field. Thankfully NFL 2K2's commentary
rises far above the competition thanks to some amazingly original interaction
between the two men in the booth. Witty remarks, personal anecdotes,
and even some snazzy telestrator work populate NFL 2K2's commentary booth.
Both men perform very nicely and deliver most admirably where other games
have failed miserably.
The sound effects of the game do a good job of getting across
the ferocity of the national football league across to us innocent bystanders.
Excellent grunts and groans make you happy that you're safe at home and
not on the field. The collision of bodies sounds mysteriously pleasing
and definitely does a good job making you feel the pain of the game.
The effects coupled with the commentary make for one of the greatest
audio packages ever seen.
The controls of NFL 2K2 make you thankful that the Xbox
controller has as many buttons as it does. On the offensive side of the
ball there are tons of moves to pull off while scampering down the field. "Black" and "White" are
the only buttons that aren't used as effectively as they should be. For
some reason the developers decided to place the actions of right and
left stiff-arm onto these two oddly placed buttons. The rest of the face
buttons follow to standard form, A is speed burst, B is a juke, X is
dive, and Y is jump. R and L both pull off a stylish juke move.
On the defensive side of the ball NFL 2K2 performs solidly
and uses the controller just as it should. X dives at the ball carrier,
A is speed burst, B is switch players, and Y is used to jump in the air
or to catch the ball. The R and L buttons are used as juke moves to get
past the offensive line, but for one reason or another the jukes aren't
utilized quite as well as they are in NFL Fever.
The artificial intelligence of NFL 2K2 is suspect to some
negativity, which could turn some players away from this title. The passing
game is the first area that is hampered by the less than perfect AI.
On occasion when your quarterback makes an "on the money" pass your receiver
will suspiciously dive on the ground for no obvious reason other than
to infuriate the player. The other aspect of the artificial intelligence,
which falls under a bit of criticism, is the computer play calling. At
the end of a half the AI will first spike the ball a few times rather
than calling a timeout even if they have three to spare.
The difficulty levels are evenly spaced and you'll definitely
notice a difference on the higher difficulties. The computer forces you
to make perfect tackles on even the Pro level (the Pro level being comparable
to the medium difficulty level). Through the course of the season you'll
find each game gets harder and harder no matter what team you're playing.
This takes away from the realism of the game a bit but doesn't really
subtract from the overall fun factor.
Gameplay is where NFL 2K2 really shines. First off, the
game is extraordinarily fun for every single football fan out there.
Offense is still much more fun than defense which is a bit of a drag.
Playing on the defensive line is more about getting lucky rather than
strategy as it was in NFL Fever. That having been said, defense isn't
really a chore it just isn't as much fun as it could have been had Sega
utilized the precious swim move a bit more efficiently.
Offense offers a bit more bang for your buck thanks to the
stellar running game. Breaking tackles is an excellent aspect of the
running game and is great fun if done correctly. Juking players out of
the shoes is also very easy if done well and you can break some rather
long runs if your play calling is done well. The passing game can be
a bit frustrating at times because the game offers a fairly realistic
play system. Your pass will be batted down at the line if you throw it
with too much "pop" rather than applying enough touch to get the ball
higher into the air and over the defensive line. The defensive backs
also do a good job at defending the long ball as opposed to those found
in NFL Fever.
The stat system in the game keeps the numbers realistic
thanks to the play mechanics. The depth of the stat system is a warm
sight to see thanks to the ability to track stats over multiple seasons.
Sadly NFL 2K2 hasn't been updated with accurate team attributes despite
its late release date when compared to Fever. As a result the Bears are
still pretty crappy despite their fairy tale season (recently cut short
by the Eagles). Teams like the Jaguars however are on the other side
of spectrum as last season they were part of the winning portion of the
league (unlike their dismal 6-10 season this year). Another low point
of the stat tracking system is the inability to change your players'
skill levels despite how well they play. This detracts largely from the
realism of the game when compared to NFL Fever.
Gameplay modes are solid, but sadly aren't very original
[this is football, how original do you need to be - ed.]. The variation
between the play options is a welcome sight as the game offers season,
franchise, practice, tourney, exhibition, playoffs, fantasy, and quick
start as its standard play modes. The game also comes complete with a
create-a-team option that allows you to make your own expansion franchise
and put them through a draft and a full season of play. The standard
creation of players is also present in NFL 2K2 offering the same amount
of depth that you'd expect from today's football market.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is a bit lacking thanks
to the absence of online play [is this Sega's fault? - ed.]. If only
the developer had the opportunity to realize what the Xbox is capable
of in terms of online connectivity. As it stands you and up to four buddies
can play with or against one another in any of the aforementioned modes
of play, not bad by PS2 or Gamecube standards but a bit disappointing
when you think about the possibilities inherent with the Xbox. This should
be remedied in the next installment, and we look forward to this very
Overall the game is a quality title that rivals all of the
other football games currently available on the young system. It's a
slightly marred title but does offer some old-fashioned pigskin fun,
which is something that is hard to come by in today's visually intense
Wishes the Jaguars didn't suck..
Sega Sports did a solid job of bringing back the fun
of football games of year's past and has returned the
company into the upper echelon of sports developers.
With a few tweaks here and there NFL 2K2 could have made
it into Canton, but as it stands it's just a game that
will keep you satisfied until the next football titles