Sega Sports NFL 2K2 on the Xbox looks great, far better than when the series was on the Dreamcast. Unfortunately, the game can’t quite live up to the depth of play we have come to expect from their main competitor, Electronic Art’s Madden 2002.
Before any new Sega fanboys cry out foul about me giving this game an average review, let it be known that I am writing this as an unbiased reviewer. I do admit that while I owned a Dreamcast, I was one of the biggest Sega fanboys on the planet, and like many of them, was heartbroken after Sega decided to throw a serrated knife in our backs and stop making games for our beloved system. Since then, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about their actions, and even though I have lifted my boycott, I still have a slight feeling of disdain against Sega. But it will not affect my review in any manner.
I did mention in my review of Madden 2002 that I became more involved with EA Sports’ pigskin titles over the last year and a half simply due to their excessive depth. After playing Madden 2002, I found NFL 2K1 to be a bit on the shallow side, especially on the play calling (defense being the strongest concern). I also fell in love with the meaty Franchise mode which, while not as deep as NCAA Football 2002’s, still added more than 2K1’s Franchise ever could.
Nonetheless, I still decided that I should give NFL 2K2 a try, no matter if it was on the PS2 or the Xbox. (The Dreamcast would have been out of the question, since in a fit of rage, I sold it on eBay). When I received the Xbox version, I have to admit that I was impressed over the graphical improvements over the Dreamcast version. The player faces are very realistic, and show that even Madden 2002 has a way to go when it comes to facial detail. The uniforms are also accurate right down to the lettering on their names (also something that Madden needs to work on), and the stadiums are all rendered well.
I also have to give Visual Concepts props for the sound quality again. Now we all know that the 2K series (except maybe NHL) has some exceptional commentary, which still has to be rivaled by EA (though both NCAA and NHL 2002 provide some distant competition), but this year sounds a lot smoother when the player’s names are used. The pause that was heard on the DC version is now gone and it flows smoothly. Not only that, but the trash talking is back and better than ever.
Unfortunately what really soiled me about 2K2 was the basic gameplay. The offensive playbooks are improved, but they still are nowhere in depth as Madden’s, and as I mentioned before, the defensive plays are still on the shallow side. I was hoping that more plays would be available with the new year, but I was wrong.
Also, the season mode is a little basic as well, let alone the franchise mode. A lack of online play also hurts. Now I know the Xbox Network isn’t available yet, but look at Halo. I can see NFL 2K2 played with 2 Xboxs and a link cable, so why wasn’t this done?
But what really made me mad was the game’s cheap AI. While it is easy to score non-stop on Rookie mode, playing on just Pro is a pain in itself. The running game almost goes back to the days of NFL 2K with minimal gains being a regularity, and every time I passed the pall, either it was caught and dropped (even with no coverage), was thrown NOWHERE near a receiver, or intercepted. The fact that the game has only three difficulty settings really hurts. In this day and age where anything can be customized (look at Madden’s amazing customization for an instance), why couldn’t it be done here?
In the end, NFL 2K2 might make a decent football game, but it comes nowhere near the glory that Madden has finally recovered after so long. NFL 2K2’s three GiN Gem rating is based on the simplicity that it demonstrated, and the frustration that the cheap computer AI exhibits. If you like football, go ahead and get this one. Just don’t expect anything too spectacular.