THE GIST: License? We don’t need no stinkin’ license! Visual Concepts and 2K Sports make their triumphant return to the gridiron with All-Pro Football 2K8 featuring over 240 of the best to ever hug the pigskin, innovative gameplay elements, and immersive realism. Some thought that the 2K brand of football games died when EA secured (read: took away your options as a consumer) the NFL and NFLPA licenses… well, it’s time to think again. 2K Football is back, better than ever, and stands today as the best football game I have ever played.
Hmmmm, what to concentrate on? The ball, or the 75 foot Firebird ravaging the stadium? – 2K8 has some of the best stadiums around today.
THE GAMEPLAY (OFFLINE): When NFL 2K5 first hit the market it was widely heralded as one of the most complete football titles ever. The controls, presentation, and animations were top-notch, adding to the game’s replay value, and every contest was a Monday Morning Quarterback’s dream. Considering that was three years ago I naturally had concerns whether or not the title aged like Mary Kate and Ashley or Todd Bridges. Whatchutalkin’bout, Dark? The gameplay is as great as it ever was!
The first thing APF 2K8 makes you do before you can do anything is create your team ranging from drafting your Superstars from the 3-tiered talent pool (Gold, Silver, Bronze) to choosing your city, team colors, and uniform detail. The amount of different variations you can have is staggering and professional and yes, you can even make some VERY close versions of real NFL teams.
Players get to select 2 Gold Players, 3 Silver, and 6 Bronze in any way you see fit. You can run backfield-of-terror comprised of Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, or impossible-to-pass on defense of Ronnie Lott and Night Train Lane. After selecting your Superstars you can then assign general skills to your non-star players like pass-blocking offensive lineman, possession receivers, and run stopping LB’s. My advice, balance it out and by all means, get a kicker!!!
Want your hogs to truly be hogs? Well then tell them to be!!!
From there you can engage in a full 16 game-season, online league or tournament. The game does lack a franchise mode but when you think about it a franchise mode would seemingly undermine the entire Legends premise as all of them would retire after the first season. Instead Visual Concepts put all of their eggs in the gameplay basket which is a win for all of us. Besides is football really about determining how much to charge fans for hotdogs and checking your “superstars” email?
One of my favorite new additions to the mix are player specific attributes which dynamically change how you play your O and D each and every game. Gone are the arbitrary and non-discriminatory number ratings and instead every Legend has a given number of traits. For instance, Joe Montana has a Signal Stealer ability so every once in a while you can hit X on the controller and see what defensive play the opponent is running. Marcus Allen has a Goalline Leap which allows him to get extra air when diving over the plane to paydirt. Despite not having a ratings system you can easily tell who the Legends are and aren’t without feeling cheated. Non-Legend players make the plays they’re supposed to make; they pick off a pass when they should, make a tackle when they should, pretty much do everything that the situation calls for but can be easily bested by the best.
The controller layout hasn’t really changed much since 2K5 and are just as responsive as you remember them. There are a few new moves you can bust out and every juke, spin, and stiff arm has 2 levels (one normal and one when your turbo is fully charged by holding down A). To shine more light on how instinctive the controls are take into account that I have not played NFL 2K5 in well over a year and have grown accustomed to EA’s layout, it took me about 15 minutes to settle right in and feel at home again, the controls are that natural.
Thanks to NFL 2K8 millions of “new-gen” NFL fans will know who greats like Lenny Moore were.
THE GAMEPLAY (ONLINE): Aside from some framerate loss and mild connection issues the blissful days NFL 2K5 online gameplay is back. All of APF 2K8’s offline strengths translate seamlessly to the online experience. 2K Sports still offers free websites for everyone running leagues and tourneys as well as the 2K Reelmaker that debuted in NBA 2K7. If you haven’t seen this badboy yet it is actually a nice piece of work. For 400 Microsoft points you can purchase and download this basic highlight reel editor complete with soundtracks, voiceovers, dissolves, wipes, multiple angles and special effects and then upload these to the 2K servers for the world to enjoy.
THE GRAPHICS: Here we have an interesting blend of beautiful and downright creepy. You will have some of the most beautiful and imaginative stadiums you’ve ever seen being occupied by zombified versions of NFL greats. For the most part the players look like claymation versions of themselves and often they partake in bizzare rituals. About every other game, when the players meet midfield and jaw at each other for a minute before the coin toss, Joe Cool would say his piece and close his mouth only to have it rocket back open and his eyes shoot to the left. It is as funny as it is consistent but also somewhat of a hiccup when it comes to realism.
“Ronnie.” “Ken.” “Ken.” “John.” “Juice.” “Ronnie.” “Jerry.” “Juice.”
Once the players take to the field it is a different story. The animations are smooth, lighting effects spot-on, and every detail seems to shine through from the war in the trenches to DB’s bumping receivers at the line of scrimmage.
THE AMBIANCE: With Dan Stevens and Peter O’Keefe reprising their roles as the best booth in the ‘biz and crowds who estastically boo if you go for it on 4th and 14 there is no lack in the atmosphere department. Though I would like a few little things to be addressed in 2K9, like no two players with the same jersey number on the field at the same time, APF delivers where it counts.
You really can’t help but get excited when you break off a run down the sidelines and you see your teammates running along the sidelines with you cheering you on. And since there is no NFL license VC was free to show injures. Players will come up limp holding their hammy, or do their best Time Krumrie in Superbowl XXIII. I even saw fans scurry through the stands to get back to their seat. Horse-collar tackles, late-hits… NFL license or not, this is football.
Obligatory gameplay shot in your football review? Check!
THE VERDICT: I swear I’m not a 2K fanboy or on their payroll with the amount of their games I’ve reviewed but this one is a no-brainer. In my opinion this is the definitive pigskin title to own this year. Even without having played Madden or NCAA 08 I can just tell you as a fan of football games how refreshing it is to have a choice once again, even if that refreshing choice is somewhat familar. APF 2K8’s lack of franchise is made up for by it’s unparalled online league functions and with the endless combinations of stars you can group together the replay value is almost endless. Buy this title, you will not be disappointed.
All images courtesy of ign.com