Review by sporkdude
"After a season on pro level"
I'm going to say it outright; I waffled between NFL 2K3 and Madden 2003. It came down to this. NFL 2K and NFL 2K1 were great on the Dreamcast. The last Madden I played was NFL 2002 on the PC. Absolutely terrible. Even though EA is the greatest gaming company in the world, I just couldn't buy Madden for the PS2.
So, anyway, I pop the game in, and despite the extra long loading time, and the annoying front end, the graphics are tremendous. By far the best for any football console game. The players look lifelike, and during a walk back scene after a play, a friend of mine who doesn't play video games thought that it was a real televised football game for a second.
Of course, graphics mean so little when it comes to playability. NFL 2K and NFL 2K1 had great playability, in this game I found it lacking. There are two big things that irk me, and destroyed a great game: too much randomness and too many little flaws.
You might be wondering what I mean when I say randomness. What I mean is that it's hard to gauge how well you're doing when the AI is just wacky. For example, about every fifth game, the running back cannot be stopped. I shift the defensive lineman, crowd the line on 4-3 defense, take a man off coverage to plug up a whole, have three guys wrap their hands around the half back within two yards of the line of scrimmage, yet somehow the HB busts through for ten yards. This happens, constantly. When this does happen, the game is hopeless, and I either have to accept the loss, or reset the game. What about the other 4 games? I play dime defense, and I easily stop the run.
How about the flaws? One flaw is offensive rushing. It basically comes down to one question. Do you want to establish the run, or do you want to try to win? Another flaw is the problem of switching to a man in coverage. Often times, when switching to a player, it seems like it switches to a player that is in no position to cover, while I'll swear there is guy who was closer, had the correct momentum, and could have easily hit the receiver. This happens about one-third the time. Guess what? There are four downs. I was screwed. Couple that with the fact that if I nudge (not tackle, but graze him) a player while he's out in pattern, it's automatically pass interference. Also, sacks are just rare. Interceptions outnumber sacks 4 to 1.
The most annoying flaw? Couple this with the player switching and PI bug mentioned above, and it's this: when the computer feels like passing, it will win. The best way to stop a drive? Give it a 2nd and short. It will try to rush the next two downs, and that's the best way to stop it. Not quite a grand simulation.
Other things annoyed me. The long, long, learning curve for one. Another is the extensive amount of plays. Both of these take some getting use to, so it's not too bad. Field goals are a little tough, especially when you're struggling for 30 yarders while the computer is kicking 50 yarders anytime it wants.
So, how did I do in a season? I played franchise mode, which was neat. Being able to sign a player (I got Chris Carter) is cool, but I'm not a fan of the little micromanaging that needs to be done, like negotiating contracts, or signing backups.
Anyway, I was the Packers, pro level, and I finished 6-10. I was first in passing offense, and first in overall defense. I was dead last in rushing. I had one sack, and I was sacked 10 times (about 9 of those times were due to the fact that I had an empty backfield). Farve through two times as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Here's irony for you. I started off 3 and 3, then I started to learn the game and got a whole lot better, so I started losing. Huh? Well, let me explain. I started to learn how to spot open receivers, figured out how which plays work, actually got a little rushing going, learned to totally stop the run, learned how to play defense pretty well, and usually got off to a lead. This meant that the computer would start passing at almost every down. They'd exploit the bugs mentioned early, drive down, and score, and keep doing this. They're two minute offense is unstoppable. Out of the last 10 games, I lost 7. Four of those losses were due to this and I lost them on the last drive of the game. Onegames I lost was due to unstoppable running back. I maybe lost two legitimate games out of the seven. Not fun at all.
Other things annoyed me. The camera angles are not very well done. Even the far camera angle cuts off the sides of the field. Also, you cannot design your own plays. What's up with that?
Lastly, they have the most annoying thing in sports game. Level adjustment bars. How bad is that? I don't go to a golf course and choose to tee off where ever I want. I don't widen the hole to make putting easier. I don't pick up the ball and throw it twenty feet farther just because the course is hard. I play the course as is. If the course is screwed up, I just don't play it. It's the same way with sports games. Also, adjusting tackling or speed changes the game completely, and when you have to revert back when playing another opponent, it will mess me up completely.
Okay that was the bad. Here's the good. It's still a good simulation up to a point. The feel of passing is unbelievable. It's not like other games, you actually have to survey the field (unfortunately, the camera angles don't allow you to do it perfectly). Granted, there are way too many interceptions, it's still the best feel, as opposed to previous games where you knew Steve Young to Jerry Rice would always work.
Two player is pretty fun, since there's no computer cheating to screw you up. Finally, it's a smooth game. You rarely see the phantom catches or tackle, and players don't go through other players. It's safe to say it's a very polished, crisp, well made game. You can see that a lot of time and effort was put into this game.
Would I recommend it? Probably if you'll play a lot of two player (I have not tried the online version, though I heard there a lot of cheaters who pause right before they are about to lose). If you want a good game where you can just sink you're teeth into it, just go out and buy a used Dreamcast with NFL 2K. It'll probably be cheaper.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 03/05/03, Updated 03/05/03
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