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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Konami

 

Developer

FarSight Studios

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2002

 

 

- Has familiar ESPN statistic display, giving it television-production feel
- Strong amount of statistical tracking for season and
franchise play
- Has franchise mode for 15 seasons

 

 

- Graphics are shameful considering other Xbox football gameís visuals
- Lackluster A.I. on both sides
of the ball
- A.I. CPU defense given too much of an advantage during pass plays
- Boring announcing and overall sound presentation

 

 

Review: ESPN NFL Football (XB)

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ESPN NFL Primetime 2002

Score: 5.0 / 10

 

One of the saddest things to see in sports is when someone obviously past their prime is trying to play just that one extra game or season when they really know deep down in their heart they should hang it up. A childhood idol of mine was the Philadelphia Philliesí left-handed pitching ace Steve Carlton. It wasnít a pretty sight seeing him get lit up like a Christmas tree every time he pitched his last season in the majors. He didnít know when it was time to toss in the towel and leave the pitching to those hurlers better than he was. This is the case with the late entry into the Xbox football game field, ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 (PT2002). This series should have given up the ghost after its pathetic attempt appeared on the PS2 last year, actually thinking it could challenge Madden or any other title for football videogame dominance simply by capitalizing on the popularity of ESPN. But instead,

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Konami gave it another go this year, and the results are exactly what you would expect in its first (and hopefully last) Xbox showing: largely dreadful.

There are many problems with the overall makeup of PT2002. The worst is the apathetic and downright lousy artificial intelligence both on defense and offense. It reacts unrealistically on both sides of the ball. While on offense, the

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A.I. always has an unfair advantage, plugging running lanes regularly and playing a mean defensive backfield, picking off your medium-to-long range passes so much that you will quickly lose confidence in the passing game. In one game, I had the Philadelphia Eagles as my team with Donovan McNabb at the quarterback helm. The real McNabb is a steady passer who rarely throws interceptions. I had seven passes taken away in one game. Whenever you attempt to throw long, the ball always comes up short of the receiver unless he is wide open. The defensive player always finds a way to deflect or pick off your passes unless you stick to screens or five-to-ten-yard passes. On defense, the game rarely helps you out in coverage by providing some of the dumbest-reacting defensive work Iíve seen in a while. If an opposing receiver gets just a step on you, forget about getting any assistance from other CPU-assisted defenders. Without smart defensive A.I. helping out on coverage, your opposition catches long passes and goes for touchdowns on a regular basis.

FarSight should have been able to conjure up a much better visual performance with a hardware system capable of superior graphics (like the Xbox). I canít find a plausible excuse as to why the game is visually not up to the standards of any other Xbox football title. Player animations arenít as numerous as PT2002ís Xbox competition. This results in awkward-looking and unrealistic running animations by offensive and defensive players alike. Kickers and quarterbacks suffer the worst graphical humiliation of all players. They look like lobster-boys with their grossly disproportionate arms and hands that have a claw-like appearance. Easily PT2002, has the ugliest-appearing graphical football players in a next-generation videogame out there. Crowds and stadium visuals arenít as bad as the players, actually having a realistic appeal to them. But they arenít any better than PT2002ís competing titles of Madden 2002, NFL Fever 2002, and NFL2K2. While acceptable, they are bland compared to the excellence of the above-mentioned others.

If any part of the game passes as adequate, itís the special player moves under your control. Stiff-arms, hurdles, spins, and dives are relatively easy to operate. But thatís where the control ease stops cold. Passing plays on offense are much more difficult to learn than running the ball. Too many receivers drop balls right in their hands, even if there isnít tight defense covering them. And itís almost a crapshoot when passing anyway. As you chuck it to one of your receivers or are playing defense on the thrown ball, the pigskin almost seems to disappear for a split second. Itís as if the game needs to decide if it should give the player the catch or not before the ball suddenly seems to reappear and either turns into a catch or is intercepted at an insane percentage when you are on offense or is batted away. You donít ever get a comfort level of trust for a successful pass play.

Running works better from a control standpoint, but there is only a slightly higher comfort or success level achieved running the ball. The problem here is that running backs, even super-fast backs (like the incomparable All-Pro Marshall Faulk of the Rams) donít hit open holes quickly, and too many times the defense stuffs runs that should produce more yards. All backs seemingly run at the same velocity, and this just shouldnít be the case. Unfortunately, the speed-burst really doesnít provide a noticeable increase in swiftness, and that hurts most when in short-yardage running situations. Itís almost impossible to launch a huge run over 15 yards, let alone burst through for a long touchdown. The A.I. overcompensates too much for gameplay balanceís sake, which leads to frustration as you play offense, and this is definitely not fun at all. The only good running aspect of PT2002 is when you control the quarterback after deciding to take off on a scramble. It plays out comparable to the excellence of NFL2K2, much better than either Madden 2002 or NFL Fever 2002 in this lone department.

Chris Berman and Tom Jackson know a lot about football. They do a great job on ESPN during the season providing insightful post-game analysis of NFL football. But their performance as the announcing tandem for PT2002 comes nowhere close to their work on ESPN. Thereís an episode of The Simpsons where Krusty the Clown has to do some voice recordings for a line of Krusty the Clown toys. He rushes in the studio, grabs the flash cards with the required phrases, records them in a uninspired fashion and leaves within 20 seconds with check in hand, nary a second thought to how good his voice work turned out. You almost get that same feeling here with Berman and Jackson. There is no emotion or enthusiasm in the play-by-play or color commentary, making for a boring gameplay experience. The crowd noise isnít done well either. Thereís no audible difference from the cheering fans if the home team is making good plays or throwing interceptions. The crowd always sounds the same. The crunching sound of good tackles is the gameís best audio feature.

One thing that is developed well is the franchise mode, which allows you to manage and play up to 15 seasons in the quest for the Super Bowl championship. PT2002 has a strong amount of statistical tracking for season and franchise play. Even exhibition games can help develop rating points for players based on their performances. It has that familiar ESPN statistical display that gives it a television-production feel and keeps track of an overwhelming number of statistics, just as you would expect from an ESPN game. But the high quality of the franchise mode becomes a moot point considering the low quality of PT2002ís other areas, particularly the gameplay itself.

Thereís a reason Konami tried to sneak this game onto store shelves near the very end of the past NFL season. It is truly the worst football game you could possibly buy for the Xbox. Every aspect of the game is essentially weak compared to the other Xbox football games available save its franchise mode. PT2002 doesnít even warrant rental attention. Consider this the Carolina Panthers of gridiron gaming that I doubt even a Hall of Fame development team could turn into a contender for your football game-purchasing dollars. Look at Madden 2002, NFL Fever 2002, or NFL2K2 if you need an Xbox football fix and stay far away from PT2002.

- Lee Cieniawa
(April 27, 2002)

 

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