Game Description: Live out your football fantasies with NFL 2K1. Play as any NFL team as well as several all-star teams as you hit the gridiron. Start a franchise and build a dynasty or go online and show the world your skills. Download updated rosters from the Internet for the most up-to-date game you've ever played as you punt, pass, and kick your way to the Super Bowl. Realistic physics, great graphics, and authentic sound make NFL 2K1 the ultimate football simulation. Live out your football fantasies with NFL 2K1. Play as any NFL team as well as several all-star teams as you hit the gridiron. Start a franchise and build a dynasty or go online and show the world your skills. Download updated rosters from the Internet for the most up-to-date game you’ve ever played as you punt, pass, and kick your way to the Super Bowl. Realistic physics, great graphics, and authentic sound make NFL 2K1 the ultimate football simulation.
Every year I find myself caring less and less about the annual updates to all the popular sports franchises. 989 Sports and EA Sports have refined their respective sports games to such a degree that there's little else for the developers to do but refresh the team uniforms and rosters with each "new" installment. Besides the everyday sports fanatic, who really wants to shell out another $50 for a game that's basically the same as the one from the previous year (or even the year before that)?
Now that we're in the thick of the new NFL season, we have once again arrived at that pivotal point on the old sports game wheel. EA Sports has Madden 2001 for PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC. 989 Sports has NFL GameDay 2001 for PlayStation. And Sega Sports has released NFL 2K1—the sequel to last year's ground breaking NFL 2K. It's not exactly the momentous occasion the industry makes it out to be is it?
My feelings on the matter are no doubt a result of the last generation of consoles having reached their technical limits. Since the flagship sports games have pretty much come to a standstill as far as gameplay and game design innovation, the fact that the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 versions lack anything new visually just makes the situation that much more obvious. It's for this reason that the Sega Dreamcast is such an exciting prospect when it comes to the sports game market (or any market for that matter).
NFL 2K1 is just the cure for the football fan who is tired of the same old NFL videogames. Here we have a football franchise that's still growing—still searching for that identity, which so instrumental in determining a sports game's success. The NFL 2K series alone has that potential to show us new things, visually and otherwise. NFL 2K1 generates excitement by default (it is, after all, a Dreamcast exclusive). Anything on PlayStation and Nintendo 64 should justifiably look stale in comparison.
But I don't want to merely state the obvious here. NFL 2K1 is the best football game to come around in a long time because it avoids all the trappings the other gridiron game franchises have fallen into. You don't have to worry about the game becoming obsolete next year due to player and team changes because you can download updated rosters from the Internet (the developers also threw in a superb player and team customization option for good measure). NFL 2K1 also has a very user-friendly set-up. The controls are easy to learn and not nearly as complicated as its competitions, and the menus are laid out with the non-hardcore in mind. And most important, the game is filled with everything football freaks need to live out their authentic NFL fantasies. All the basics requirements are there: a Season mode with exhaustive stat-tracking; a detailed Franchise mode that puts you in the role of the general manager for an entire season (and off-season); a unique Fantasy mode that lets you build a full fantasy league or tournament; a Tourney mode; a Playoffs mode; and a great Practice option that allows you to practice any game scenario you can possibly think of.
And of course there's the one feature that no console football game will be able to touch for quite a while: the Network mode, which lets you play people from all over the country through Dreamcast's built-in modem. From the first moment I logged on, I was absolutely hooked. Playing football online is every bit as fun as I could have ever imagined, and much more competitive. Up to eight players (four per Dreamcast) can play at once, but it's just as fun playing one-on-one. It's not without its flaws—as games sometimes grind to a halt due to poor server connections, and the network interface doesn't keep track of win-loss records or even your own connection speed. Also, it would have been nice if the game could label users who frequently quit in the middle of games, that way they could be avoided without any problems. I've had several wimps bail out on me when the score quickly reached 14-0, and I wanted to strangle every one of them. But the inherent problems of online gaming don't stop NFL 2K1's Network mode from being totally fun (you can even talk trash during a game with Dreamcast's keyboard). I've already played more legendary online matches than I can count. In fact, it's possible to forsake the Season mode all together and just play NFL 2K1 online all the time. Who wants to bother playing the computer when there are hundreds of real people waiting to play you over the Internet?
It's very difficult to find something wrong with this game no matter which aspect of it you examine. The graphics and sound are every bit as good as you'd expect them to be—easily dwarfing anything yet seen on a home platform. Some of the weather effects left something to be desired though, and the player models are noticeably more blocky than in the first game—mostly likely due to the need to free up disk space for the Network feature. Despite those minor quips, it's pretty amazing what this game achieves in the audio-visual department. The players are detailed right down to the breathe strips across their noses or even the color of their elbow pads, and the motion-capture is top-notch. The stadiums not only look great—especially in the tracking shot following a kick-off—but they sound great as well.
Think of the atmosphere during an NFL game: the sounds on the field; the crowd; the stadium's announcer speaking independently from the play-by-play commentary. It's all there. I felt the scope and dimension of the pro football environment while playing NFL 2K1. Even the little things you normally dont look for are there—like the pylons in the end zones, the referees discussing a difficult call or the players' movements and gestures in the huddle. Visual Concepts didn't miss a thing in their realistic depiction of the NFL. That's perhaps the biggest improvement I noticed over the first game. There were all kinds of little oversights in NFL2K that have vanished without a trace in NFL 2K1.
