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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Tiburon

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q3 2006

 

 

 

- For those that enjoyed the dynasty mode in Madden, this is the game designed for you
- Digs deeper than previous franchise-type modes with more involvement into drafting and player development

 

 

- Who thought a game about being an NFL head coach would be so tedious?
- Needs more choices when it comes to interaction with your players, especially during games when you’re either motivating or strategizing
- Ridiculous amount of “coach-speak” loading screens

 

 

Review: Madden NFL 06 (360)

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Review: Madden NFL 2005 (GC)

 

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NFL Head Coach

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

Every big sports fan has these thoughts at least once in their life of rooting for their favorite team: What would it be like if I was the head coach? How hard could it be to run a team?

 

nfl head coach          nfl head coach


Well, Electronic Arts has the game to answer those questions with its new NFL Head Coach, the first real football “coaching” simulation. EA’s Madden series has one of the best franchise modes around for any sports title. But EA delved deeper into the world of coaching, not just running a franchise, with NFL Head Coach. Every little detail and job function that a National Football League head coach does in their running of a franchise, you’ll have to perform in NFL Head Coach. From going through training camp drills, to drafting players, to offering contracts and dealing with player agents with the salary cap in mind, to reviewing game tape, to coaching on game day, whatever a NFL head coach does, you’ll do in NFL Head Coach.

But after playing the game, the answers to the two thoughts above are: A lot of work; and really hard – and sometimes too tedious to ever want to actually take on the job of a NFL head coach if you ever had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

While a great concept, NFL Head Coach doesn’t execute with a winning design and implementation to develop a fun-while-playing coaching simulation. Too much

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dealing with the behind-the-scenes minutiae and boring undertakings to get to the good stuff of drafting, building a team and simply coaching your squad during games. You can skip activities you don’t want to do, of course, and that alleviates some of the less-than-fun moments of NFL Head Coach. But even the good stuff isn’t as good as it could be, with a problematic lack of choices that takes away from what was,

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in its conceptual form, a somewhat intriguing idea for a game. If this game is the indication of what being an NFL head coach is all about, No NFL fan, after playing NFL Head Coach, will have that same desire to take over their favorite franchise ever again.

NFL Head Coach isn’t an awful game, but certainly doesn’t have the necessary pieces to be considered a championship-caliber gaming experience, either. Too many of the coaching activities drag on too long if you initiate them, but sometimes that’s the only way to improve your team. Using practice for individual players can increase the quality of their play for upcoming games, and for rookies, that’s usually a necessary area of development.

To get those rookies, you’ll go through a generally good draft process (and yes, the annoying Mel Kiper Jr., Mr. Know-it-All of the draft, is part of NFL Head Coach, even offering commentary about each of your draft selections), with the ability to scout beforehand at the college scouting combine so you know the skills and abilities of players you may want to draft. Unfortunately, unlike a real NFL pro scouting department, you can only scout a handful of players, leading to latter-round indecisiveness on whom to select. And making the choosing more stressful, you are actually on the clock, having a set period of time to make your pick, another touch of NFL realism to the whole drafting affair. The first year’s draft was actually a lot of fun because you have the real players that were in the 2006 draft class to pick from, so you know who’s good and who’s not to a certain extent.

Once the draft is over, you have to sign those players, after already going through a free agency period that allows you to sign your own players and players from other teams. Signing your drafted players and filling your roster is not the most enjoyable task, because you’ll only have a certain block of time each day allotted to signing them, and that usually only allows you to sign three at a time instead of trying to sign all of them at once or delving deeper into contractual and salary cap-related issues.

 

nfl head coach          nfl head coach


You’ll also be getting a constant barrage of emails from the owner, other coaches on your team, and other coaches from other teams trying to make a trade, which usually are ridiculous. They expect you to give up your better players for their own players of lesser talent. Never did I get a trade offer that, if it was made in the real NFL, was fair for both sides. These trade offers were the kind that would cause a real NFL general manager and head coach to lose their jobs for incompetence if they accepted them.

One of the most bothersome features of NFL Head Coach is the constant loading between each task. The load screens take the form of “coach-isms” from famous coaches, along the lines of Vince Lombardi’s famous “Winning’s not everything. It’s the only thing.” There’s just too many load screens – each and every time you switch to a new task! After a while, you’re sure to start dropping these “coach-isms” into regular, everyday conversation without even meaning to or realizing it.

But if you’re into the whole immersion of football coaching more advanced from even what Madden offers, then you’ll put up with the load screens and mundane tasks, just to get to the “any given Sunday” game days, where you’ll roam the sidelines and coach your team after a week of preparation. This is another interesting aspect of NFL Head Coach, because you don’t control the action on the field once you select a play. You can call audibles, and shift players around, but once the ball is snapped, the game’s out of your hands, so to speak, and what happens on each play has nothing to do with your football videogame-playing skills, and everything to do with what play you chose. Your assistant coaches will make suggestions for plays, but for the most part, you’re better relying on your own instincts to pick successful plays.

As far as the “coaching” aspect during games, you can either motivate or strategize with your players, and depending on how they react, can have either a positive or negative influence or both individuals or groups of gridiron giants. What’s disappointing is the lack of motivational choices.

From a selection menu, you’re given one of each type of motivation: positive

or negative, along with strategy choices. You can select just one player to interact with, or a group of players (all the linebackers, all the defensive backs, whatever group of players on either side of the ball you want).

But you can only choose one critical or positive motivation, and there’s no way of knowing how players will react. Bizarrely, even when you hurl positive motivation their way, many players will react negatively (you’ll see how they react when either a plus or minus sign appears over their head, a la The Sims). There are just two selections, never a choice that could have different results than just the duo given. There’s a bit more choice when strategizing, but not by much. As you are motivating or strategizing, by the way, the game continues to go on without your interaction, a nice and realistic touch.

Visually, NFL Head Coach uses the decent Madden engine, which won’t blow your socks off, but certainly is acceptable. If you’re so inclined, there is the opportunity to take your coaching online on Xbox Live, too.

The idea behind NFL Head Coach was an interesting one. But too many little flaws and deficiencies shelve the game on the nearly-unable-to-perform list, at least at the performance level it set out to reach. With ridiculous “coach-ism” load times each and every switch of tasks, too many uninteresting coaching tasks to begin with, and a surprisingly massive lack of interactive aspects in regard to coach-player relations during actual games, NFL Head Coach gets benched by its unimpressive execution. There’s only one thing left to say, and there’s no way better to say it than one of NFL Head Coach’s “coach-ism” load screens would: Better luck next year.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(August 7, 2006)

 

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