Graphics: Despite having seen the screenshots prior to release, I was unprepared for the fact that they were representative of the actual quality of the in-game action. No other title boasts the sheer level of detail that NFL 2K does, as you’ll be able to see everything from the tips of players’ noses to the stitching on the ball. Things look even more impressive when the field is filled with activity, as the animated players run, hurdle, make one-handed catches, and tackle in an incredibly authentic manner. Toss in a few weather effects and you’ve got a wet and muddy little gem of a product.
Even the sidelines contribute to your overall impression of the game, as you’ll find a number of spectators and journalists waiting in the wings. Of course, they’re not liable to draw your attention away from the on-field action, as there’s much better fare to witness, such as the tremendous hits the linebackers like to level upon helpless victims. Whether your QB is flying through the air as he leaps over the crowd at the line or breaking away for a touchdown, things looks great, and you can’t help but feel a sense of connection with your players. Would that other sports titles could aspire to such visual glory.
Interface: Running, passing, and kicking has never been easier or more precise thanks to the incredible control NFL 2K gives you over your team. Forget having to manipulate players set on confined paths while attempting to manage unpredictable passes, you’re in complete control like never before. As if that weren’t enough, you can also customize the game down to its skivvies through player, team, and playbook design options powerful enough to claim that they’re unrivaled by any other game. Even the multiplayer aspects of the interface are fantastic, as you can use the VMU to easily call plays without giving anything away to your opponent.
Gameplay: Fan of the sport or not, you’re missing out if you don’t give NFL 2K a try. It offers an incredibly simple pick and play style of control alongside a game model that’s deep enough to keep you enmeshed for months to come. You’ll have a great deal of fun playing this title in its arcade style rookie mode, but crank up the pro mode and it’ll give you an inkling of how real coaches and players spend their Sunday afternoons. Strangely enough, this is at the same time the most accessible and most comprehensive sports simulation I’ve ever laid hands on. From long bombs to fakes, believe me, if it’s in the real game, it’s in this one.
Sound FX: When players aren’t grunting, groaning, or just about crying from the hits they’ve taken, you might want to stop and marvel at the commentary. Multiple announcers highlight the action, shout out their point of view, and rattle off reports like naturals in the most fluid and diverse display of play-by-play calling ever included in a video game. There’s no lag in their comments either, quite an impressive feat considering how much is going on at any given time. It’s obvious Sega went all-out when it comes to NFL 2K‘s audio presentation.
Musical Score: Although the stadium music doesn’t make as much of an impression as the sound effects, one could hardly complain about it. Expect to hear some rousing little ditties that will get your blood pumping for the hard-hitting action to follow. Just don’t expect them to get in the way of your enjoyment.
Intelligence & Difficulty: If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I was playing against a human opponent more often than not. Teams may play with differing levels of ability, as their real-life counterparts would, but try to play dumb and they’ll send you home in a box. On the Pro difficulty setting, you’re in for a serious challenge that will have you flipping through your playbook like a madman, slapping the buttons to work up some speed, and twisting the analog joystick about as you constantly jockey to get receivers in place. The whole experience is quite thrilling, but wait until you’ve worked up the courage to play on All-Pro mode.
Overall: I don’t care what genre we’re talking about, only once in several years’ time does such a revolutionary product rear its head. NFL 2K manages to live up to the hype in a big way, pushing the boundaries of the sports genre like no other title of its kind and setting a new benchmark in the field of gaming. This is one of those special circumstances where a title actually shines bright enough to attract new converts to the fold of players, boasting phenomenal single and multi-player action. Not only does NFL 2K catch the ball, it runs it past the opposition and into an entirely new zone.