Review by admtanaka

"A fumble in the red zone"

I like strategy games. I also like football. These simple facts led me to believe that I would love NFL Head Coach. The constant TV and online advertisements assured me I was right, and that, in all likelihood, the universe would end if I didn't run to the store and grab this game the minute it came out. And, at the low, low price of only $39.99, who was I to resist?

Long story short, I got this game, and it is bad. The premise sounded great to me: manage an NFL franchise in almost every imaginable way - sign the players, scout and draft the prospects, motivate them in games, and win the superbowl. As is becoming painfully predictable with EA Sports, however, none of these promised tasks have any real depth to them at all.

Unbelievably, the draft actually has less depth than it did in the franchise mode of Madden. Gone are players' times in the 40 yard dash or their amount of bench press reps, replaced with a simple stat system. Want the best LB available? Just scout them all and then pick the one with the highest overall. There aren't any decisions to make, because the overall stat makes them for you. Silly me, I had thought this game intended to simulate what it was like to evaluate a player based on his traits. EA still hasn't thought to include college stats, either. If you don't scout a player, then, you have no idea if he was a starter at USC or the emergency fullback at Colgate.

Managing your team's coaching staff manages to have even less depth than the draft. You can hire or fire position coaches or will, but the hiring process is borderline laughable, since the designers only included a bank of about 10 questions that you will randomly ask the candidate. For example, when I interview someone to be my LB coach, I'll have a choice to ask him what his offensive philosophy is, or how he evaluates talent at the TE position. You don't need to know much about football to know neither question makes any sense for a LB coach. To make matters worse, as far as I can tell, the answers the coaches give are completely meaningless.

It doesn't really matter anyway, since most of your coaches don't really do anything anyway. Every player has an overall stat, so it's not like you need any help deciding who is winning a position battle; all you have to do is start the guy with the highest overall. Sometimes a random variable will trigger though, and your QB coach will recommend benching Peyton Manning in favor of John Q. Fumble, then cry when you don't listen. There isn't much reason to really pay attention to these guys.

Managing the team's salary cap suffers from the same ailment. You can call agents and haggle with them about how much their client will make for your team, but there isn't any point since every player is willing to play for less than they're worth anyway. Feel free to pick up the best free agents, because they'll play for next to nothing. You can easily have a team of all superstars and be well underneath the cap. The computer makes this easier for you by releasing all their good players. After a few years of gameplay, feel free to pick up Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. I guess they just weren't working out for their teams.

Gameday has its problems as well. There are no options or difficulties. There are no sliders as there used to be in Madden. This means there is no way to adjust the gameplay whatsoever. Once you get your team established and get a hang of what you are doing, the computer will throw 4+ interceptions a game, and there is nothing you can do about it. For some reason, your quarterback will perform better. You can give your players all sorts of advice (for example, tell the QB to throw to the sidelines, or tell the RB to pound it between the tackles), but again, there is no purpose since the game is so easy anyway.

To top it off, the game is buggy. Stats don't simulate well for the other teams at times. I saw Reggie Bush rush for 2900 yards off 600+ (yes, 600) attempts in a single season for the Raiders. Of course, they didn't bother resigning him two years later, so I guess they weren't as impressed. I have read on the EA forums that not simming the practices causes your players to actually get worse. The game also suffers from the usual EA disease where if you simulate a practice or game, your team will have a lot of injuries, whereas if you play it yourself, there will be no injuries. On a final note, I swear that players have disappeared off my team's roster only to reappear weeks later.

Really the only good aspects of this game are the concept itself and the graphics. If EA had actually put some effort into this game, it really had a chance to be a solid, in-depth strategy game. I was surprised with how much they had improved the graphics since the last Madden. Even the physics seem improved, and it definitely has less of an arcade-styled appearance.

If you are a big fan of both strategy games and football, you probably already own this game. If by some chance you have managed to avoid it thus far, I'd recommend you rent it first. Anyone else should probably avoid this one.

5/10 Below Average

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 07/07/06

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