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Quarterback Club 2000 (N64) Review

Publisher: Acclaim Sports

Background Info

N64 Screens(14)
All looks and no brains--that's the reputation that the Quarterback Club series has labored under for years on the Nintendo 64. Sure, some people love the game, but many more players are disappointed. Will this be the year that all of that changes?

Presentation/Graphics : 78
First off: for all the gush about the graphics that accompanies each year's release of a new installment of the QBC series, it is important to note that the N64 Expansion Pak is a necessity if one is to enjoy the promised visual treat. The game allows you to adjust the visual details: however, the resulting loss in image (especially in player renderings--they look like Gumby's enemies in one option) will turn you away from the game.

Sure, the players (at least in high-res mode) look beautiful--far better than do their Madden N64 counterparts. The faces are incredibly detailed; there's tape on the fingers, eye black on the cheeks, not to mention elbow pads and nose strips--and enough variation between players to give the impression that you are managing a team of individuals. But when they move, except in some animations, sometimes it appears that the movements are jerky and perhaps frames are missing--something more evident when running plays in slow motion. More annoying is the fact that uniform colors remain washed-out and at times it is hard to pick up players on the field--which becomes especially critical when it comes to the passing game. Some animations are a wonder to watch--one of my favorites is a turning one-handed catch--but I'm not sure how many times one will be able to spot such gems.

There are 16 camera settings (including one you can customize) and a provision for replays. The QBC action cam may be the choice of many players, but sometimes it draws back too much when a quarterback sets up to pass--and one risks overlooking the rushing linemen in scanning the field for receivers. The still pictures for this game are stunning, but I'm not sure that the graphics are truly functional--and thus the low score. Indeed, when it comes to this year's sim football games, the N64 games actually lag behind their PSX competition--not because of the wonderful detail, but because of how the graphics contribute to gameplay. I see the field much better with GameDay 2K and Madden 2K for the PSX.

Presentation/Audio : 55
Nothing exceptional here. The announcing team of Mike Patrick and Randy Cross does an acceptable job of describing the action, although there are occasional flubs, miscalls, and lags. More promising is the animated referee, who announces his decisions with authority. Other on-field sounds are okay, nothing more, and some of the taunts are slightly inane. Not every game has to become NFL Blitz or NFL Xtreme. Music? Why?

Interface/Options : 75
There are several ways to play the game, including a practice mode, exhibition contests, and the usual season and playoff setups. The game also comes with a number of historical situations (and a provision to create your own) and classic teams. What renders the latter somewhat curious is that all uniform numbers are off by one: that is, Phil Simms (#11) shows up as #12, Joe Namath (#12) as #13, and so on. There are three levels of difficulty. You can choose quarter lengths, weather, time of day, clock speed, coaching profiles, playbooks, the frequency of various penalty calls, substitutions, and site of game; you can adjust video and audio settings, and decide whether players lose energy, suffer injuries, or celebrate great plays. You can also decide to take on the responsibilities of a general manager, by signing, releasing, drafting, and even creating players (although at first the ratings on your created players will not be very impressive); if you want, you can remove the salary cap. As a coach, you can create your own playbook (not a bad idea: most players tend to rely on certain plays, and this makes it easier to find them) and indicate preferred formations. There is even something called "hyper audibles," where a combination of button presses calls up various plays.

Some people will gravitate to the Custom Profile and Custom Team options. Profiles determine playcalling tendencies (the pass/run ration, formations, willingness to go for broke); you can jazz up your CPU opponents, making them more aggressive and unpredictable (and thus harder to beat). Or you can draft your own team, design uniforms, build a stadium, and so on. Do whatever your heart desires--for no matter how much (or how little) you do, this game automatically fills a memory pak completely.

Taking full advantage of the N64 controller, QBC2K is filled with options on controlling player movement and actions. On offense, there are the usual pre-snap options; a series of actions for your quarterback to take after deciding whether to run or pass; the usual running options (although there's no turbo, and pressing A will bring the runner to a stop), and controls for your receiver. The last is especially important to master: you MUST press the C-Left button to attempt a catch. On defense, the controls are simpler (the same button choices used for receivers are also applied to defenders attempting to intercept a ball). Even different celebrations have their own button assignments.

By now you show be noticing a trend: button, button, where is that button!? Here's a game that brags about its visual appeal, yet demands that you learn a great deal about the various uses of different button to get your players to do what you want them to do. I strongly suggest that you FIRST take your team to the practice field in order to learn these button presses (and to purge your memory of button assignments and patterns for other games). Because of the bunching of the C buttons, it's easy to hit the wrong one; it is also difficult to distinguish the C buttons when it comes to icon passing. Practice will be essential to get these patterns down--especially the pass catching button, which I found a hassle. Frankly, there should have been an option to leave to the CPU all of the receiver's motions before catching the ball. And I've not even mentioned the optional "PinPoint Passing" system, which resembles GameDay's "Total Control Passing." You lead receivers, overthrow or underthrow, and so on. Good luck.

While the off-the-field interface is fine, with easy-to-navigate menus, and there is a nice stats package, controlling your players will require practice, especially when it comes to passing--maybe too much practice. One begins to concentrate more on managing the right combinations of button presses than in developing a game play and attacking a defense or containing an offense. And at that point, I begin to lose the sense I have that I'm coaching a football team.

Gameplay : 50
QBC2K brags that it offers improved AI. I couldn't always tell, because I was having a tough enough time getting down how to manage my own passing game to notice. And that, in short, is what's wrong with this game. There are too many things to do with the controller and too much razzle-dazzle happening on the screen before you to concentrate on getting more than a few basic plays off. It is especially difficult to time the pass-catching button when the animation falls short or skips frames; it becomes even more problematic when it comes to the short passing game.

That being said, the AI has improved. The CPU defenses react well (at times too well) against the run, calling on you to do a better job of playcalling. The problematic execution of the passing game proves at least as much an obstacle as does the CPU defense. And one can use the custom playbook option to increase the challenge. Finally, run, run, run--especially to the outside, until you pick up the knack of passing.

Finally, when all is said and done, I found the gameplay almost boring. The sounds and sights of other games this year leave the QBC gridiron far behind.

Replay Value : 50
Given time, one might master the controls and learn enough about the workings of the game to find it absorbing. I'm not so sure, however; many gamers will find the initial learning curve so frustrating that they will never need to ask about replay value.

Overall : 59
I'm disappointed and frustrated at N64 football in general and QBC2K in particular. Perhaps the only 64-bit football game worth considering this year is NFL Blitz. For those of you who swear by your N64 (and have no other consoles or a powerful enough PC), Madden2K is easier to pick up and play; you will have to work with QBC2K to appreciate its strong points. There's a game in there, no doubt, but how many people are going to have the patience to find it?

By: Brooks Simpson 10/18/99

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