At its recent Sports Summit, Sega of America unveiled the PlayStation 2 version of NFL 2K2. As the series matures another year, several areas of the game have been tweaked. The game will also be released for the Dreamcast this fall and for Microsoft's Xbox in December. Most noticeably, all of the quarterbacks in the game now have their own unique AI, which is patterned after the characteristics and styles of their real-life counterparts. For example, scrambling quarterbacks such as Rich Gannon and Steve McNair will now be able to feel the pressure during a game and try to break containment. This naturally affects defensive strategy, as blitzes must now be used intelligently to keep scrambling quarterbacks restrained to the pocket. Additionally, the announcing in the game is now more realistic, with the addition of telestrators used by the announcers to analyze plays and continuously flowing commentary over replays, huddles, and during other play stoppages.
The PlayStation 2 version excels over the Dreamcast version of the game in the graphics department. The player models are more detailed, with 3D texture-mapped faces, which look eerily similar to the actual players. Other subtle details such as realistic muscle definition on the players and impressive jersey textures, which feature individual creases and areas of dirt on the uniforms. The stadiums are also more detailed in the PlayStation 2 version of the game. The sidelines are cluttered with polygonal players, cameramen, and referees, as opposed to the stiff 2D sprites found in the Dreamcast version. Additionally, the first several rows of the stadium are filled with polygonal fans, who react individually to the play on the field. Some impressive lighting effects are also being used in the PS2 version. For example, scoreboards and other stadium objects cast real-time shadows on the field, and when players walk into these shadowed areas, the shade is cast in real time over them. When they walk out, they're illuminated by the natural sunlight.
One area where the PS2 version, in its current state, is lagging behind the complete Dreamcast version is in the animation. While the Dreamcast version sports ultra-smooth and realistic player movements, the animation in the PS2 version is a little stiff and seems to be missing some much-needed transitional sequences. Visual Concepts began work on the PlayStation 2 version of NFL 2K2 in May, and there is still much work to be done before the game is completed. So, hopefully, some of the animation problems will be smoothed out before the game hits the market.
In terms of actual gameplay, there are hardly any differences between the PlayStation 2 and the Dreamcast versions of the game. In both versions, the defensive AI is much tighter, particularly in the secondary. As with NCAA College Football 2K2, the defensive backs are able to read formations better and will break for the ball on out-routes and sit back on fly routes. The bump and run is better this year, as defensive backs are able to effectively impede the progress of the receiver and disrupt timing plays. Interestingly, on the offensive end, Visual Concepts added a bit more animation to the quarterbacks. So, for example, on particularly long passes, the QB will actually step up into the throw. Although realistic, this animation sequence is somewhat drawn out and can result in unnecessary sacks. There were times when we rolled free of the defense with our quarterback but were sacked because the QB took too long to set up for a long pass.
NFL 2K2 will be released for the PlayStation 2 in late October or early November. At this stage, the enhancements for that platform seem to be primarily housed in the graphics and presentation. Although it's using a revised control scheme to fit the PS2 dual-shock controllers, the gameplay should remain on par with the Dreamcast version.