This coming weekend will be the start of the NFL Playoffs and the end of college football. Most people are drawn to play a football game of some sort at this time. Whether it would be an old classic or the newest Madden title, we feel the need to be close to the action. Some of us just really don’t care that the Patriots might end up 19-0 and win the SuperBowl and would rather simulate some other scenario. That’s why I chose to bring you a football review at this time of the year rather than the beginning of football year like most other columnists.I also chose a game that people might pass up at first glance. Madden isn’t the only game in town (despite that whole license lockup issue) and perhaps there are other games out there with stronger gameplay.
I’ve been playing football games before even the first Madden. (Colecovision babie!). With each new system that I play a football game, things keep getting better. Try going back to any of the first few Maddens on Sega Genesis and you can see the difference immediately. The last football game I played was NFL 2k5 on the PS2. All Pro Football uses a lot of the same elements and looks strikingly similar. The graphics do look more crisp and it makes good use of the new widescreen format. However, it simply hasn’t changed much since NFL 2k5 and a lot feels like the same software on a newer console. Another problem is when you are playing as the QB and watching passing routes. Unless you know the routes backwards and forwards, you will sometimes miss which button to push to throw to the appropriate receiver.
One of the great new things about football on broadcast tv is the use of surrounds to showcase how loud croud noise can get. All Pro Football 2k8 uses that crowd noise and pumps it up even louder in the game. At stunning Dolby Digital 5.1, crowd noise draws you into a very rich experience. So loud and crisp, you might find yourself adjusting your stereo receiver before your mate wonders why the tv is so loud on a non-sunday. The game benefits from the use of all channels in a very gratifying way. The only complaint would probably be in the form of the announcers. Dan Stevens and Peter O’Keefe are back from NFL 2k5 days and it honestly doesn’t appear they did much work with them. A lot of phrases are repeated and some simply do not make sense. “He is having a great game, so far he has 150 yards passing and 2 interceptions”. Ummm, right.
All-Pro Football 2k8 is the successor to 2k Sports’ NFL 2k5 that appeared on Playstation 2 and Xbox systems. It was the alternative to the Madden games and featured more realistic gameplay and less of an arcade feel. However, what is unfortunately gone is the NFL License since EA is a greedy monopolistic sports demon. That aside, the people at Visual Concepts did the next best thing. They decided to create a best-of game. They went out to over two hundred legends of the game from Walter Payton to Jerry Rice to Ed “Too Tall” Jones and brought each of them into the game. In their prime. All the questions of who is the best Quarterback or what would happen if “Night Train” Lane was covering James Lofton in the secondary would be answered.
The game starts out by getting you to create a team from scratch. The selection is two gold players, three silver players, and six bronze players from a list of legends (if you create a player, he will be listed here as well). For example if you invest heavily in your defense in the first 5 selections, you might be forced to go with somebody like Bubby Brister as your bronze quarterback. The rest of the team is filled out with random computer names assigned to the positions left open after your eleven selections. Then the selection process moves to your team logo, stadium and color choices. After the creation of your team (achievement unlocked), you can start playing quick games against other teams or enter into a season or tournament.
In game, the interface seems relatively simple. Typically, on offense you will play as the quarterback and hike the ball, then you will either switch your focus to the halfback or fullback if it is a run play or bring up passing icons to your various receivers if it is a pass play. However, what sets the 2k football engine apart is the realism. If you throw on the run, don’t expect perfectly thrown balls. Stay in that pocket and only move when you have to. Don’t expect to run every down, the defense will get smart and start stacking up the line. On defense, whether you decide to play a defensive lineman or somebody in the secondary, expect to learn the hardway about breaking the line or playing coverage. Interceptions are hard on your side of the ball (but seemingly easy on the other end) and it will take some time to grasp this part of gameplay. The only extreme downside is the kicking/punting interface. There is no “power meter”. Everything is handled by the right analog stick and your sense of timing. It’s difficult to explain but be prepared to spend sometime in the practice room learning this feature.
As with most sports games, this one falls as being too hard or too easy depending on the skill level of the person at the controls. It is certainly more realistic than any Madden game but if you are really good at football games, it won’t take you much time to master this one. However given a regular season, there will be contests that challenge your playing skills since the rosters work out by random selection (like that team that ends up being quarterbacked by Joe Montana). The game also has four difficulty levels which get increasingly harder and test your patience and skills. There is an incredibly satsifying feeling when you score your first 20+ yard touchdown or kick your first 30+ yard field goal (have I mentioned kicking is very tough?).
The modes in All-Pro Football 2k8 do leave something to be desired. Quick games are available for those who desire immediate satsifaction. There is also tournament options if you wish to figure out who exactly is the best combination of legends ever. Finally, most people will end up at the season option where you get to simulate a season of the best and see if you can get it done and take the league championship. However, that is it in the single player options. There is no franchise mode which a lot of us football enthusiasts hunger for. We can’t decide if John Elway is worth the extra chunk of change he wants next season because there is no next season. Another useful option would have been to turn a regular player into a bronze or turn a silver player into a gold player through training sessions or better numbers.
There is a create a player as previously mentioned which is useful if you want to insert a player from this day and age and see how he would mix with the legends. I decided to create myself. I made myself a Bronze Tight-end and chose Soft Hands as the ability (Bronze players get 1 ability, Silver – 2 and Gold – 3, however you can get Gold to have 5 abilities if you complete every achievement in the game). From there you can modify facial features and other various items. There is a certain satsifaction to seeing your name among other legends when you play. Xbox Live also has similar options as you can play quick games or participate in an online league. This is something that armchair quarterbacks have been itching for. The achievements are also fair featuring fifty of them for one thousand points. They range from the simple in winning your first game to the complicated in going undefeated all through the season and playoffs. All of the achievements make sense and most veterans should be able to breeze through most of them even if they don’t play online.
As you can tell from the comments I make, All Pro Football 2k8 is a very fun game. However, it is also a game that is on the cusp on greatness. It might not have the NFL License but with every season that rolls around, there are retired players every season who would love to live on virtually in a football video game. If the people at 2k sports take time to fix the kicking meter, to add a franchise mode, to include perhaps a few more options in the create a player mode (hairstyles for one), they could make a fantastic game. Video and audio could also stand to be upgraded further, but they are certainly adequate for today’s platforms. One thing I failed to mention before but when playing around in 2k8; there is a real live sports ticker. Since we have Live technology, you don’t have to worry about missing a score. Heck, it’s possibly better than ESPN’s ticker since you don’t have to worry about annoying commercials. Great idea and it is nice to see somebody finally thought of that. One final note, but this game can be picked up even at playoff time for $10-$15 (max $20). Madden at last check is still fetching $25-$30. Sure you could argue the license point (again!) but there is nothing more satisfying than taking O.J. Simpson to the end zone. Just be sure not to assign him to the Assassins team. That could be a bit on the creepy side. Enjoy!
Other Coverage & Reviews
- 1up.com: “If you were expecting 2K euphoria after two years on the sidelines, you’ll be disappointed, as this one’s got rust in many of the wrong places”
- OperationSports.com: “As it stands, it’s a nice change of pace to the competition, and I think it’s definitely a “testing the waters” release by 2K Sports”
- Gameshark.com: “And as much fun as it is to see Barry Sanders slide to the outside and bust a 60-yard run down the sidelines, it does kill the experience a little when you’re able to do it every game”
- EscapistMagazine.com: O.J. Simpson Ordered to Payback All-Pro 2k8 Income