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NFL 2K2 (Dreamcast)
MSRP: $39.99
Number of Players: 1-8 (with Internet play)
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: Sega of America

Rating:
****1/2
out of
*****

When the Dreamcast was released in 1999, the game that sold me on it was NFL 2K. Last year, NFL 2K1 was a huge improvement on an already excellent game. The addition of more player animations, online play and an improved running game made NFL 2K1 the best football videogame ever made. I knew that NFL 2K2 had a lot to live up to but I didn't expect to feel so disappointed by such a quality game.

You see, there's nothing wrong with NFL 2K2. That's because it's essentially the same game as NFL 2K1. Yes, there are more (and different) player animations. Yes, the rosters are updated. Yes, online play now includes stats tracking that can monitor your win/loss percentage as well as how many games other people disconnected before finishing. However, the core of the game remains very similar to last year's version. After playing NFL 2K2 for the last two weeks, I got the sneaking suspicion that Visual Concepts' attention wasn't as focused on the Dreamcast this year. That's understandable considering that this is the last version for the Dreamcast. The Xbox and PlayStation 2 get versions of NFL 2K2 this year and that had to have had some effect on the Dreamcast version.

There are some differences between NFL 2K1 and NFL 2K2 aside from the ones I've already mentioned above. The running game has been made even more effective than last year. Perhaps too effective. Running backs can now gain between five and ten yards on almost every attempt. It doesn't seem to matter whether you're running with Jerome Bettis, Priest Holmes or Corey Dillon, you're going to gain yardage up the middle. Not that that's a huge problem, it's just that NFL 2K1 had a really nice balance between being too easy (NFL 2K2) and too hard (NFL 2K). The passing game is a mixed bag now, with receivers seeming to drop a lot more passes than they did before. Is this more realistic? Maybe, but there doesn't seem to be any correlation between Pro Bowl receivers and rookies now. They all drop passes with about the same frequency. Of course, the vastly improved defensive AI makes even getting a pass to the receiver more difficult.

NFL 2K2 does feature a revamped graphics engine. Many of the same animations are present from last year, but the player models have been redone. Unfortunately, that's not a good thing in most instances. The NFL 2K series' players have always looked a little odd -- never really deformed, but strangely skinny and wiry in most instances. Now, with the new player models, everyone looks like they've bulked up on steroids. Some of the defensive linemen seem to have redwood trees for arms. However, with the new animations, even these odd looking players move in a realistic fashion. New quarterback animations make the longer passes more realistic because the quarterback has to take a few steps to "set up" before letting a bomb fly. Also, rollout plays are improved with a new quarterback scramble animation that makes those formations more exciting to use.

The NFL 2K series has always been known for its excellent sound and commentary and NFL 2K2 is no exception. "Dan Stevens" and "Peter O'Keefe" are back and are as fun to listen to as ever. Just like last year, there are occasional goof-ups with the play-calling but nothing catastrophic. It actually sounds like they're calling the game as they see it rather than simply doling out canned comments on a situational basis like EA's Madden series is still doing. One minor quibble is that the volume drops on the announcers from time-to-time, making some comments hard to hear. The on-field taunts and crowd noises are pretty much the same ones from NFL 2K1.

The franchise, create-a-player and fantasy modes from last year are present in this version as well and haven't received any substantial changes. The franchise mode, in particular, does not approach the quality of the Madden series.

I hate to sound so down on NFL 2K2 because it's really a great game. If you're a die-hard Dreamcast fan and have no intentions of getting any other systems this year, the Dreamcast version of NFL 2K2 is by no means a bad football game. It's just not as big a leap in quality over NFL 2K1 that NFL 2K1 was over NFL 2K. Maybe it's just the reality of this being the last incarnation of the series for the Dreamcast making me seem so sour. NFL 2K2 is a great game and makes a fine send-off for the series from its Dreamcast origins.

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