In the end, NFL 2K1 is a deeper, more refined version of the original game.
NFL 2K was considered by many to be one of the most amazing football games of all time, but it wasn't without flaws. Once you got into NFL 2K, it became a predictable game. Visual Concepts, the developer of the game, realized this as well, and the team has improved everything it possibly could in an attempt to correct this. We played NFL 2K1 for a considerable amount of time, and the results of Visual Concepts' work over the past year are clearly evident. The game is a much more refined, balanced, and complete version of the first game and is not only amazing for its online gameplay capabilities but also for its improved running game and greater overall depth.
The most obvious change is the addition of online play. NFL 2K1's network options make it possible to play with or against other players over the Internet, as well as download team roster updates throughout the season - all you need is an active phone line and a service provider. From there, you need to enter four lines of information into your Dreamcast to enable your connection. If you don't have an ISP, you can sign up for Sega's very own service provider, SegaNet. NFL 2K1 has an easy-to-use interface that will hook you up with SegaNet. Once your Dreamcast is properly configured, selecting "network" from the main menu hooks you up to the NFL 2K1 online servers. There are three different regional divisions (east, west, and central), and each region has a dozen or so city-specific servers to choose from. If you and your opponent have a solid connection, meaning that you and your opponent have good phone lines and are connected to the closest regional server, the experience of playing NFL 2K1 online is as if your opponents were sitting right next to you. If you don't have a solid connection, the game occasionally freezes for brief periods of time during play, or you'll notice a lag time between controller commands and onscreen player reactions. Of all the games we've played online, using various ISPs, the majority have had a slight but noticeable delay. However, we did play a few games against online opponents near and far, which were just as good as multiplayer games played on one console. As is usually the case with online gaming, your mileage may vary.
The new franchise mode lets you take a team through multiple seasons and lets you deal with tons of managerial tasks such as drafting players, releasing players, and signing players. You even have to take into account a player's age when signing him, since some players retire at the end of a season. The franchise mode adds a new depth to the series, which will undoubtedly keep you playing NFL 2K1 for a long time to come.
While the additions of the franchise mode and Internet-play capability are huge, fans of the first game will find the subtle control and AI improvements to be just as important. The running game of NFL 2K, for instance, was one of the areas many players felt could use some tweaking, which is exactly what the design team at Visual Concepts did. The ball carrier's force is now more momentum-based, meaning that if he's running at full speed, it really takes a solid hit to bring him down. In the previous game, any contact would basically stun the ball carrier for a moment, a moment that usually lasted longer than it would take for another defender to come along and finish the job. In NFL 2K1, the ball carrier is able to spin off of opponents who don't make solid contact, which in turn allows you to realistically break tackles. Running up the middle, breaking tackles, and actually busting out with a surprise 70-yard dash to the end zone can actually happen now. All the moves from the first game are included, although the stiff-arm's effectiveness has been toned down substantially. A new juke move has been added that allows you to cut across the field a bit faster. The computer AI is a bit tougher and is much quicker in adapting to your style, meaning that if you find a play that allows you to make a substantial gain, it's not likely that the computer will allow you to pull it off again right away. The team-specific playbooks are, for the most part, specific to offensive plays, and the defensive playbooks are actually rather weak.
Visually, the game looks almost identical to the original NFL 2K. The game does, however, feature graphical additions such as real-time lighting reflections off the players' helmets, an animated crowd, and field deterioration. The game also has new motion-captured animations for tackling, running, catching, tripping, and just about everything else. In all, NFL 2K1 features somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 motion-captured animations. The game looks very smooth, and it doesn't appear to suffer from any of the slowdown that plagued the first game. The game does have some minor graphical problems - the details on the players pop up rather suddenly as the camera gets closer to them, and it isn't nearly as subtle as in the first game. Overall, the players look a little more polygonal and not quite as detailed as in the first game. The front-end menus look a little sharper this time around, as do the play-selection screens.
In the audio department, the game is incredible. The commentary is more insightful and situational than any other sports game before. The commentators make references to plays, players, and teams right on cue and in amazing detail. The players on the field yell back and forth to one another and actually taunt each other before the plays and sometimes even call each other by name. The sound effects and stadium announcements are, for the most part, identical to those of the first game.
In the end, NFL 2K1 is a deeper, more refined version of the original game. The vastly improved running game makes all the difference in the world, since now you can truly mount an offensive attack that consists of a true-to-life air-and-ground assault. The game plays faster, more precisely, and closer to the real thing than any football game has before. The addition of the online gameplay feature and franchise mode is more than enough reason for you to upgrade to NFL 2K1. If there's still any doubt in your mind that NFL 2K1 is anything less than revolutionary, squash it and get to your local video game retailer before it sells out. The game is just that good.