Review by: Scott Steinberg
Published: January 15, 2000
When it comes to video games, few sports have been given as royal a treatment as football. From before the days of the Super Nintendo and Genesis to the current age, no other spectacle of professional competition has been featured in as wide a selection of titles. As the years rolled by, the quality of most of these products has improved bit by bit–no pun intended–but I’d thought we’d just about seen the peak of this trend in recent years. Up until a few months ago, things were looking pretty bleak, with Acclaim’s NFL Quarterback Club series struggling to catch up to Electronic Arts’ famous Madden NFL line, which was beginning to get a bit stale. Yet all of the sudden, almost out of nowhere, a new contender was drafted into the big leagues, and in its wake, the entire genre was redefined.
Let’s cut to the chase and say that Sega spared no expense when it came to the design of their premier Dreamcast sports title. NFL 2K boasts all official NFL team and player licenses. It offers a large number of play modes and options to entice everyone from budding armchair quarterbacks to seasoned veterans, including tournament, practice, season, fantasy, exhibition, and playoffs. The game even attempts to bridge the gap between both arcade and simulation sports action, depending on the difficulty level you choose. Suffice it to say that from a design standpoint, NFL 2K can claim to be the total package.
In case you want more evidence of the effort Sega has invested into the design, consider that this title lets you customize just about every desirable detail of the play experience. Sure, you can create your own players and playbooks in other current football sims, but can you customize each athlete down to his padding? Entire teams can be designed and custom tournaments crafted on the fly, plus you’re able to set handicaps of a sort on player performance, allowing beginners to have a chance of bringing home the trophy against experienced players. Even those who would normally shy away from such titles should be intrigued that NFL 2K offers a tutorial mode to guide them step by step through the controls and play mechanics.
You’re likely to want to start out in rookie mode, which is designed to introduce people to the controls, and is probably about as far into this one as casual gamers are going to get. Rather than having to play with strategy or precision in mind, this mode allows you to enjoy the action for its flashier moments, such as vicious tackles, long bombs, and other moments of glory. Pro mode is the next step up the chain and is the natural progression for true football fans, as it’s herein that they’ll find a realistic simulation of the sport. Bump the difficulty up to its final setting, All-Pro, and you’re in for a true challenge, as the computer plays so mean that it’s liable to have Madden himself heading for full retirement.