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Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1-4
Developer:  Visual Concepts
Publisher:  Sega Sports
Features:  VMU, Jump Pack
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
If you are a football fan, I have one sure reason for you to buy a Dreamcast. Simply put, NFL 2K. All the hype surrounding this game was well deserved. The most amazing, drool-inducing, sit-on-the edge of your seat, interactive football experience has arrived. After gazing at the screen for an hour without blinking, I realized that I could actually be playing the game.

First off, let me comment on the obvious. The visuals are simply breathtaking. Every polygon is super crisp and there are no jagged, pointy edges or blocky extremities to be found. The result is the most life-like and sharpest looking players ever. Real players were motion-captured for each and every position, resulting in silky smooth animation, 1500 player animations to be exact. Every little detail you take for granted when watching a real football game on TV is displayed in beautiful hi-res splendor. Iím talking actual facial features and polygonal facemasks, people! The little things were not forgotten: NFL logos on playerís uniforms, fingers (yes, players have fingers), holes in the mesh lining of the jerseys, shoelaces, legible names on jerseys, etc. I could go on forever, but I donít want to spoil it for ya! The presentation is stylish enough to give the game that TV-style look and feel. Also contributing to this real-world feel is the awesome personality and humor the commentating delivers. Though theyíre just actors, itís hard to believe the two commentators donít Cover real NFL games. Itís really refreshing and humorous to hear them take shots at each other and the players with just a hint of sarcasm in their voice.

Okay, by now you might be thinking the graphics are ridiculously good, but what is the gameplay like? We all know that Madden has always been the game to play for realistic, simulation-like gameplay. Well, times are a changiní. Gameplay couldnít be any tighter. The control is as smooth as it gets. The analog stick is perfect for this game. It feels as though you have control over every footstep the player makes. As I played this game over and over again I realized that this is the toughest AI Iíve ever faced. The defensive AI picks up on your tendencies and tries to anticipate your next move. For example, if itís the third time your calling a short yardage play on 3rd and 6, then expect all your receivers to have a couple of extra shadows around them. If you call a four wide out play on first down, youíll notice defensive backs repositioning themselves. If your really fond of a certain formation then try to call different running and passing plays from that formation to throw the computer off. In other words, if youíre playing on a difficulty level other than rookie, you would be wise to study the opposing teamís strategy because theyíre definitely observing yours. Make use of every little advantage you have, like that rookie linebacker who gets confused on tight end corner routes. And unlike some football games, the overall rating of your team does affect how difficult things will be for you on the gridiron.

When selecting plays the diagrams are displayed clearly and concisely using up most of the screen and the primary receivers routes stand out by being a different color than the rest (a small, yet important feature which most games leave out). An incredibly innovative feature, for multi-player sessions, is the VMU play-calling which allows you to call your plays secretly on your VMU without having to worry about that shady kid who your friend keeps bringing over.

While Iíve already heard complaints about the seemingly difficult running game I found it captured the feel and intensity of the real thing. Real running backs generally have a tough time breaking through the line and an even tougher time going the distance. In the NFL 5 yards is a decent run. They couldíve made it so you can juke and spin at will every two yards, but I have nothing but praise for the developers for keeping things real in this department. During a run you have four moves at your disposal which you better use wisely, as they really come in handy when used appropriately. You can stiff arm linebackers (using the left or right triggers) if you time it just right, or perhaps you might want to hurdle over the strong arms of a letís say, John Randle. Thereís also a realistic spin move, thatíll get you out of trouble once in a while. When you see a path open up, and you will see them thanks to the excellent collision detection, tap the speed button repeatedly and burst through. You really feel like youíre earning your yards.

The passing game is along the lines of what were used to, and the result is very intuitive and incredibly satisfying as well. However, before you begin make sure you have Maximum Passing on, a feature which lets you adjust the path of your throw as you please. This feature will definitely come in handy because the defensive AI is so tight that there will be many times where you will need to improvise. What I love about passing in this game is that you pretty much know before you throw the ball if you have a decent chance of completing the play or not. The control is dead-on and the referees donít make bad or silly calls, so thereís no one to blame but yourself, your QB, or your lame receivers if your pass is incomplete or even worse, intercepted.

Unfortunately for the true sports nuts out there, the game lacks a multi-season franchise mode. However, the game provides such a rich and deeply satisfying experience that these complaints can be overlooked, at least until next year. I canít even imagine any huge improvements on this game next year. If you donít already have a Dreamcast system, do yourself a favor and go out and pick one up, along with a copy of NFL 2K. What a wonderful way to welcome the new millenium.

Vince Garcia

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