The game manages to accomplish all of these things without compromising the gameplay—which is as smooth as I've experienced since videogame football made the transition from the arcade action in Tecmo Bowl on the NES to the slow simulation of John Madden Football on the Genesis. Just like everything else in the game, the gameplay is very balanced—not only between offense and defense—but between the running game and the passing game. Passing the ball can be a breeze with the Maximum Passing option, and running backs can make room for themselves with easy-to-perform juke moves. NFL 2K1 gives you complete control over the action without making things complex, and contests move along at a brisk pace as a result.
If there's one thing NFL 2K1 doesn't have, it's an attitude. Though it plays to near perfection, Sega and Visual Concepts have yet to establish a personality for this series. Focusing on Minnesota Vikings' Randy Moss here and there doesn't cut it. Conceptually, this football franchise needs a look and feel that doesn't scream "generic." I'm glad that NFL 2K1 shuns the "big TV" approach taken by the other football games. It doesn't try to overwhelm us with the realistic broadcast approach. I thank God that John Madden's ugly and annoying ass is nowhere to be seen, and the psuedo-Sportscenter backdrop that 989 loves so much is also a happy no-show. The music though, which is the worst thing about NFL 2K1, goes for the mighty trumpet and booming drums that echo the FOX network. It's repetitive and irritating (not to mention unhip as hell) all the way through the game, and only demonstrates that the sensibility on which this game revolves is all wrong. Thankfully, you can turn down the music during games, and that in itself speaks to NFL 2K1's biggest strength: If there is something in the game that doesn't fit with your style, you can change it to correspond to your tastes.
And that about sums it up in a nutshell. NFL 2K1 is quite simply the most comprehensive and authentic football game around, and it's a blast to play. I hate to be repetitive, but there's just no comparing this game with anything else, and the online features make it a no-brainer. I may sound like I'm doing a plug for Sega here, but if you want the best football game out there, you're going to have to pick up a Dreamcast.
When I first played last year's NFL 2K, I was, to put it lightly, amazed. The play-by-play was great, and the action was both fast and cerebral. The game breathed new life into the stale video-football genre, setting a standard that has yet to be equaled. Now comes its sequel, NFL 2K1, and it is everything anyone could ask for, and then some.
As Ben mentioned, the graphics are second to none, and the interface is very accessible to both casual and devout gamers alike. Though the graphics aren't dramatically improved, they are sharper and feature a plethora of new motion-capture animations, and the detail on the players is remarkable. Audio is similarly awe-inspiring, with the commentators dispensing a seemingly endless array of jokes, stats, and play-by-play commentary. The game features a variety of realistic ambient sounds as well, such as player voices and a PA announcer.
I'm sure it's clear by now that NFL 2K1 looks and sounds spectacular. However, graphics and sound do not a good game make, as any player knows. Fortunately, NFL 2K1 delivers an amazing game experience as well. All the playbooks are updated, and you can add your own with the create-a-play feature. However, what really sold me to this game, and what has really been the most improved over last year's edition, is the fantastic running game. I have played many a football game, but never have I seen nor experienced such a smooth and accessible ground game. The physics are graceful and wonderfully lifelike. If you're a 250-pound halfback running at top speed, you won't be easily tackled by a slow-moving 180-pound safety. Similarly, a 350-pound linebacker cannot be evaded with a measly stiff arm. You can drag tacklers for a few extra yards and juke or spin away from defenders, and moves and tackles are all pulled off smoothly with flawless motion-capture.
The passing game is more of the same, but as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Defense isn't without its improvements either, with some new moves for powering through or dodging the offensive line. The gameplay has some glitches, however. Occasionally I have seen players "stuck" in one spot, or the QB will throw the ball in a completely different direction than I had intended, away from the intended receiver. Also, I found clipping penalties to be frequent and annoying, despite the fact that I had no control over the players committing the foul. However, these glitches are few and far between, and do little to scar the otherwise fantastic gameplay.
Certainly at the top of Sega's list of priorities is the success of their online venture, SegaNet, the launch of which coincides with the release of NFL 2K1. My experience online was not quite as smooth as Ben's, though it still delivered. When it works (which is most of the time), it's a ton of fun, especially if you have a keyboard (a must for Dreamcast owners, in my opinion). There is a small amount of lag, so players may have to input their moves a split second before they actually want to pull them off. Unfortunately, I found this to be a big problem in my otherwise successful running game. Lag time may render running up the middle almost useless, so players may be relegated to passing and running to the outside. Also, players don't always move in the direction you'd expect them to, which in more than one instance resulted in a frustrating loss of yards. Fortunately, Sega provides a service that tells players whether another gamer has a good or bad connection. If you stick to your region, the connection will be smooth, quick, and relatively glitch-free. All in all, SegaNet looks very promising, though in the future Sega may need to offer alternatives to the built-in 56k modem.
It all boils down to this: NFL 2K1 is the best looking, smoothest playing football game ever to grace any platform. Its numerous features, particularly network play and the ability to download updated rosters, will add a great deal of replay value. It's a must-have for any sports fan, and one of the best reasons yet to own a Dreamcast.
Parents shouldn't have any content concerns other than the violence inherent in the sport of American football. However, the Network mode is more of an adult setting since there are those who like to express themselves colorfully during a game. It might be wise for parents to monitor some of the online activity.
NFL 2K1 is just the second Dreamcast game to come with a network mode (Chu Chu Rocket! was the first—and no, I'm not counting Sega Swirl), so even non-fans of the sport might want to pick this one up, because it's gaming fun at its finest.
Die-hard football fans will definitely have their hands full here. If NFL 2K1 doesn't quench your thirst for authentic NFL simulation, then nothing will.
The game even incorporates some fast arcade action elements into its gameplay, so fans of NFL Blitz might be interested as well.