Search For Posters!
  Join the SGN staff!
Help Wanted
Release Dates


About Us

The Sports

Partner Links
Auto Insurance Quote
Irvine Moving Companies
LA Moving Companies
Brand Name Shoes

NFL 2K (DC) Review

Publisher: Sega

Background Info

Screens (10)
What a year 1999 has been for video football. EA Sports delivered yet another superb college effort in NCAA 2000, then proceeded to establish a new benchmark in NFL games with Madden 2000. And now, along comes Visual Concepts' NFL 2K, the inaugural gridiron title for the Sega Dreamcast, to take football gaming to places it has never been and chart a course for its future. NFL 2K represents a stunning debut for Visual Concepts and the Dreamcast itself but, like most first-generation titles, falls somewhat short of perfection.

Presentation/Graphics : 97
There are scarcely enough adjectives in the dictionary to adequately describe just how impressive NFL 2K's visuals are. We expected them to be good, but who would have thought they'd be this good? As advanced as the graphics have become in the Gameday and Madden series they look like Saturday morning cartoons alongside those of NFL 2K.

NFL 2K is chock-full of visual detail from top to bottom. The player models have lost almost all of the blockiness that has plagued earlier generation titles. They are sized and outfitted the same as their real-life counterparts, from facemasks to elbow pads to nose strips. Even their facial characteristics are modeled to resemble the real deal. The illusion of reality that all of this creates is remarkable. But that's only the tip of the iceberg: wait until you see these guys move.

Like no football game before it, NFL 2K implements a physics model which realistically accounts for size, speed, momentum, direction, and balance. It has been reported that NFL 2K employs 3-4 times as many motion-captured animations as any before it. What's more impressive is that the animations, or rather sequences of animations, seem to be triggered based on the physics model. I'm not certain that this is technically what's happening but, with few exceptions, you won't be seeing the same canned animations ad nauseam. For example, players will jump and spin to bat down a pass, lose their balance on the way down, and regain it as they land. There are endless variations to the animation sequences and they are like nothing you've ever seen. You'll find yourself flipping over to the fabulous replay mode countless times over the course of a game just to gape in wonder at how far Visual Concepts have advanced the state of sports game animation.

However, as impressive as the animations are, there are a couple of areas that could be improved. Running straight ahead is as fluid as can be but cutting in either direction looks like you're using an 8 direction digital pad as opposed to analog control. It's just not as smooth as it could be. Also, ballcarriers too often get locked up in an ankle tackle only to be taken down by a second player. And next year's model could do without the preponderance of body slam tackles that tend to undermine the realism. Most of these repetitive animations take place around the line of scrimmage. Move out into the secondary and the play of the WR's and DB's is poetry in motion.

The same level of visual detail abounds throughout the rest of the game as well. All 31 NFL stadiums are gorgeously rendered and adorned with team-specific banners hanging from the lower sections of the stands. The crowd textures are more detailed than we're used to seeing and their look changes based on location and weather conditions. Notice how much of the crowd sports red, yellow or blue rain slicks on rainy days as opposed to the wash of team colors that show during games played in fair weather. And speaking of weather effects, they're also the best we've seen yet. Rain and snow not only look good, but result in greasy footing down on the field. On cold days, the players breath is visible. It's downright scary to look across the line of scrimmage and see the defensive linemen and linebackers snorting and twitching like a herd of mad bulls. Consistent with the weather are the beautiful sky textures that shroud the open-air stadiums. Watching a replay of the players backlit against the sky will take your breath away. You can even read the writing on the football for goodness sakes!

The entire graphics package is wrapped in a TV-style presentation that is most convincing. From the pre-game rituals to the NFL logo that washes across the screen to announce and close the "Action Replays," NFL 2K has it all. Updated team and individual player stats appear at regular intervals throughout the game and impress with their level of depth and how well they're integrated with the game's commentary. Visual Concepts has left few stones unturned in making NFL 2K the most authentic looking football experience ever.

