Hands-on: ESPN NFL PrimeTime 2002

Konami brings by the latest rev of this upcoming football game.

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Konami brought over an updated build of ESPN NFL PrimeTime 2002 for the PlayStation 2 today. Soon after firing up the build, it was easily evident that the game has improved quite significantly since it was shown at this year's E3, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. In the case of ESPN NFL PrimeTime 2002, it's the numbers that tell the story. The game's development team has implemented four unique player models to convey the general size and weight difference between positions such as quarterback and offensive linemen. According to Konami, each of the players is generously modeled and is comprised of approximately 4,000 polygons. The player faces have also improved, as the development team has mapped over 120 real-life faces onto their virtual replicas. In terms of animation, over 550 unique player animations simulate such subtleties as line shifts, stiff arms, club moves, and strips, among other things. All of this attention to detail is truly highlighted in the game's ESPN integrated presentation.

Before every snap, the camera will rotate and show cinematic views of the huddle, and the players walking up to the line. Players will become particularly vivacious after big plays, celebrating by performing summersaults or stomping their chest. The camera will even show views of the sideline and coaches chewing out players after a botched play. Complementing the broadcast-style replays and camera views are such elements as overlays and graphics from ESPN broadcasts, tickers at the bottom of the screen highlighting out of town scores and relevant statistics, and a commentary team comprised of ESPN's Chris Berman and Tom Jackson.

On the field, Konami has implemented a familiar control scheme. On offense, each of the receivers are assigned to a controller button, and when running the ball, face buttons perform such moves as hurdles, slides, spins, stiff arms, and jukes. On the defensive side of the ball, players can creep up to the line, play bump and run, dive, jump, strip, and even use a swim move with down-linemen. Where the game does separate itself is in its general gameplay style, which, according to Konami, harkens back to old-school football games such as Super Tecmo Bowl--games that featured wide-open gameplay. It is not uncommon to bust open 20-yard gains in PrimeTime 2002, and the best quarterbacks are able to sit back in the pocket and pick defenses apart with relative ease. The tight controls mean that juke moves and spins are pulled off with ease, which makes for an offense-oriented gameplay experience.

At its current state, ESPN NFL PrimeTime 2002 is essentially feature complete. There were a couple of bugs we encountered while playing the game, but those problems should be well taken care of before the game is released on the PS2 and Xbox on October 2. Konami seems to be targeting the game at fans of wide-open football and power offenses, and has thrown in a heavy dose of ESPN-style presentation for good measure. GameSpot will have more on ESPN NFL PrimeTime 2002 as we get more playtime with our latest build.

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