Sports franchises are usually known for their year-to-year stagnicity, and not for being innovative. That is why the high-res graphics in Acclaim's much-touted NFL Quarterback Club 98 have garnered so much attention. But, as any veteran gamer knows, gameplay and not graphics is the most important ingredient in a game, especially when it comes to sports.
Quarterback Club's graphics are just about as good as advertised. Although some of the 3D player models look disproportionate (huge arms, small torsos), there isn't a sharper-looking sports game on the market. The polygonal players are detailed right down to the tracks on the bottom of their shoes. They have legible player names and numbers on the back of their jerseys, and unlike the ones in Madden 64, they also have the real NFL logos and uniforms.
The motion-captured player animations aren't quite as superb, however. Moves such as one-handed grabs, stiff-arms, spins, and even wrap-tackles are part of the action, but many of them look very choppy when performed on field (though they do look better in the instant replay.) For example, when you tackle a player, it often happens comically fast. It is clear that a better frame-rate and smoother animations were in order here. Such things don't ruin the game, but they do add blemishes to QB Club's groundbreaking graphics.
These graphics seem to have come at a cost, however. Perhaps Iguana focused too much on them and not enough on QBC's gameplay, which is plagued with problems. The most glaring flaw is the bad passing physics - the football floats in the air for a ridiculous amount of time during long passes (even when you hold down the button to bullet pass). It really seems like the ball is filled with helium, or you're playing football on Mars. Because of this hang time, defenders have way too much time to close in. The ball often drops down in the middle of about three defenders that shouldn't have been there, and one wide receiver that should have been wide open. As the ball reaches the players, they all jump up to catch it, in what looks like synchronized volleyball. What's more amusing is that somehow the receiver still makes the catch. This happens so often that it seems like it was done on purpose to compensate for the game engine's shortcomings. Suffice to say, the passing game in QBC is bad.
Adding to the mess is QB Club's flaky computer intelligence. There are an abundance of plays that consistently work for big gains, making it easy to rip off large chunks of yardage with little or no problem. (On the other hand, the computer can't seem to buy a play that works.) Contributing to this is the computer's inability to adjust to a thing that you're doing on offense or defense. Throwing to receivers running crossing patterns will move you from one end of the field to the other with ease for the entire game. Running with your quarterback is too easy because defenders in a position to tackle him choose to cover their zones like idiots, even though there is no wide receiver near them. Sometimes players get entangled with one another, particularly on the sidelines. Then they spasm left and right as they attempt to break free. This bug is annoying, especially when that's the guy you wanted to throw to. Does this sound like a good simulation?
Speaking of sound, QBC's atmosphere is boring, even nonexistent. The mundane crowd lulls you to sleep and rarely gets excited at any time of the game. Marv Albert's stale play-by-play commentary would have been even blander were it not for his personal escapades. The whaps, hits, and other on-field sounds are adequate, but fail to generate any excitement. Even the touchdown celebrations are lame.
To be fair, some gamers will enjoy Quarterback Club despite its shortcomings - but only if they don't know or care about realistic football. Those wanting to play a game that simulates even the basics of NFL football will be sorely disappointed by Acclaim's poor-playing but excellent-looking pigskin offering.