Presentation/Audio : 92
While not on a par with the visuals, NFL 2K's audio package is quite impressive in its own right. Commentary is provided by a two-man booth and a sideline reporter who provides in-game updates on the weather and player injuries. It's all done very well, but with the usual repetition and gaffes. Every once in a while though, the commentators will deliver a context-specific remark that will spin your head. There are many nice touches such as several pre-game bios for each team, some of which accurately refer to the team's performance to that point in the season. It's not hard to pick holes in the commentary, but it's still probably the best that's ever been heard in a sports game. If only the announcers weren't so glib. It's a little TOO lifelike in that respect.

Sound effects are also of high quality, especially the crowd noises. The crowd sounds in NFL 2K are as detailed, dynamic, and situation-specific as you're likely to hear. The crowds rise and fall with the action, start chants (Let's go…Jag-uars), and generally raise a ruckus. You'll even hear individual voices scream out. Hey, careful with that beer buddy! Further in the background, music will fire up between some plays (sounding for all the world like a TV timeout), and a PA announcer will call the results of plays. It all combines to create an excellent football atmosphere.

The sound quality, on the other hand, could stand some beefing up. Overall, the sound is on the weak side and slightly rough around the edges. Commentary, sound effects, crowd noise, and so on are individually adjustable, but it's tough to strike a balance where everything comes through loud and clear. There is little in the way of surround sound here. A strong and dynamic Dolby soundtrack to accompany the on-field action would kick major booty. I should point out that I've now played five copies of NFL 2K and the first four have been hampered by one sort of sound glitch or another (the 5th copy has been fine so far, but the jury is still out).

Interface/Options : 96
Compared to its other attributes, NFL 2K's menu interface is exceedingly plain. Fortunately, it's also very fast and quite easy to navigate. You can go from boot up to kick off in less time than it would take you to lace up your cleats. Moving from one menu option to another can be a little finicky control-wise, but everything is well laid out and easy to find. I really appreciate that two quick button presses will instantly take you from the playing field to the replay mode (did I mention how fabulous it is?). Once there, the level of control you have is precise and intuitive. In no time you'll be directing replays that the Sunday afternoon TV broadcasts aren't even capable of. Prepare to spend a lot of time in replay mode. It's THAT good.

The playcalling interface is also as good as it gets. The offensive and defensive formations and plays overlay the field at the top and bottom of the screen. Selecting a play superimposes it on the field so you can see exactly what routes your receivers will run. In a one-player game, it's simply brilliant. In two player, not so good. The good news is that you can call plays from your VMU, but you'll have to be familiar with your playbook because you don't get the on-field representation of the plays. Ideally, you'll want two VMU's. That's pretty much a necessity anyway because NFL 2K soaks up a whopping 191 of 200 available blocks. While on the subject of the VMU, games are auto-saved as you move in and out of season mode. There's no fumbling around with clumsy save menus. Very nice.

Player control and special moves are quick and precise. There's no discernable lag between button presses and on-field reaction. You'll appreciate it when you're defending a long pass and need to switch to the nearest defender and leap all at the last possible instant. For the first time in my recollection, a game's graphics have become integral to its control and gameplay. Because NFL 2K's player models are so well defined and they animate so smoothly, the finely tuned control makes it possible to pull off plays that you never could in previous football games whether it be maneuvering a receiver into position for a catch, knocking an errant pass out of the harm's way, or picking up a block to spring a buddy in a two player co-op game. Imagine, for example, playing as a safety and reaching around from behind a receiver to knock the ball away, all without ever making contact.

The mechanics of passing the ball in NFL 2K are beautifully implemented. There's the standard press a button corresponding to the icon of your receiver, and "Maximum Control Passing" which allows you to under or overthrow your intended target. Both work very well. What's more, NFL 2K doesn't require a button press to activate the receiver icons. Madden players will initially find this to be a frustrating adjustment, but it's a most welcome change from the norm. Once the ball is in your hands you have the usual assortment of spins, dives, and hurdles at your disposal, but no juke move. This ranks as one of NFL 2K's most glaring omissions and I can almost guarantee that you'll bemoan the lack of a juke when you take on the ultra-stingy run defenses in this game.

