So many football video games, so little time. Here are reviews of the latest releases to help you choose the game that’s right for you.
THREE CHOICES AND ONE MORE TO COME
The big dog in football is Madden NFL 08 from EA. Sure to be one of the best-selling games of the year, it’s loaded with real players, real stadiums and all the polish, including commentary by legendary coach and sportscaster John Madden.
EA made deals a couple of years ago with both the NFL and NCAA that blocked other game publishers from making games using official teams, mascots, schools or stadiums. Other companies were run out of the leagues, but they weren’t run out of the game.
2K Sports is still at it with All Pro Football 2K8, a game that makes up for its lack of real teams by letting players create dream teams based on the greatest players to ever retire from the game.
Finally, if you want to see what real football is about, there’s NCAA Football 08. Pro football is great, but if you want fast action, fierce rivalries and coaches who take big risks, get a load of college ball.
Yet another football video game choice is due out later this year: Backyard Football (from Atari for PS2, Wii, DS, Game Boy Advance). Expect a good introduction to football with kid-friendly gameplay.
MADDEN NFL 08: THE BIGGEST—BUT THE BEST?
|MADDEN NFL 08
Electronic Arts for GameCube, PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360, DS, PSP, PC, Mac (Tested on Wii and 360)
Graphics: 9.0 (360) / 7.0 (Wii)
Sound: 7.0 (360) / 9.0 (Wii)
Gameplay: 8.0 (360) / 6.0 (Wii)
Replay Value: 9.0 (360) / 8.0 (Wii)
Overall Score: 8.0 / 7.0
Pros: Good, solid football simulation with enough options to keep fans playing all year. Wii version has Al Michaels commentary.
Cons: Wii controls are disappointing. PS3 version is known to have technical problems.
For polished play controls, you can’t beat Madden NFL. Madden gives you crisp, responsive passing controls and good running moves.
Madden is not easy, but anyone can pick up the game and get started. You won’t spend much time learning to run, pass and rush, but if you want to learn the finer points of interceptions, breaking tackles and completing passes, put some time in with this game.
Graphically, the Wii version of Madden NFL 08 lags far behind the other versions, and the special Wii-mote motion controls add little to the game. Also disappointing is the PS3 version, which has slowdown issues.
On the positive side, the Wii version includes audio commentary by Al Michaels, one of the best commentators in video game sports as well as real sports.
If you want to learn the finer points of interceptions, breaking tackles and completing passes, put some time in with Madden NFL 08.
Passing and playing on the Wii is completely different from the other versions. On the other consoles, you control play by pressing buttons. With Wii, you hike by flicking the Wii-mote backward and pass by pressing the directional control on top while flicking the controller backward. While these movements mimic those of passing and hiking, they don’t feel natural, and using the + pad while flicking the Wii-mote forward doesn’t work well.
The Wii version comes with two styles of play: Family Play, in which you pretty much just hike, choose receivers and break tackles, and Advanced Play, in which you use the nunchuk to control players. Advanced Play is more like the traditional game.
The Wii remote can be used to diagram key plays.
Madden NFL 08 provides almost too many options and play modes. You can play on several difficulty levels, play as a coach, manage an entire franchise, lead a player’s career, play mini-games and more. You won’t believe how well all of this translates into multiplayer games online.
Overall, Madden NFL 08 is a good extension of the impressive Madden series. There’s nothing breakthrough over previous series games, but everything in it is solid and good.
ALL PRO FOOTBALL 2K8: FAMILIAR FACES
|ALL PRO FOOTBALL 2K8
2K Sports for PS3, Xbox 360 (Tested on 360)
Replay Value: 9.0
Overall Score: 8.0
Pros: Great gameplay, interesting team selection process.
Cons: Sound problems with commentators, disappointing graphics.
All Pro Football 2K8 marks the return of a lot of familiar faces—240 pro players and 2K Sports, a company that pioneered football games.
Although 2K Sports is locked out of today’s teams and players, they signed up the legends—everyone from Colts star Johnny Unitas to 49ers great Jerry Rice.
All Pro offers some cool options, including the ability to select three gold star players. These are names that people still know, such as quarterback Joe Montana or Steve Young.
You also get three silver star players on your team. These are names that older folks and hard-core fans know. Finally, you get three bronze stars. These are still great players—everyone in the All Pro line-up is great—but they were not headliners in their time.
John Elway is among the legends that you can pick for your team.
I chose Steve Young and Jerry Rice as two of my gold stars because they worked so well together in real life. I chose a silver star center because it’s an underrated position. Be sure to get yourself a gold star quarterback and receiver.
The gameplay is really, really good. The action is fast, but you can keep track of it. The passing works as expected. The running game is difficult—you earn every yard. Action is just as smooth online against live opponents as it is off-line playing the computer.
When it comes to graphics, All Pro doesn’t make it through the goal posts. Most of the virtual players only bear a slight resemblance to their real-life counterparts. Also, there’s a bug somewhere that causes the sportscasters to cut out. For much of the game, you can only hear them whispering in the background.
Overall, All Pro is still no match for the mighty Madden, but it’s a great alternative and a very fun and exciting game.
NCAA FOOTBALL 08: SCHOOL IS COOL
|NCAA FOOTBALL 08
Electronic Arts for PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360 (Tested on 360)
Replay Value: 9.0
Overall Score: 8.0
Pros: Solid gameplay, excellent tutorial, tons of teams and stadiums, good play-by-play commentary.
Cons: No real complaints.
Building on the college world, NCAA Football 08 lets you create dynasty football programs and train all-time great players. You can recruit players for your school. This is cool stuff.
There’s not a major college in America that goes unplayed in this game, but you can also create teams for your favorite minor schools.
One thing I found frustrating with NCAA was the number of times I lost the ball. When players on other teams kept crowding my players and made interceptions, I switched to a ground game and found that fumbles were common as well. No matter how I tried to avoid it, I kept forking over the ball.
Play for or against your favorite college team.
That said, I enjoyed this game immensely. I prefer the fast action of college football over the stop-and-go feel of the professional game. Plus, it was really fun trying to develop a dominant team and earning trophies for my college trophy room. The play-by-play commentary, the visuals and the controls are all top notch.