NFL 2K2 Review
Let's face the facts, it was Sega's NFL 2K that truly revolutionized the sports genre as the game debuted to an overwhelming critical success on the Dreamcast on 9/9/99. The game was one of the most popular titles of 1999, along with Final Fantasy VIII, Soul Calibur and Sonic Adventure. NFL 2K featured breathtaking visuals, with life-like player motions, and superb athletic detail. The gameplay as a whole felt like the real thing itself. While the running game felt almost non-existent, NFL 2K certainly did pave the way for every future pigskin title. Today, we have NFL titles hitting the PS2 left and right. Some that should not be (NFL GameDay 2001, ESPN NFL Primetime 2002), others that need refinements here and there (QB Club 2002), and others that are on the verge of perfection (NCAA Football 2002, Madden NFL 2002). EA Sports fantastically established Madden NFL 2001 on the PS2, and really gave Sega a run for its money against NFL 2K1. While many may argue that NFL 2K1 was the better game, I'd say that Madden had a slight edge. But as the days progressed we eventually saw the downfall of Sega, as it ultimately became a 3rd party publisher/developer. Well as far as videogaming sports is concerned, that means that PS2 owners will not only be getting an all new and improved NFL GameDay 2002, NCAA Football 2002 and Madden NFL 2002, but also Sega Sports/Visual Concepts' NFL 2K2. Could pigskin fans ask for anything more? Griping the Dual Shock 2 while playing NFL 2K2 felt strange at first, as it did with Crazy Taxi. But after playing NFL 2K2 for a couple of hours, I was able to come down to one conclusion; this is the best football game to date!
While Madden NFL 2002 was a decent improvement over its original counterpart, the game still looked fairly similar to the original. Some of the athletes got realistic digital faces, but many others just weren't treated to the same love. Comparing 'Madden' Jason Sehorn (Giants corner back- #31) to his NFL 2K2 counterpart, the differences are clearly there, as the 2K2 representation is a lot more detailed. The skin definition is precisely detailed as well, as every athlete not only resembles his actual counterpart, but also features a similar skin tone. The athletes themselves just look better than Madden's in every single aspect. Comparing both of the games to one another, NFL 2K2's models definitely have the edge over Madden's, because they feature even more realistic physical proportions. Some of the bodies in Madden are a bit out of whack, but most of the athletes in 2K2 look incredible. On top of that, when looking at up close shots, the images almost seem photo-realistic. Don't believe me? Just go and take a look at the screenshots. The stadiums are realistic as well; the sidelines are well defined and feature excellent little details. NFL 2K2 definitely has the best motion-captured detail in a sports game to date. The tackles look absolutely wonderful, due to the refined collision detection over the Dreamcast title. You'll notice yourself just how precise and smooth the motion capturing is. There are dozens and dozens of tackling animations, as well as many pass and catch animations; everything from toe-dive catches, to ballerina hops, to Superman dives and to high flying catches.
Watching NFL 2K2 in action from a distance, you'd swear you were watching a televised event. The detail is that spectacular. The facial animations are well done. Depending on how well or poor a play was executed, or how fierce a certain event on the field is, the faces of the players will vary and demonstrate their emotions with very nice detail. On top of that, the texturing altogether is super sharp and super smooth! The jerseys are very well done, as is the skin and especially the grass and turf. Take a look at some of the screenshots in the index and gander at the grass. It's very detailed; in fact you can even see openings between the blades and notice the dirt beneath. There are six layers worth of texturing, just for the grass! Incredible, if I do say so myself. Depending on the sun's setting, the athletes give off some fantastic shadows. As time progresses you may notice that the field is mysteriously getting darker, if you look closer a shadow figure of a blimp is making its way around the field. That's some detail isn't it? To top thing off, the frame rate is incredibly consistent (60), with only a few minor bumps here and there. Though, this game is not without it's visual problems. Some graphical issues that plague NFL 2K2 are pretty minor and can only be seen up close, while watching a manually controlled replay. Clipping issues, something that has plagued every football title to date, is present. And even though it's not very bad, it does take away some polish, from what is otherwise a nearly perfect visual demonstration of videogaming football.
The NFL 2K series has always felt a bit more arcade-like for me, in contrast to Madden's more sim like approach. But after studying -carefully- various NFL games, I noticed that it was NFL 2K's speed and intensity that makes the game actually more realistic than Madden NFL 2001 and 2002. While Madden NFL 2002 is arguably the better game to many others, I have come down to a conclusion that NFL 2K2 is simply better than Madden in every field. The physical speed of the game superbly shows off how actual NFL athletes run on the grass and turf. And I find that as a huge plus, in contrast to Madden's slower running. Speaking of which, NFL 2K2's offensive playbook is far deeper than the previous ones ever had. There are now 8-10 pages of plays to choose from, with five formations per page. The passing plays are simple, and there is no need to double tap for the receiver icons to appear. The running game has remained intact and as always, is an excellent way to build up momentum for the team. QB scrambles are done by holding the R1 button, but be careful because the AI is incredibly smart. You just have to be smarter and wait for the corner back to leave his defending man, step behind the line of scrimmage and pass to your now open running back. Little game strategies like that really make you feel as if you are part of the action.
