The game licenses all the NFL teams and some 100 big-league players. The characters models are exaggerated, so don't expect likenesses to be exact, but it's fun taking a bunch of current Packer greats and stuffing the rock down the throats of seven Rams. Game modes let you choose players from single teams or create your own pro bowl, and there is a nice assortment of QBs, RBs, corners, WRs, tight ends, and O and D-linemen. There's a lot of strategy in picking your team. Sure, running backs and quarterbacks are givens, but a corner can intercept better than a wide receiver though he won't catch as well. A big offensive lineman can be useful, but he doesn't tackle well when forced to play defense. When playing two-player, you can really stack your line and shut down the enemy passing or running attack, or go for a balanced corp.
You can play a ladder or league by creating your own team, which is annoyingly time consuming. An option to draft your own NFL stars and go through would be nice, instead you have to pick a cadre of nobodies and fill out their stats. Pick a name, a logo, and try to beat the pros with your average Joes. Winning gives you points and you can upgrade from there. It's a nice option but only for the hardcore players; casual players are effectively shut out from continuing play because of it.
EA hired "street" artists to design wonderful load screens, but this makes the player models look dull by comparison. One wishes they had used cel shading and that street look to the characters, but instead we get freakish players that generally look the same. Uninspired, un-intimidating, and, frankly, boring.
The gameplay works. There's a nice assortment of offensive, defensive, and trick plays. There are no special teams, no punting, and extra points are two points for a pass, one for a run. Mastering the buttons is key because the game rewards style, impressive plays, and more. Gathering these points opens new playing fields and, if you like, can be a victory option. The computer is programmed to catch up when behind, annoyingly so, so this is more of a blast against a human opponent. The fast action and brutal hits are reminiscent of NFL Blitz (which is a better game) but EA Big has started something here. Next year this could be really big. --Andrew S. Bub --this text refers to the PlayStation2 version of the game
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