Hands-onNFL 2K2

We take a hands-on look at the first PS2 installment in VC's acclaimed football series.

NFL 2K2 for the PlayStation 2 will hit the stores on November 20, and we've gotten our hands on a near-final version of the game. We're definitely happy to report that it looks as though it will turn out to be the football game to have this holiday season.

The game features several gameplay modes, including exhibition, practice, tournament, season, playoffs, and franchise. NFL 2K2 carries the full NFL license, which means that it has all the real players, teams, and stadiums from the NFL 2001 season. The game also includes a host of customizing modes that you can use to build teams, players, and playbooks from the ground up.

If you've played any of the NFL 2K games for the Dreamcast, then you should at least have an idea of how NFL 2K2 controls and feels on the PS2--they feel and play nearly identically. The one noticeable change from the Dreamcast games is that the tackling distance has been shortened a bit. If you've never played an NFL 2K game before, then you're in for a big treat--the game's control and feel are incredibly responsive and accurate, meaning that you almost never feel like you've been cheated or given anything that you didn't deserve. If you make the big catch, you know you made it happen, and if you drop the pass, you will also know that it was your fault. That's not to say the controls are unforgiving. In fact, the game lets you vary your level of control to a certain degree. For instance, as the quarterback, passing the ball can be as simple as looking for the open man and hitting the corresponding button to throw him the ball.. You can also turn on a feature called "maximum passing" that allows you to guide the pass prior to throwing it with the analog stick in order to lead your receiver. The controls are very specific and responsive, which is the biggest difference between NFL 2K2 and Madden 2002. The AI is also quite impressive--depending on the difficulty setting, you'll see the computer manage the clock by taking a knee and simply running the clock out in the appropriate situations. Each quarterback also has his own unique AI system modeled after his real-life counterpart, so you'll face quarterbacks who scramble and quarterbacks who hide in the pocket, for instance. Plus, the play action fakes are incredibly well done--the animation and motion will totally fool you when you're on defense.

The graphics in NFL 2K2 are impressive, to say the least. The game looks infinitely better than its Dreamcast counterparts and better than most of the PS2 football games we've seen so far. The player models are incredibly detailed and look and move wonderfully--you can clearly recognize players just by looking at their faces. The animations of the players tackling, breaking tackles, and catching balls are fantastic. Even better is that the animation transitions are nearly seamless, so you never really see where one animation starts and another ends, making the players' movements look completely natural. The biggest improvement in the PS2 NFL 2K2, though, is the game's lighting and shadows. The lighting in the stadiums--whether it's natural light or the stadium lights--looks incredible and casts very realistic shadows on the field and players.

The sound effects, stadium music, and commentary all sound almost complete. You can hear lots of player chatter on the field as the ball is about to be snapped. The game also has a two-man announcing team that treats you to banter about the teams, players, and plays.

While we'll have to reserve judgment until we get our hands on a final build of the game, it's fair to say that we've been more than impressed with NFL 2K2 for the PS2. Of all the football games we have for any system here in the office--whether released or not--it's the game more editors turn to for a game of football than any other. The game already looks and plays very well. Hopefully, with the time Visual Concepts has left, the game will be made even more impressive.

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