Football is back on the Dreamcast with NFL 2K2. - Review By Josh Hiscock - Page 1/2
History is a cruel judge -- especially when the judging is done in advance
of the actual event. Imagine, for example, if Commodore Perry had known,
upon arriving in the harbors of Japan, that Pearl Harbor would be the target
of a Japanese attack aimed at keeping us out of a war the likes of which
the world had previously never seen. Would he have been quite so eager to
establish a diplomatic relationship with a nation stuck in the Middle
Ages -- a relationship that would ultimately bring the Land of the Rising Sun
into the modern era and see them forge an alliance with Adolf Hitler that
would ultimately plunge the Pacific rim into chaos? For that matter, would
Chamberlain have been as eager to obtain "peace in our time" if he had known
that appeasement would lead to the Second World War?
The truth is, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such examples where
foreknowledge of an event perhaps could have altered the flow of history.
The fate of the Sega Dreamcast certainly isn't nearly as fraught with peril
as the two worst wars in America's history, but our knowledge of when that
fate will occur certainly has the ability to impact our perspective on
the final games for the system. It's neither particularly logical, nor fair,
to the games in question that it should be so, and yet, the knowledge that
a particular game will be the last of its kind for the console unfairly
Call it the "Grand Finale Syndrome," if you will. Games such as Shenmue
II are already being hailed in advance as being the greatest the system
has ever seen -- or will ever see, for that matter. Is that fair? Maybe so.
It's certainly true that every console has its limits, and for a game or
series to thrive, it must constantly push at those limits. I question,
however, whether it's fair to say that those limits have been pushed as far
as they can go after two short years.
In a sense, this might be a side effect of such a
sudden, jarring announcement. With most consoles in years past, the end
has come "not with a bang, but with a whimper." Games continue to trickle
out, but the absolute end is never seen until the announcement is made with
the game's release. There is, yes, a sense that the stream of games is drying
up, but rarely have we seen a company announce nearly a year in advance that
there will be no more games for their console after a certain date; the
reason being that one runs the risk of driving their customer base into the
arms of their competitors. Admittedly, with no new Sega consoles on the
immediate horizon, that's of small consequence.
The Good & The Bad
Full size detailed players are nothing new to the NFL 2K series.
And yet, that's where we find NFL2k2, sadly. The bottom line is that
this IS the last football game, pro or otherwise, that we're going to see on
the Dreamcast from the team that fired an earth-shaking shot across the bow of
the EA Sports juggernaut. For better or worse, this is as good as it will get
on the Sega Dreamcast.
When you think about it, that's a remarkable achievement, both for NFL2k2
and for the Dreamcast. Sega, for better or worse, is the pioneer of
online play, at least in its current form. Yes, we've seen the X*Band, and
yes, we've seen the Sega Channel, but online play on a console as we currently
know it began to take its shape with the Dreamcast, thanks in no small part
to NFL2k1. Had NFL2k1 and NBA2k1 not been as successful
as they were, had Sega not shown that online play is a viable component to
gaming, who knows where we might be today?
It's certainly possible that the Xbox would still include the broadband adaptor,
given Microsoft's desire to integrate their product offerings (can anybody say
MSN?). Perhaps even Sony's plans for an online network might still exist. I
must say, however, that many of Sony's early moves seemed aimed at sapping
the momentum from a concerted challenge on Sega's part - and that includes
the online network. Have we yet seen anything to indicate that Sony actually
has a cohesive plan in this area? Indeed, that they're doing anything but
sitting idly on their twiddling thumbs?
Explosive hits, new player animations = very cool.
Meanwhile, Sega has continued to push the borders of online gaming, branching
outwards into nearly all of their sports offerings (Tennis2k2 seems as though
it will be the lone exception). NFL2k2 is certainly no exception.
Without a doubt, that's a good thing -- improved online play means
NFL2k2 has, even if no other changes were present, improved from a year
ago (which is more, sadly, than we can say for its baseball brother, WSB2k2).
However, it is worth noting that the improvements are few and subtle.
This isn't going to be the same kind of quantum leap over NFL2k1 that
NFL2k1 was over NFL2k. Partly, that's due to hardware limitations,
a testament to just how impressive NFL2k1 really was. Partly, that's a
tacit admission that in a world where Sega is going multi-platform, Visual
Concepts hasn't been able to devote their full resources to the Dreamcast,
since they must also make a strong first impression on the PlayStation 2,
Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. That said, let's take a look at the
improvements the game does has to offer.
Next: More Good, More Bad, and The Final Word