The story of Acclaim's NFL Quarterback Club 99 is a tale of two games. The first, that of the single-player game, does not have a happy ending. The second, that of the multiplayer game, does. Ultimately, the decision as to whether you should purchase Quarterback Club comes down to which tale you want to hear, and which game you want to play.
Let's start with what both the single- and multiplayer games share in common - namely, the most incredible graphics ever seen in a simulated football game. Hyperbole may be the rule when discussing graphics these days, but we're serious when we say that no football game on any platform can hold a candle to Quarterback Club 99. The high-resolution screen, the shockingly detailed animation, and the realistic interaction between players are enough to stop any sports fan dead in his tracks. And wait until you see the instant replay! With just the slightest squint of the eyes, the instant replays on Quarterback Club 99 are essentially indistinguishable from the real thing. You literally have to see it to believe it.
But don't think for a minute that Quarterback Club 99 is merely a graphics showcase - it's also a deep, flexible, and, in multiplayer mode at least, fun-to-play football game. Pick any of the game's copious modes - practice, single game, season, tournament, play-off, pro bowl, or historical sims - and then settle back for some engaging pigskin action.
As soon as the game begins, you'll see that Quarterback Club 99 has a large and generally well-balanced playbook, which is customized for each team (you can also create your own personal playbook with up to 256 total plays - a nice touch). The defensive playbook is particularly noteworthy, because the accompanying diagrams give you an unusually clear idea of how the scheme will work, especially in terms of zones of coverage. This means that if your opponent is beating you time and again with a given route, you can call a defense that will plop a defender in precisely the right spot to counter it. It's also nice to see a football game that keeps defensive personnel and coverage packages separate. You can run any defensive formation using either normal, nickel, or dime personnel packages (most games, including Madden, only allow the use of nickel and dime packages with particular defensive schemes). Finally, Quarterback Club 99 has a meaningful running game, with lineman that open up real holes (even in the middle of the field) and backs that are quick enough to squirt through them.So Quarterback Club 99's got the looks, the modes, and the plays - but does it have the intangibles necessary to make it a great football game? In single-player mode, the answer is no. The simple reason is that the computer AI is utterly incompetent and incapable of putting up even a modicum of resistance. On offense, quarters, halves, and even games roll by without a single computer first down. On defense, things are even worse, as the computer is unable to cover any deep inside route (without interfering) or any deep outside route thrown to the wide side of the field. Not that you even have to bother to throw the ball. Roll the quarterback outside, turn upfield, and start stiff-arming, and chances are you'll end up in the opposition's end zone - even if it's 50 yards downfield.
So, in single-player mode, when the computer has the ball, it's three plays and punt. When you have the ball, it's one play and score. That means that you spend a lot of time on defense and a lot of time in the kicking game. And that's where Quarterback Club's other primary flaw, its pacing, comes into play. Although play selection is a reasonably quick process, there is a delay of three or four seconds between the time the teams come to the line and when the ball is snapped, during which you have no control whatsoever over your players (you can't even move your defenders into better position). Over the course of the game, this delay and accompanying control "freeze" quickly goes from annoying to maddening. Second, it takes about 30 seconds to reset for a kickoff - in a typical game where you score eight or more touchdowns, that means you'll spend at least a full four minutes doing absolutely nothing.
Not much fun - that is, unless you're using the dead time to gloat over the score while a hapless human opponent looks on. In fact, with a human opponent, the pacing issues of the game completely disappear. There's always something to keep you busy in the downtime, whether it be an exclamation over a spectacular catch, an emphatic "boom" bellowed out after a monstrous hit, or a real-life interpretation of one of Quarterback Club's seemingly endless celebration animations.
And with a human opponent, the AI problems pretty much disappear as well. Sure, the computer-controlled players will often end up out of position, but that just means it's up to you to recover. Money routes or plays cut both ways and for the most part can be thwarted by the correct defense. Yes, it's true that the controls occasionally feel sluggish, and sometimes the game prevents you from switching to the correct player, but when all is said and done, Quarterback Club delivers loads of big plays, dramatic reversals, and white-knuckle finishes. In other words, it delivers pretty much exactly what you're looking for in a console football game.
So should you buy Quarterback Club 99? If you live like a hermit and are looking for a game to while away the cold winter nights with, the answer is obviously no. But if you've got friends ready to play, an appreciation for absolute state-of-the-art graphics, and the hunger for some downright exciting football action, it's definitely worth a long, hard look.