NFL 2K2's AI on both offense and defense is ferociously smart on the higher levels. Chances are you won't find your linemen just standing around in one place as you would in Madden 2001, or in some cases 2002. Visual Concepts has done a marvelous job in creating a thorough AI engine that reacts quickly and realistically to its surroundings. Unlike Madden 2001 or 2002, you can't do the same play more than twice and hope to accomplish it with NFL 2K2. The AI has already embedded your previous efforts into their minds and will not let you pull off the same play more than twice in one quarter. The linemen will read your formation, and if one of them tears through a pocket then you need to think fast, as alas the defense dominated your offense. NFL 2K2 really does give you the bang for the buck, as the game features a plethora of modes to choose from! You've got the commons such as Season (Tournament) mode, Training mode, Exhibition mode, and then you have the Franchise mode and Create-a-Team. The modes are basically self-explanatory, so I'll save myself the trouble of explaining. Party gamers looking to have some fun owe it to themselves to invite 7 friends, and make sure to have 2 multi taps and 8 PS2 compatible controllers. Playing NFL 2K2 multi-player can get hella' fun, and in some cases too competitive.[Ed's Note: Even though in my review of Madden NFL 2002 I had stated that it was the best football game of the year. That was due to the fact I was not even remotely aware of Sega developing NFL 2K2. So bare that in mind before sending me hate mail.] NFL 2K2, of course, features the most up to date rosters of any NFL title on the market. As I played NFL 2K2, the experience only became more and more addictive. In some cases I'd set the AI to a challenging level, the clock to 10 minutes per quarter, and lock the door so that I could not be bothered. NFL 2K2 is certainly an NFL gamer's wish come true. I really do prefer NFL 2K2 over Madden. The game plays better, it's quicker and I feel it does a better job at representing the sport of football with its more precise AI.
Chances are many of you reading this remember the incredibly "high" score of 3.0 I gave to Madden NFL 2002 for its "incredible" commentary. How many of you remember that "wonderful" commentary? One thing's for sure; I'll never forget it! I'm very pleased to announce that the commentary in NFL 2K2 is quite good, in fact it's probably the best in a football title so far, unless 989's GameDay 2002 has something to say about that? The commentators aren't actual NFL personalities, which isn't very common in sports games, but Sega's been following that path ever since the debut of the first NFL 2K. The commentators claim to be Dan Stevens and Peter O'Keefe, but they are in fact voice overs done by two employees from Visual Concepts: Terry McGovern and Jay Styne. The play by play is done very well, and doesn't feature any stupid un-needed dialogue that only makes you cringe. The speech is well coordinated, but like every other game, can get repetitive at times. Then again, the emphasis on play-by-play replay evaluation (try saying that three times in a row) is sweet! The commentators use highlighters to pinpoint certain aspects in a replay, discuss it and then move on. They break down the highlighted play and create a very inspired atmosphere that every one will certainly appreciate. Visual Concepts gave these commentators a memory too, as they will remember preceding plays and refer to them in order to point out various faults in the offensive or defensive formations. The crowd is by far the most ecstatic of any football title. If the home team scores they go crazy, but if the opposing team hits the red-zone a dead-cold silence falls over the stadium. Best of all, NFL 2K2 doesn't have any cheesy rap music to harm the game. The audio is hands-down the best a football title can offer in the meantime. Chances are, nobody will be disappointed.
Madden NFL 2002's controls were always fantastic to me! I loved the precise feel that I got when running with the ball. The analog really works well with the game. But one thing I never mentioned was that when turning to run the opposite way, the player tends to slow-down to a near halt, which in some cases can give the defense sometime to catch up. Believe it or not, NFL 2K2's controls are even more responsive, fluid and impressive than Madden's! The Virtual Control feature allows the gamer to control the game with both analog sticks, and eliminate the usage of digital, giving the gamer the most out of the game and what the Dual Shock 2 has to offer. Running plays can now be easily directed. How many of us tried to plow through what they thought was a large enough hole in Madden 2002, but wound up running in the same place (and ultimately just falling backwards) because you needed a little more space? It's happened to me countless times, that's for sure, but in NFL 2K2 it doesn't occur. The gamer can either double tap the speed burst button (and hold it on the second tap) for a rushing hit against a lineman, or the athlete will automatically stiff arm to open up a gap and scurry through. But that also requires precise timing, as there may be a lineman on the floor who can shoelace-tackle you. If you time your speed burst hits right, you can break an upwards of seven tackles, as I once did, playing the game on a challenging level. Double-taping a pass button will make the QB fake the pass, where in some cases the AI could jump for it, you sway to the side, the defender ends up behind you and you tuck the ball for a running play. Everything about NFL 2K2's controls is superb. I could find few, if any gripes with them.
In the end, I have nothing but praise for what is surely the sports game of the year, and quite possibly the best football title to date. I can honestly recommend NFL 2K2 over its prime competitor, Madden NFL 2002. While both are genuinely fantastic football titles, in the long run I felt that Visual Concepts' effort puts one over Tiburon's Madden 2002. The speed, the attention to detail and even more so, the commentary is just so well done that it almost seems doubtful there will be another football title to really out do NFL 2K2. As Sega's and Visual Concepts' very first sports game to see release on the PS2, it's certainly the best sports game to date. The graphics have been touched up to a point of near perfection, as the facial detail is the best of the pack, and so are the motion captures and animations. NFL 2K2 has it all, speed, realism, attention to detail, fantastic graphics, superb commentary (and audio effects), incredibly responsive controls and nearly infinite replay value! Make sure NFL 2K2 is in your PS2 gaming library; you're not a sports gamer until you've played NFL 2K2. Now if you excuse me, I'll be winning the Super Bowl with my NY, Giants!
12/1/2001 Arnold Katayev