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NFL 2K2 (PlayStation 2) artwork

NFL 2K2 (PlayStation 2) review

"For many years, there has really only been one name in console football simulations; that of John Madden and his excellent Electronic Artsí title. Sure, there are other titles to choose from but Madden has always been so good, gamers instinctively stick to this series. But with the end of the Dreamcast, Sega Sports has decided to import itís own football title to other systems. NFL2K2 might be the closest rival Madden has in the console world."

As I write this review, the football season is winding down and pigskin hungry fans have but two choices: Watch European League Football or fire the old video game system up. Personally, I much rather engage my PS2 in smash-mouth football than watch two sorry German teams go out it in a half filled soccer stadium.

For many years, there has really only been one name in console football simulations; that of John Madden and his excellent Electronic Artsí title. Sure, there are other titles to choose from but Madden has always been so good, gamers instinctively stick to this series. But with the end of the Dreamcast, Sega Sports has decided to import itís own football title to other systems. NFL2K2 might be the closest rival Madden has in the console world.

For starters, NFL2K2 looks great. First, the players are rendered well. So well, you can make out the individual faces of your favorite NFL stars. The uniforms look good, especially when they accumulate dirt and blood during the course of a game. Their helmets are appropriately shiny and reflect the lights of the leagueís stadiums. Oh yea: All the various franchisesí arenas are represented and look just like the real buildings. Off the field, thereís action, albeit repetitive action, in the stands and on the sidelines. While NFL2K2 doesnít have the animated coaches that Madden does, there are plenty of interesting characters such as photographers, security personal, the chain gang and even a few obnoxious mascots.

Sega wonít win any awards for sound with this game as it merely provides typical effects like the sound of helmets smacking together and the crunch of bodies meeting on the field. I do like some of the voice effects, particularly the trash talking players who can be heard taunting opponents. However, the commentators are the best Iíve ever heard with good play by play and some funny color commentary. That being said, after a couple games, you want might to turn them off as they can get quite annoying.

From the Main Menu, you have a number of good options to choose from. You can pick to play a single Exhibition Game, tackle a whole season or manage a team over many years in the Franchise Mode. The Franchise mode is particularly interesting as you have to manage the team on and off the field: making rosters, recruiting new players and free agents, making trades and getting around the NFLís infamous salary cap. Sega also allows you to create a team from scratch and if you like, fill it with players you made up. Of course, you might want to take advantage of the gameís Practice session to remove any kinks from your team.

The most unique feature of NFL2K2 is the ďMaximum PassingĒ option. Maximum Passing allows you, while controlling the QB, to pass in front of, behind and to the sides of your receivers, just like a real NFL QB. As a result, offensive play is fast paced: You have to find an open receiver, or one that can get open, decide where to pass the ball, and finally, get the throw off in time before the opposing team sacks your QB. Itís a wonder why no other football games donít offer this passing system as a touch of realism is added to the overall feel of the simulation. But this feature is not without itís drawbacks. Maximum Passing does take a while to learn; plan to spend about a season getting used the system before you master passing, even if youíre throwing to open men. Second, and this is a major problem, the left analog stick controls both QB movement and is used for Maximum Passing. So, if youíre running a bootleg play with the QB or are trying to avoid a sack, you canít effectively throw the ball until you come to a complete stop. Basically, it means that you canít pass on the run and if your passer is forced out of the pocket, woe to you. Really, Sega needs to work on this system if they want Maximum Passing to be near perfect.

Maximum Passing aside, offensive play in NFL2K2 favors the run game. I must say, I really like rushing in this in this title. While running a ball, your player will automatically bounce off of any other player they come in contact with. This means that the run doesnít stall when you hit the back the of your own offensive line and gives you a few extra yards after a hit. However, these few extra yards can be a bit much. Offensive backs are a little too good in this game because of the bounce feature; I mean, one season, my Running Back averaged 14 yards per carry! You can really exploit this feature, stick to the ground and beat almost every defense. Likewise, the computer can really burn the heck out of you when they run the ball. Sega needs to tweak the rushing system a little more.

NFL2K2 does provide you with a plethora of plays to run. More than that, each coach featured in the game has his own special playbook that is unique to their particular offensive style. Though, these plays donít seem to favor individual teams. Andy Reidís playbook, from the Philadelphia Eagles, will work equally well with the St. Louis Rams, even though both teams have different strengths and weaknesses. But there are many plays tailored for individual players so Randy Moss has his own set of routes as does Marshal Faulk or Jerry Rice.

While I have issues with NFL2K2ís offensive play, I can live them. However, I canít say the same for the other side of the ball. Simply put, I find Segaís defensive game horrendous.

First, all teams have the same defensive playbook which is quite annoying since not every team in the NFL has the same defensive strengths. So, a top rated defense like the Baltimore Ravens will have the same options as the San Diego Chargers. Not only that, but every defense is equally effective, or not, against any offense in the NFL. You canít play the strengths of a mean and hungry defensive line against a weak offense. This is really a problem for me, as I favor teams with good defenses.

I really hate the play of safeties and corners in NFL2K2 as well. While the game allows you to chose between zone or man-to-man coverage, I really feel that in the end, NFL2K2 plays a man-to-man game. What happens is that receivers are often able to get just enough separation from their coverage, catch balls and get some additional yards. Then, other defensive players have to scramble after that one man to prevent a 30+ yard touchdown. And donít even think about controlling a corner as any little slip up by you means an open receiver. I found the only way to actually play NFL2K2ís corners is to memorize favored routes and run them along side the receivers. If I do end up taking control of a defensive player, I usually like to play with someone from the secondary line or a defensive linesmen. These positions allow more room for error but are often boring and repetitive to play.

Finally, blitzing in this game just plain sucks. Once again, itís not a matter of a teamís effectiveness rushing the passer but rather, a matter of dumb luck. It seems as though the computer randomly generates when a sack will occur, even if a blitz wasnít called for. And rushing with corners or free safeties is a particularly big problem in this game. When you pull coverage from a receiver or a tight-end to go in for the blitz, you leave a man open . And the computer is so quick to throw the ball, that one open man regularly catches a reception. Really, thereís no point in blitzing in this game.

The combination of too good offensive play, and poor defensive performance makes for high-scoring games and frustrating loses. Overall, I canít recommend NFL2K2 this year and suggest if you need a football game for your PS2, stick with Madden. If Sega addresses the problems I laid out in this review, NFL2K2 just might have the right stuff too overcome Electronic Artsí football dynasty.

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