STAFF REVIEW of ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 (Xbox)

Thursday, February 14, 2002.
by Stephen Cameron

ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 Box art With the NFL Season being over and me losing 20 bucks on the Super Bowl, I have been in great denial for the past two weeks with no football to watch at all. Sure there was the Pro Bowl this past Saturday, but that?s not football?that?s just a half-assed excuse for a bunch of ?all-stars? to have a free trip to Hawaii. Anyways so you could expect how primed (cheap pun) I was to get my hand on ESPN NFL Primetime. A few minuets after I began to play the game (as the Giants) I swear my controller took more of a beating then my defensive line was. After witnessing my offensive plays being executed in the worst ways and not gaining a yard after four tries, my defensive line took to the field. And they were just as stupid as my offensive line. I was playing against the Titans and boy a clash of the Giants/Titans (what ever you want to call it) this was not. In Madden 2002 I can take anyone to school, but in this game I was the schoolboy. My teams AI executed every play I tried like a monkey was controlling them. A stupid monkey! I could not stop the receivers for the life of me. Every play was a first down for my opponents but for stupid reasons. But I sucked it up and put quite a few hours of play into this game for you people so I could write this review. So you better enjoy it because I went through hell for you people!! On to the review.

I didn?t think that there was a development house who was worse at making football games then 989 Sports but Konami, congratulations!! You take the cake!! And what a disgusting cake it is. Anyway let me tell you way this game is so horrible. Let?s see where to start. Well first off you can?t break a tackle. If you get in close range to any defender no matter his size, consider yourself down. This problem also prevents you from attempting to run through any holes in the defensive line because if you come in within a yard of defender your down. This alone brings the gameplay down significantly because breaking through the defense either by running through holes or shacking off a defender is half the fun of football in the first place. There are four gameplay modes in Primetime; you can choose an exhibition game, a tournament, franchise mode, or practice. There is no season mode separate from franchise mode, which is a big downer in my opinion. It would be great if you could just go through a regular season without worrying about the financial or coaching aspect of the game, but that is not the case here. The running and passing game in Primetime in also another problem. There have been times where the game just decided to run my team?s play by itself without letting me control what was going on and it didn?t even pull the play off successful. But when the game does let me control my plays it doesn?t handle that well either. The control seems to ignore me sometimes and not command my player to run when I?m pushing forth on the analog stick. And this is the single biggest flaw in Primetime; the control is severally flawed. Doesn?t this developer realize that control is the basis for any good game? I mean especially for a football game when your QB is being rushed by two defenders you have to be able to be in control at all times. I must however give this game its dues when it comes to the franchise mode itself, which was done very well. You are given the total control over trades, moves, and free agent pickups from the draft to the post season. But there is a very weird flaw in this game that allows you to trade a quarter back of say Drew Bledsoe?s stature with a quarterback of Darnell Dinkins stature. There is also a nice create-a-play feature, which allows you to give routes to all of your players, which gives you endless possibilities as far as plays go. There is also this cool game feature where it lets you create your team?s game plan and create successful game strategies for the year. You can even determine how long each of your players stay on the field in the preseason, which affects how they play later on in the full season. Now these three features are all great additions to the game and I know that for the past few sentences it sounds like I?ve been warming up to this game a little, but I can assure you cool modes aside, this game is better left to be a coaster!

I must say that this game does look better then it plays?but no by much. Player?s faces are distinguishable but blocky and stretched. Their bodies are deformed and don?t even come close to matching their real life counterparts. The animations are stiff and the players move most of the times in a slightly robotic manner, which can be quite humorous at times. Another sever flaw in Primetime?s animation department is that when the ball is thrown if it is any where remotely near the receiver hands it will magically appear there even if was seven feet away from him. All of the NFL?s current team?s are present, with all uniforms, stadiums, and cheerleaders. But they seem to lack the same detail that can be seen in better football games such as Madden. Another weird part of this game is that all of coaches look the same, which really takes you out of the NFL atmosphere.

Prime Time features commentary from ESPN broadcasters Tom Jackson and Chris Berman. The commentary was actually executed quite well with tremendous depth in the knowledge department. Tom Jackson will tell you pretty much everything that you need to know about every major player that is on the field and Chris Berman does some excellent play-by-play job that it sounds like it was taken directly from an ESPN broadcast. The sound effects on the other hand are a bit to be desired. Besides the odd grunt or smack sound there hardly any sound effects in here. And seeing how the Xbox has superior sound capabilities to any other system, sound effects are something a developer should do a half-assed job on.

: For God?s sake fix the control, the collision detection, smooth out the animation, add some sound effects, add a season mode, re-haul the graphics engine, and redo the player AI. Keep up the good work on the franchise, create-a-play, and game plan mode though. Bottom line: Fix the gameplay itself before you try to add any cool new features!!

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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