Cons: Runners can't get anywhere. WHY does Daunte Culpepper suck?
The Bottom Line: 128-bit resurrection football without the lame "Maddenisms".
The golden age of football, to me, was the 1999-2000 season. Never had I seen such a pool of talent all playing the game at once. Now-retired legends like Dan Marino, Deion Sanders and Randall Cunningham rubbing elbows with rising greats like Peyton Manning, Takeo Spikes and pre-egomaniacal Randy Moss (whose pretty face adorns the cover of the game at hand). And sorry, Bears fans, new NFL 2K series cover boy Brian Urlacher aint in the game because he wasnt in the league when it came out. But hes a small price to pay to have all these other greats appearing in the same game.
I shall now implore your forgiveness if my tone is a little too excited. Free agent season is in full swing, you see, and Ill try my best to keep from emphasizing the fact that all the hottest defensive players on the market are headed to the Buffalo Bills.... ........ .................. Ah, who am I kidding? TAKEO SPIKES AND SAM ADAMS ARE BILLS!!!!!
There! Oooh, it felt goooood to get that off my chest! Anyway, whether youre a Sega Sports supporter or an EA Sports diehard, You have to give credit to Sega Sports for having first dibs on the worlds first 128-bit football title. That Sega was still a console company and turned away its usual support from EA Sports is irrelevant. The fact remains that NFL 2K was the worlds first 128-bit football title. It was even there when the Dreamcast was launched to help Sega mock the inferiority of Sony and Nintendo. And NFL 2K had the look of the day; from afar, you could have mistaken the game demos for real football games. Of course you already know that the look of the day only gets you so far in the game world. Where NFL 2K really delivered was on the gridiron, and it delivered so well that it gave rise to a new competitor for EAs Madden dynasty. And that was way back when the NFL 2K series was primitive.
To get an idea of just how primitive NFL 2K was by the standards of todays football sims, Ill dish out this piece of info: Segas famously deep franchise mode didnt come along until 2K1 came out the following year. But hey, who cares, you still get plenty of other options to play with. You have all the nice standard crap, like quick start, which goes as far as to pick out the two teams thatll be playing. Theres a normal exhibition mode that lets you pick the teams. Aside from the normal regular and all-star exhibition teams, Sega Sports decided to include all-star alumnus teams. So if youre so picky as to want to play with the best guys from a particular college area, now its possible. The most powerful teams in the game this season are the 15-1-in 1998 Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons.
Full season is there, but 2K was the first time I ever got my hands on a fantasy draft option. While you can go through the regular, everyday, boring old 1999 season in all its glory, with a fantasy draft you can choose which players go to which teams. Even better, the fantasy draft allows you to choose the number of teams in your personal league! Using the four-team option allows for imaginary teams that are freakin near orgasmic! Imagine keeping Brett Favre and Dan Marino as backup quarterbacks because you have Steve Young out there starting! Imagine having Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison and Eric Moulds on the same recieving corps! Imagine Deion Sanders sitting bored as a board in the defensive backfield because Warren Sapp and Junior Seau are up front sacking quarterbacks and stuffing running backs! Ricky Williams resting his eyes on the bench because Garrison Hearst is out there making all the big runs! The possibilities are almost endless.
The key word in the last sentence would be almost. This would be in a four-team draft, remember, and even with only four teams you still have to worry about those three other teams stealing away your favorite players like the greedy pricks they are. In many games before this, if you wanted to work out a trade to make that one last pickup, you would have had to cough up a player that you really hated to cough up. But NFL 2K is grounded a lot in both fantasy and reality. Therefore, if your trade offer wound up getting rejected, the game would immediately offer you a chance to overrule the rejection. If youre a sucker for the absolute purest sim, you can swallow your pride and just accept the fact that Daunte Culpepper is a sucky quarterback and not worth the entire Tampa Bay defensive line. But if your goal is to form the ultimate football team and drag them through the season, post season and Super Bowl, then you can throw your head back and laugh maniacally as you watch Simeon Rice knock offenses back to the stone age.
