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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | NFL 2000
    Sega Sports NFL 2000
The Reason I Keep Calling in Sick - Review By Subskin

NFL 2000 LogoIn the early 90's, Sega's 16-bit Genesis was the system to own for sports games. You wanted football; you played Madden on the Genesis. Then 32-bit systems started pouring in. The Sega Saturn sports games couldn't hold a candle to NFL Gameday and the new Maddens - now the Saturn is in the same half-price bin at Toys R' Us as "Wet My Bed Suzie." Now the Dreamcast is out, and NFL2K is the only sports title available at launch. If Sega's going to regain the market, this one's got to be good.

  • The Good

    NFL 2K's graphics are amazing, they can be easily be mistaken as the real thing from a distance.
    NFL2K is the same game youíve been playing since about 1997. Youíve got your polygon-based 3D players, full NFL stats, and announcers. The passing system is the same as NFL Gameday. The kicking system is the same as the original John Madden Football for the Genesis. The only innovative aspect: itís been done to perfection.

    The first thing you notice are the mind-blowing graphics. The players are so individually detailed that you can see the sleeves of an undershirt on one player, elbow pads on another, and receiverís gloves on a third. Neil Smith even has a breath-right strip! In all there are twelve different facemasks, two breath-right strips, six neck pads, and a horde of other ways to distinguish players. In designing a player, all of these options are available to make him look like he eats nails for breakfast.

    Once you start paying attention to the playersí motion, though, the game really sets itself apart. There are over 1,300 motion-captured moves that blend in seamlessly with the game environment at 60 frames per second. A typical 49ers versus Jets play might visibly include all of these elements:

    Steve Young walks up to the line and waves his arms to quiet down the crowd. Bryan Cox creeps up to the line of scrimmage, bent down low to prepare for a blitz. The center hikes it, and Young steps back into the pocket with the ball cocked. Cox now sprints at Young, but only gets a piece of him. After Steve Young keeps himself off the ground using his free hand, he stands back up and rifles the ball downfield. Jerry Rice puts a move on Steve Atwater, and Atwater has to spin his body around to change direction. The ball is thrown a little long, so Rice has to reach out with one hand Ė but his hand reaches right to the ball and pulls it in. After he crosses the goal line, Atwater is kneeling on the 10-yard line and beating his fists into the turf.

    A play like that is completely possible, but if youíre up against the computer youíll probably be on the defense when it happens. Despite the fact that NFL2K uses the same principles found in all other football games, it takes a while to master. For one thing, the physics model is entirely 3D based. Have you ever noticed how a receiver in NFL Gameday can extend his hands two feet away from the ball and still make a reception? Thatís because all of NFL2Kís predecessors only counted if the ball was in the same general area as the player, and then calculated a catch based on the quarterback and receiverís ratings.

    The Dreamcast's processing power allows NFL2K to go way beyond that. In NFL2K, a receiver will always catch the ball exactly in his hands Ė even if it means he has to slide feet-first to do so. If a smaller guy like Rod Woodson tries to take down a powerhouse like Jerome Bettis, Woodson may jump on Bettisí back and merely slow him down. When a linebacker tries to knock down a ball, he doesnít just stick his hands in the air and then get hit in the numbers. In NFL2K, heís going to reach out and swat right where the ball is.

    The game is far more realistic than any other football game you've ever played.
    The hard part is getting used to that degree of accuracy in a game. NFL2K helps you out quite a bit by picking the motion that is best suited for what you are trying to do Ė such as diving for the ball instead of one-arming it. Itís still a whole new game, especially when you consider the fact that youíre probably not all that used to the Dreamcast controller. The biggest difficulty Iíve had is figuring out which button is "B" in time to throw it! Take the time to work it out, though Ė itís worth it.

    One of the few new ideas in NFL2K is VMU play calling. You know your friend that blitzes every time you call a toss right because he watches your half of the play-calling screen? With the Visual Memory Unit (VMU), you can choose your play using the display on your controller. Multi-player games will never be the same.

    The main sound you hear is your typical announcers: an uptight play-by-play guy flanked by a former player who just loves the game. They do a great job of commenting and donít really get repetitive until about your 4th or 5th game. The hits in the game sound realistic and like a great deal of pain was inflicted. Thereís also players taunting the other team during the snap count and a stadium announcer. It all blends together to reflect an average Sunday afternoon on Fox NFL.

    The season options are more carry-overs from Madden, Gameday, and QB Club. You can set up a trade, and the teams may reject it if you try to trade Warren Moon for Bubby Brister. You get your weekly Pro Bowl voting to see how your stars are doing, and there are plenty of categories for the statistics buff. One stat I could not find is QB rating -- although I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

    Lastly, NFL2K offers a "Create Team" mode where you pick the city, team name, logo, and uniforms. From there you can create a whole squad or run a mock draft. This option is just begging for an internet mode. I can see the ability to create teams, upload them to a server, and set up an online league for VMU downloading. The only thing Visual Concepts would have to do is make sure there was no easy way to cheat (for example, turning off the system with a minute left in the game so it doesn't get saved to the VMU). This is one of the many promising features in NFL2K.

  • The Bad

    One of NFL2K's few flaws is the somewhat skimpy playbooks.
    First off, I had to be ultra-picky to find faults with this game. Nonetheless, a few are there.

    The VMU is the only new addition Visual Concepts gave football games, and itís got major problems. First, NFL2K takes up 188 of 200 blocks in the memory unit to save anything. They should have at least put in an option not to save player statistics so that you wouldnít have to buy another VMU devoted entirely to NFL2K. Second, the VMU play-caller only sees the names of the formation and play, and nobody else on the team can even see that. It would be very useful to display at least the passing routes and defensive coverages Ė and to extend this to the other players on the team so that 4-player modes arenít a game of whispers.

    The defensive coverages are another problem with NFL2K Ė there simply arenít enough of them. 80% of the coverages are man, and 85% are blitzes. It feels like the only defensive strategy involves picking a formation and who to blitz on a given play.

    The offensive playbooks are pretty weak as well. Each team has its own playbook, but they're too similar. Rarely is there a hole for the running back to go through, and offensive linemen running traps don't seem to make a difference. The result is all the running plays can be broken down by who gets the ball and which way they should start out running. The passing plays offer some great variations on receiving routes; the only problem with them is that screens are non-existent. Since the defense is constantly in man coverage, there's no way a wide receiver could step back a couple yards and be open. Instead, they run three yards downfield in a quick out pattern while the other receivers go long. These playbook limitations don't detract too much from the game, and you can expect they'll be covered in next year's version.

    And the absolute worst problem of all: Visual Concepts didnít release an NCAA version of this amazing game. Keep your fingers crossed that one comes out for the 2000-2001 season.

  • The Final Word
    In the last three years thereís been twenty Playstation and Nintendo 64 games with nearly identical features to NFL2K. None of them can even compare to NFL2K: the best sports video game ever made.

    Developer: Visual Concepts
    Publisher: Sega
    Genre: Sports

    Highs: Great graphics, realistic gameplay, amazing movement.

    Lows: VMU needs tweaking, playbooks a bit skimpy, the fact that you canít be University of Tennessee.

    Other: 1-4 players, VMU Compatible (save game and play calling), Jump Pack Compatible.

    Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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