All-Pro Football 2K8 Review
How many of you sometimes yearn for the good ol' days of Tecmo Bowl? How many of us remember the deadly - and seemingly unstoppable - tandems of Joe Montana/Jerry Rice and Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen? Well, thanks to 2K Sports' All-Pro Football 2K8, you can once again have a taste of old-school glory; many of the greats from years long past in the NFL are available to you in this pseudo-simulator. This may seem like an absolutely fantastic concept (and it is), but despite the game's inherent allure and mystique, it lacks polish and refinement, which ultimately puts a major crimp in the overall experience. There's no doubt that bowling people over with Ben Coates or trashing a halfback with Brian Bosworth is great fun, but much of the gameplay suffers from a seemingly watered down approach.
By any next-gen standard, be it on the PS3 or Xbox 360, the graphics of All-Pro Football 2K8 fail to live up to expectations. They're not mediocre, but as just mentioned, there is a significant lack of detail and polish. The animations are by far the best part of the game; it seems as if there are dozens upon dozens of tackles, and most every action seems extremely realistic and nicely implemented. In fact, this is one of those rare occasions where the animations increase the player's appreciation of the visuals. The graphics are a little grainy and the background effects on the sidelines and in the rest of the stadiums aren't impressive, so those wonderful animations really help an awful lot. It also helps the gameplay as action animations contribute to the game's feel, and you'll always get at least a small rush out of just about every play. In the end, it's too bad the entire visual presentation didn't come together, but there is a saving grace.
The sound is an interesting dichotomy that consists of surprising variety and oddly erratic quality. You'll often hear some player comments while on the field (a lot of trash-talking, mostly), and commentators Dan Stevens and Peter O'Keefe add a healthy amount of attitude to the solid atmosphere. But some of those player comments sound as if they're shouted from inside a tin cup - bizarre, yes - and too many of the announcer's catch-phrases are repeated game in and game out. The sound effects are the most consistent, as they continually resound with the sharp cracks of powerful tackles and the appropriately muffled grunts and groans of effort. We have no idea why some of the player voices sound strangely muted and tend to echo, but it does take away from the gameplay just a tad. The soundtrack is comprised of the typical assortment of rap and rock tracks, but they never really play a major role as you spend most of your time on the field. The sound is very similar to the graphics, in that they don't shine, but they suffice.
If you're looking for a Madden clone, don't bother with All-Pro Football 2K8. If you're more in the mood for a fast, pick-up-and-play football game that walks the tightrope between simulator and arcade-style, then this one should fit the bill nicely. Many of the same player abilities you have in Madden are here, but they just seem simpler and more straightforward, and the depth you would normally find in any simulator isn't evident. In other words, when you go to start a season, there's no drafting, signing, training camp, pre-season, manager/owner options, etc, etc, etc. No, you simply set your team up with a variety of awesome players, select your logo, city, and stadium, choose home or away, and go play. Simple as that. That's why all those micromanagement freaks needn't apply: it can seem very realistic at times, but at its core, All-Pro Football 2K8 is a very accessible and mostly entertaining title.
But while it's all kinds of fun to take Barry Sanders and juke would-be defenders out of their cleats, we have to first take issue with the control. Too often it seems very sluggish, especially on defense, and we continually find ourselves out of position or crossing the line of scrimmage due to a hesitant and slightly clunky control interface. There also seems to be a significant problem when it comes to the optional skills (dive, spin, and speed burst) executed with the face buttons; we really had to jam on those buttons to get the player to perform the desired move. The triggers, which handle the left/right stiff-arm and jukes, work very well, though. But the consistency of the control in general leaves something to be desired, and for whatever reason, it seems to get worse as the game goes on. This drawback doesn't rear its ugly head all the time, but it's very worth noting and a flaw every player will notice.
On the other hand, what we said about accessibility and "pick-up-and-play" remains true. You'll soon get a decent handle on both offense and defense, and it won't be long before you feel completely comfortable with most every field action. The AI is good - you won't be able to pull off the same deep route twice in a row - and the challenge is always right on par with what you might expect. Remember, even though you get your own selection of superstars, you'll be playing against a bunch of other superstars whenever you hit the field. This makes for an extraordinarily cool match-up each and ever time, if you couldn't guess. And if you feel a bit overmatched, you can always access the difficulty sliders, one of the few depth enhancements typically found in sports simulators but rarely found in arcade-style titles. Bottom line? Within a few minutes, you'll be playing with your favorite NFL stars and having a blast.
At the start, you will create your very own dream team. You can select two players from the Gold level, three from the Silver, and six from the Bronze; you can choose from any position with each level, but you're obviously limited and it requires you to make some light coaching decisions right off the bat. If you want to focus more on defense, perhaps you'd like to select at least one linebacker or cornerback in the Gold level (Lawrence Taylor or Ronnie Lott, for instance), or if you're more offensive-minded, you'll take a quarterback and a halfback (Dan Marino or Barry Sanders, for example). We took the latter approach with an eye to honoring one of the greatest teams in NFL history, the '84 San Francisco 49ers. So we took Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for our Golden boys, John Taylor, Roger Craig, and Ben Coates from the Silver group, and Ken Norton Jr., Jesse Tuggle, Bryce Paup, Rocket Ishmail, and a couple more top-notch defensemen from the Bronze tier.
This translated to a helluva pass offense, decent run offense, kick-ass rush defense and a relatively weak secondary. We won our first game 16-10 and enjoyed every minute of it, but we couldn't ignore the fairly significant shortcomings. That iffy control was always a bit annoying, it took way too long to figure out the kicking game, and we just couldn't figure out why the quarterback wouldn't throw the ball to a desired target when flushed out of the pocket. Oh, and we really didn't like not having the ability to "swim" through the line when rushing the quarterback, either...although the computer was able to record seven sacks for us, regardless. Speed also seems a little screwy. Most guys on the field will be fast, of course, but it just didn't seem as if the fastest players really had any sort of edge. Thankfully, though, there are no frustrating "catch-up" runners during breakaways- if you get behind the secondary with the likes of Irving Fryar, you're gone.
In many ways, All-Pro Football 2K8 delivers exactly what it promises: a rock ‘em-sock'em football event featuring the best players in history, all wrapped up in a package that will allow any player to have fun for at least a while. Simulation fans won't like the almost complete lack of micromanagement depth and straight-up arcade fans won't like the fact that this game is indeed a bit deeper - and smarter - than something like Blitz. Therefore, this game appeals primarily to the more casual football fan who just wants a more modernized and technical version of Tecmo Bowl, and we're positive there are plenty of those guys around. The graphics aren't very good, the sound can be questionable at times, the control is frequently loose, and there aren't very many menu options, but if you're having a good time, none of that really matters too much, does it? Basically, if you can ignore all these errors and drawbacks, and you know what to expect, chances are, you'll get your money's worth.
But after reading this review and you feel this isn't quite the sports game you're seeking, we can't recommend you take the chance. Simply put, it's just not quite good enough.
9/5/2007 Ben Dutka