Think that modem is useless? Think again. - Review By Mr. Domino
When the Dreamcast was released in America on September 9, 1999, there were two launch
games which, for many, made the system a must-own. The first was Soul Calibur, Namco's amazingly enhanced port of its
3D arcade fighter. And the second was NFL2K, which shocked people with
its amazing realism. The graphics were just stunning -- you could even see
the players' breath in cold weather! Improved AI and other gameplay tweaks made
NFL2K amazing to look at, and a well-done football game to boot.
As such, it was responsible for a lot of system sales.
It's now a full year later, and Visual Concepts brings another football game to
the plate: the unsurprisingly-titled NFL2K1. However, the stakes are higher this year with EA
Sports' Madden 2001 for PlayStation 2 promising to be the best looking and
playing football game around. So, Visual Concepts had to not only fix the stuff
wrong or missing in the first game, but also deliver a Madden killer. In short, this
game had to be good. The original game was already better than good, but this
sequel had to be amazing enough to give football fans a reason to stick with the
Dreamcast for sports. Is NFL2K1 good enough to make everyone forget about Madden this
year? Well? Is it? Oh, wait, that's my job. Let's go on to the review!
If you've played NFL2K, then you pretty much know how good football
can look on the Dreamcast, and NFL2K1 follows in its predecessor's footsteps. It features great character models and realistic animation,
large, detailed stadiums, and high-resolution textures good enough to let you read the
names right off the jerseys. The little touches like
the snow building up on the ground, the players' uniforms getting dirty from
play, and the newly reflective shiny helmets are just the icing on the cake.
Visual Concepts went the extra mile and not only animated the cardboard
cutouts on the sideline but also the crowd itself. The animation in this
game is just stunning, and it's great to play a football game where you can actually
watch players stoop to recover fumbles, among other neat touches. The graphics, as great as they are, aren't just
window dressing. They're a part of the game.
The graphics are as good as ever.
To put it simply, NFL2K1 is almost real. While the overall gameplay isn't that radically
removed from other football titles, the improved player animations and AI
make the game an entirely new experience. On offense you'll find a passing
game that's rather challenging, made more difficult because it's so realistic.
Receivers actually have to catch the ball -- no more watching the
ball penetrate the wide receiver's back for a completion. Passing is much
improved and more realistic over last year's offering, with quarterbacks
having three different passes at their disposal. While every pass in NFL2K
was slow and floaty, you can now lob the ball as well as throw normal and
bullet passes. The running game has been improved too, although it will initially
appear too challenging due to the fact that you can't just stiff arm and juke your way
to a touch down; you actually must find holes in the defense.
On D, you'll find a pretty similar game to NFL2K, which is great
all around. The advanced AI really helps your team make smart decisions
during play, including having players readjust themselves to
better rush and cover the offense. Since this is so close to real football, you really
have to play your defense smart. Those who blitz till the cows come home will see
the pigskin flying over their heads for consistently easy yardage.
NFL2K1 also uses the real playbooks this year, which are obviously
better suited for each team's strengths. I don't know why Visual Concepts
made my Saints a passing team last year, but this year they got it right.
In a nice touch, the playbooks are straight out of the real NFL teams.
Even better are the options in the game. You can create some players, make a couple
of teams, enter them into the fantasy draft, and then play a tournament. It's
all here -- far too much to cover in a review. Best of all is
NFL2K1's network mode, which allows players to play others across the
country with their ISP of choice. As Sega says, opponents are everywhere, and if you're
looking for more of a challenge at 4 AM than Ron "But Wait!" Popeil can
provide, you're sure to find it online. The game comes bundled with a free
SegaNet trial, and games run smooth in general, with only the occassional hiccup.
It's really very impressive for a standard 56k modem. And even if online play doesn't
interest you, Visual Concepts will have patches available to keep the
rosters current with the goings on of the NFL, another first for console
Finally, the presentation is better than last year and looks quite nice (although it does
cause some hassles online since only one cursor exists for selecting teams
or changing options). Everything is easily found, and help windows guide you
everywhere, and with a full blown training mode there is plenty of in-game
assistance to get the rookies started. Watch NFL2K1, and the slick editing will
make you feel like you're watching a broadcast game without the commercials.
The replays are also better implemented on all the impressive plays, and the
commentary is just as well done as last year. In fact, the commentators call your guys by name, and make specific,
relevent comments on the game as you play. Of course, you never get to hear
the trash talk as you do in NFL2K1, but then you're never really on
the field. The crowd noises, stadium announcer, and music all just add to
the experience. It's truly an amazing feat.
Next: The Bad and The Final Word