Unfortunately, the fantasy has its downsides as well as its upsides. Take what I just said in the last paragraph. Daunte Culpepper, in reality, is a very good quarterback and a worthy successor to Randall Cunningham. But Culpepper played third string until Cunningham retired, so he also plays third string in NFL 2K-and he has the rating to prove it. And thats just the tip of numbers that seem a little off. Somehow Dan Marino, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever toss bombs, gets a rating of 87. Granted 87 is a very good rating, but it seems a bit low when Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Mark Brunell all have ratings of 90 and up, and Steve Young is perfectly tuned with a muscular 100 rating. Same with Jerry Rice and Priest Holmes-they both have ratings less than their gridiron production implies they would.
Even more fantastical than these ratings are the names that a lazy Sega Sports crew gives to some of these players. Players with names like A. VikingsG and A. RedskinsL have plagued Sega Sports football games ever since I started playing them way back in the 16-bit era, so Im not pointing out anything new. But these characters seem to pop up more than in any other Sega Sports football game Ive ever played. This takes away some of the realism, seeing as how every football player on the face of the planet has a REAL name. All the years Ive been watching football, and not once have I ever heard of a player named A. BillsWhatever. While this may be excusable with some of the third or fourth string backups, giving these names to starters just shows a kind of unprecedented laziness on the part of the programmers.
Lazy would also describe your own scale model pigskin player in the player creation mode. I say this because created players often turn out very poorly. Anyone familiar with my 16-bit sports game reviews knows just how much I enjoy replacing injured starters with my own private Baron Samedi clone army. While most Sega Sports 16-bit efforts allowed you to mold a number of player creations into perfect beasts with ratings of 90 and above, NFL 2K really destroyed its player creation option. Instead of allowing you to build up player attributes on a 1 to 9 scale, the game gives your player ratings depending on his measurements, position and kind of player in the position (if you want a reciever, for example, you can choose between a focus on speed, power or someone well-rounded). If you dont like the ratings, you have to take ratings off one attribute to add them to another attribute. At best, you may wind up with a good player rated around the low or mid-80s. At worst, hell be a bench warmer with a rating down in the 50s. Fortunately, theres quite an abundance of players with 100 ratings, so you need not worry much if one guy gets laid up in the hospital with a broken collarbone.
Down on the field, NFL 2k goes off without a hitch. Theres only one thing that really bothers me: Randy Moss really was the perfect NFL player to represent the gameplay, because the passing game is about the only way to gain ground without eating up too much time on the clock. The computer will stuff an amazingly large percentage of running plays before your runners even reach the line of scrimmage. Even guys like Terrell Davis and Garrison Hearst will rarely, if ever, break the ten yard mark in a single attempt. Trying to scramble the ball if your quarterback is about to get sacked is a bust, even with a great scrambler like Steve Young or Doug Flutie. The upside is that if you ever have to let the ball go early to avoid a sack, it will probably reach and get caught by its intended target because every reciever seems to have super glue-hands, no matter what kind of coverage is keying in on him.
Even though running the ball wont break the defensive lines, you still have a plethora of moves to help (or not help, as is more the case) you try to get through. Stiff arms, speed bursts, high steps and spins are all there should any defender try to bring your run to a premature halt. If your ball carrier isnt quite fast enough to outrun a pesky linebacker, a dive will make sure he gets the most out of his run when hes about to go down. Sadly, jukes are absent. I would gladly trade the stiff arm for the ability to juke any day.
