Brett Favre drops back in the pocket, quickly scanning the field for his receivers. Barry Sanders fakes a dive before slipping out into the flat. Jerry Rice slips past the cornerback, cuts inside, and starts heading for the goal line. Within seconds, the ball is on its way toward the waiting arms of tight end Shannon Sharpe. Touchdown! The celebration commences in the end zone. Is this the Pro Bowl? The alcohol-inspired dream of many Jets fans? If you happen to pick up Front Page Sports: Football Pro '97, this could be your team. You draft the players, you design the plays, and you make the calls on game day. The newest incarnation of Sierra's annual favorite boasts a few new features, but turns out to be more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Football Pro '97 is more than just a run-of-the-mill football game for the PC. It offers options - lots of options. You can be the general manager. You can be the coach. You can be the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, etc. As a Windows 95 game, the new version presents the action in high-resolution 640x480. If you have a fast system, the animation for each player now consists of 16 different angles rather than just eight. Unfortunately, even this does not keep the player motion from looking choppy. The numbers on the jerseys are a nice new touch, but I would gladly exchange them for more fluid animation.
If you would rather run things from the sidelines, Football Pro '97 makes coaching a little easier than before. The Play Wizard simplifies the creation of those razzle-dazzle masterpieces. Trading has been improved. You can choose to take over a real team, or dump everyone into a common draft pool to build your dream franchise. The AI still doesn't seem to cope too well on draft day - as one coach said, "You can't teach speed." Draft fast players, watch them get smarter, then watch them trounce the opposition week after week. While you're rolling up the score, some computer-managed teams struggle to score as many as seven points per game.
The new feature that has garnered the most attention is the improved multiplayer option, which allows you to play over a modem, LAN, or the Internet. The shipping version only offers coaching mode (rather than action mode) in a multiplayer environment, though a free upgrade, available from Sierra, removes this limitation. If you are tired of kicking the computer's butt, reach out and crush someone in this game. It has real NFL teams, real NFL players, and more options than before. Overall, it's good though far from perfect.