NFL 2K provides a healthy number of camera angles from which to view the action, but the default camera is eminently playable. Pressing either the R or L trigger prior to snapping the ball pans the camera back to give you a bird's-eye view of the field.

It is worth noting that NFL 2K makes very effective use of force feedback (I'm using the Performance Tremor Pak). Being able to feel tackles, catches, and even tipped balls draws you further into what is already an immersive experience.

Gameplay : 88
This is where the good ship NFL 2K begins to spring some leaks, but before you panic and start heading for the lifeboats, please, bear with me.

NFL 2K offers three levels of difficulty: Rookie, Pro, and All-Pro. There is also a nifty tutorial mode that is essentially Rookie mode with on-screen tips that teach you the game controls. While most football games tend to intimidate the neophyte, NFL 2K might be the first football game ever that so effectively invites the non-football gamer to learn and enjoy the game. A basic understanding of the rules of football is all that anyone needs to jump right into the Rookie level and have some success. It's THAT easy. Rookie serves its purpose very well but, beyond learning the rudiments of the control, and perhaps some heated two-player shootouts, most players won't spend long here.

Pro level is where most gamers will ultimately find themselves playing over the long haul. The level of difficulty raises so dramatically here that it's not hard to imagine some players becoming frustrated to the point of bailing out on the game. Herein lies perhaps the most significant problem with NFL 2K. AI aside, and we'll deal with that specifically in a moment, there is a clear imbalance between the offenses and defenses in NFL 2K. Regardless of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the players and teams involved, the advantage always seems to favor the defense. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the running game.

If you've played NFL 2K you'll already be aware that rushing the football is no walk in the park (pardon the mixed metaphor). It's possible to run the ball, perhaps even for realistic averages eventually, but it's going to be a very tough road for all but the most resilient and dexterous gamers. At first I thought this might simply be a learning curve issue, but the further I delved into it the more I realized that it was not. Not only is it difficult to run the ball, but the CPU has a hard time as well. Eight games into my current season, I've given up two 100+ rushing games, both bolstered by big gainers. Most of the rest have been under 50 yards, including a paltry 37 on 15 carries by Barry Sanders.

The inability to run extends to the passing game and special teams too. Receivers and return men are contained very well by defenders after catching the ball. In fact, defense pervades almost every aspect of NFL 2K. The defensive players seem to be that much quicker and stronger than their offensive counterparts. The result can be games that turn into low scoring puntfests. One game, played using 9 min. quarters, featured a total of 41 punts, and ended 6-0. I simmed a season (this time using 15 min. quarters) to check out the realism of CPU controlled games. About one quarter of all teams in any given week scored 7 points or less. Furthermore, there wasn't a single 1,000 yard rusher or receiver in the league. Only two running backs who carried the ball 200 or more times averaged 4 yards per carry or better, and receiver yards after catch averages were WAY low. I then ran a fantasy draft, selecting Terrell Davis as my 1st pick and proceeding to build the strongest offensive line in existence, guys like Roaf, Pace, Christy, and Allen. TD and that O-line should be capable of running the ball with ease against ANYBODY, yet they struggle to average over 2 yards per carry.

Things are much brighter when it comes to the passing game. It's still plenty challenging (which is good) but, other than the problem with picking up yards after the catch, it's a more reasonable proposition to be successful than is the running game. You'll have to be smart about it though, as the defense will come after you and coverage is tight. If you don't learn how to size up the coverages and throw away from the defenders, you're going to be in for a long day at the ol' ballyard.