Once the ball gets turned over, youll find that Sega Sports got rid of the controllable pre-snap trash talk. The game automatically does the talking for you, but the X button will pump up the crowd. A is the speed burst button no matter what side of the ball youre on, but be careful if you choose to move your linebacker up to the line. In later 2K games, holding the A button would power up your d-line guy, but in the original 2K game it only causes speed bursts. So if you mistake 2K for 2K3, youre liable to speed burst your way into an offsides penalty. Although you dont get as many plays as you would probably want, Sega is still holding the NFLs playbooks hostage, and defense is really when youll be having the most fun. Chasing down runners and knocking off passes requires just the right combination of luck and skill, and most people arent near-impossible to tackle. And Sega Sports finally brought the offensive line AI up to a level that requires more than just moving one of your guards a little to the left and gunning for the quarterback to make a sack, so no more outrageous 50+ sack seasons for a single player.
It took Sega Sports long enough, but NFL 2K finally brought the armchair coach the perfect kicking system. Why Sega chose to ruin it in its future 2K games is beyond me, but the kicking interface in 2K is as simple as it is perfect. The arrow stays in one place while you try to set up, and the power gauge is a straight up and down line instead of a three-quarter circle. You still have to factor in weather for field goal attempts, but so do the pros. The good news is that the weather is finally playing the role its supposed to. Your kicks fly according to the conditions, which is more than I could say for the always-straight kicks of NFL 㤃 or the always-lumbering kicks of Prime Time NFL 㤄.
When you get to play the big offensive cheese-Im referring to the quarterback-absolute control is the name of the game. Set the maximum passing mode, and the pass will fly according to how hard you press the passing button. The QBs dont move ultra-slow just because theyre looking down the field like in the latest, 2K3, so if the need to break the pocket ever arises, you wont have a lot of trouble doing so. At least you wouldnt if the running game was emphasized a little more.
Honestly, the only major complaint I have about NFL 2K is the challenge balance. The game is appropriately easy on rookie mode, but above that the AI runs you through a meat grinder. It becomes almost impossible to do anything.
I already talked about how NFL 2K had the look of the day when it came out. But the look of the day on a 128-bit console in 1999 is NOT the look of the day on a 128-bit console in 2003. Although Sega Sports included its trademark outstanding player face and stadium renditions, the poly count is so low its almost shocking. But I give the game credit for having smooth animation and large sprites; the sprites in 2K are bigger than the sprites in 2K3. And although the background guys in 2K3 look terrible, the background guys in 2K are poor beyond description. No one moves, and everyone looks like theyre made from cardboard. So while you can easily mistake 2K for a live football game far away, the differences from close up are obvious.
The sounds fare better. NFL 2K has a very complete commentary. Although you wont hear any new lines outside of your first two or three games, the commentary is great anyway, and better than it is in half of Sega Sports 2K1 lineup. Some more music would have been nice, but the game sounds fine with the commentary, the loud trash talk and the painful hits. The bad part is that the commentary is so low it gets overshadowed a lot.
I think Ive covered more than enough of the controls already. They work beautifully. You feel like youre guiding the players, and not like youre guiding them by remote control. Jumping to make interceptions actually works, and you wont be throwing half the defense at a stubborn ball carrier who refuses to go down.
Despite the lack of a franchise and the near-impossible running game, the original NFL 2K may very well be the best NFL 2K. Being a Dreamcast game, it can be found for outstanding prices. I picked mine up for maybe five smackers. And thats not even the lowest price Ive seen. And there are plenty of copies floating around out there. Worth it? Yeah. Especially for a chance to make Randy I only play hard when I want to Moss play hard.
Competition, step aside. The best football game ever created is coming to Sega Dreamcast. Sega sports sets an all new standard in football games with NFL 2K is the most realistic football game ever made. Named the "Best Sports Game" at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, NFL 2K features an intricate 3D-collision model which ensures that players don't just fall over when hit-they respond to the direction and force of the tackle just like real players do on the actual field. Sometimes players just stumble if the tackle falls short; sometimes they fall over completely, just like in real life. Adding to the detail that puts you right in the thick of the action are realistic weather effects based on the actual weather trends at a particular stadium, as well as crowd sounds recorded at real-life NFL games, detailed voice-overs and incredible depth in animations.