Madden Crushed by NFL 2K1
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As one of the Dreamcast's launch titles, NFL 2K came away as the runaway hit of the system. It was so good in fact that GiN gave it the title of Best Sports Game of 2000, being the only other game (besides the godlike High Heat Baseball series) to beat out EA Sports for this title.
There were some small problems that prevented it from being the be-all, end-all of football games. The running game was pretty weak (usually getting gains of only 3 yards, 10 yards if you're lucky), and aside from the season and fantasy modes, there was not much to warrant long-term gameplay.
Also, the Dreamcast's 56K modem was just sitting there waiting for something to be developed for it other than just a Web browser. Granted, we had Chu Chu rocket to play it, but we wanted more. E3 provided some solutions to the matter, with the announcement of Sega.Net titles by this fall. It is no doubt that Sega.Net would be the first strike against the looming evil known as PlayStation 2 (which came out with its own football title, Madden 2001).
The eventual NFL 2K1 would ultimately be a match made in heaven. Combating Sony and EA's joint venture in the football field; 2K1 finally melds the excellent gameplay of the original 2K, but improved on many aspects, added much needed new features, and for the first time, added true online play to make it an experience worth playing for hours on end.
As a matter of fact, it is not only a match made in heaven, but a true Madden killer! I will first mention that in addition to the Season and Fantasy modes, we finally have a Franchise mode allowing you to draft new players, retire older ones, and carry out multiple seasons to increase game depth.
Next, the graphics have been improved in my opinion. A lot of people claim they might be of a lower quality than those in 2K, but that's untrue. On a personal note, I feel those reviewers were spoiled by the looks of Madden. (which I found to be way too cartoonish for a football game. Players with anime style eyes that stare eerily back at you? Come on!) But as I always say, looks aren't everything.
In addition, the sound is greatly improved. Once again showing you don't need big name talent to do play by play and color (you hear that, Madden?), the fictional announcers still do the magnificent job they did before. However, I will go crazy if I hear the words "you can't coach that" said one more time! Players now trash talk each other, and refer to each other by name.
Even better, the playbooks have been improved, and each team now has their own playbook providing more moves than before. But the best things about 2K1 are the two that were most needed before. For starters, the running game has been improved vastly. Running backs no longer stop upon contact; they are now powered by momentum and will require a lot of force to bring them down. Before, a good stiff arm would stop a defenseman on his tracks, but that's not the case as much this year.
And of course, the greatest feature available is only found here...the addition of online console play! All this time I have heard about online play on the Dreamcast, but after dealing with high-bandwidth players on the computer, I feared the worst. Game latency is rated on a simple scale, rated as Great, Good, Fair or Poor. In the 4 weeks I had to test out the online capabilities of 2K1, only 5 percent of the Poor rated games had unplayable lag, while the rest of them ran flawlessly.
Even when testing servers in Syracuse, NY against a player from Manitoba, Canada, there was very little lag to deal with. I did notice the control felt a little slippery due to latency, but not anything to really detract from the game. In fact, this is the best online title I have seen in a long time, and that's including Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, and Team Fortress.
It's strange. Two months ago, Sega comes out with one of the worst sports games in history (World Series 2K1) and then rebounds with the best sports game ever (NFL 2K1). As a true Madden killer (take THAT Urben, your FMV based Squaresoft titles won't save you this time - bru-ha-ha), NFL 2K1 fully delivers what every football fan and non-fan should experience.
Not only does this game get 5 GiN Gems for its single play and Internet play, it should get a nomination for Sports Game of the Year, even surpassing the mighty High Heat 2001. It's that good!
Todd Hargosh is GiN's Product Testing Manager. He enjoys any game that gets his adrenaline pumping. Todd can be contacted at : email@example.com.