This brings us to the brightest point of all when it comes to NFL 2K's gameplay, the AI. In spite of the disparities between offense and defense detailed above, NFL 2K gets lots of things right in the AI dept. Players on both sides of the ball play good positional football. Defensive players, the linebackers and defensive backs in particular, react so well as the play develops that you can almost see them thinking. Just keep in mind that when the linebackers show blitz, they're coming. It would have been nice for them to show blitz and drop back into coverage now and again just to keep you on your toes.

When using Maximum Passing, receivers will actually break off their routes and go after the ball wherever you've thrown it. In fact, all of the players on both sides of the line of scrimmage will aggressively pursue the ball until the play has been blown dead. Coupled with the great animations and superb ball physics, this leads to all sorts of interesting, and often spectacular plays. Balls are tipped and caught every which way imaginable. And it doesn't stop there.

NFL 2K features the most impressive CPU playcalling and clock management I've ever seen in a football game. I can honestly say that I've yet to see the CPU miscue when managing the clock. It will teach you a thing or two if your own skills in that area aren't up to snuff. The same goes for the playcalling. The CPU does a great job of mixing up its offensive and defensive plays to keep you off-balance. Go to the well once too often and you're likely to pay the price. I can't say conclusively that there aren't money plays to be found, only that some types of plays have a higher degree of success than others (slants for example). At this stage of the game I haven't uncovered a play that I can run with total effectiveness.

Turnovers occur with realistic frequency and are appropriate based on the action on the field. It's also nice to see a fair share of defensive TD's. As in real life, a game can turn on an interception returned for a touchdown at a critical moment. However, perhaps the best aspect of NFL 2K's AI is how your CPU teammates will make plays on your behalf, and big ones at that. No longer do you have to do it all yourself or suffer the consequences. Nowhere is this more evident than when defending the pass. Your CPU pals will be there to swat the ball away, make leaping interceptions, and deliver punishing tackles. Never has playing pass defense been this much fun.

Replay Value : 87
The long-term playability of NFL 2K will depend a lot on what you expect out of football games and how you like to play them. NFL 2K will provide plenty of challenge for most any gamer but, despite some terrific AI, falls short as a simulation. The lack of a franchise/dynasty mode is only the most obvious deficiency in this regard. Sim-heads will be bugged that scores and stats , both in-game and season, don't quite match reality. The game is also a little weak in terms of roster management. The players are identified by general position only. A defensive back is simply a DB, not a strong safety, right cornerback, etc. This makes it difficult when assembling a team through a fantasy draft or in juggling your depth chart. Moreover, each player is given an overall rating, but that's it. There's no way of knowing, for example, whether an offensive lineman excels at run blocking, pass blocking, or both.

On the other side of the coin, if you're happy to just strap on the pads and air it out, NFL 2K will be an endless source of entertainment. It looks like football and feels like football, and if the imbalanced stats and somewhat unrealistic scores of other games are meaningless to you, then you'll be absolutely over the moon with NFL 2K. Head-to-head play is great thanks to the superb AI of your teammates, and co-op play is exceptionally well implemented.

Overall : 92
NFL 2K is a very difficult game to reconcile. On the one hand, it does so many things so much better than any football game before it that it's hard not to love. On the other, it disappoints in many areas as a simulation while being frustratingly close to perfection. However, the most exciting thing about NFL 2K is that Visual Concepts have advanced videogame football in ways that were previously unimaginable and, in the process, have created an incredibly solid foundation from which to build. The tough work has been done. With some relatively minor tweaks and additions, all of which have already been implemented in other games, NFL 2K could evolve into THE killer football title that simulation and arcade gamers have long coveted. The fact that NFL 2K is a first generation title on a next generation system is cause for considerable excitement. What Visual Concepts have accomplished here is truly astounding. Just wait until next year.

By: Pete Anderson 9/28/99

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

Other Links:
[Free Credit Report  |   Car Insurance Quotes  |   Designer Shoes  |   Outdoor Equipment

MVP Baseball 2003
Street Hoops
Mad Catz Xbox Hardware

Inside Pitch 2003
MLB Slugfest 20-04
Tennis Masters Series