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ESPN NFL Primetime 2002
PS2 Staff Review by Aaron Thomas

One thing that owners of the original Playstation, and now the owners of the PS2 never have to worry about is a lack of sports games. If its popular in your part of the world, chances are that theres at least one game out that replicates the sport. In the United States, the big four sports receive the videogame treatment from a number of developers, despite the fact that one is the clear leader, and the others usually pale in comparison. Speaking of me too games, Konami has released ESPN NFL Primetime 2002. Its an average football game that is really hurt by a large number of small problems. The groundwork for a solid game is here, but its buried beneath other issues.

The first of these issues youll notice is that games poor graphics - they look like a slightly cleaned-up version of a Playstation game. There are some nice touches here and there that show promise, but on a whole, things look disappointing. Player animation, while not horrible, isnt up to the levels that people expect to see after playing Madden or NFL2K2. The players all walk funny, and the tackling animations are unimpressive. The framerate is usually solid, but does get bogged down on occasion, players arent very rounded looking and come of as sort of square looking - again its little stuff that keeps the game down.

Despite these problems, there are some nice things that Konami has done with the game visually, first amongst these are the cut-scenes. Keeping with the ESPN theme, the developers did a nice job of conveying the look and feel of a television presentation. The way stats and scores are overlayed are also straight out of an ESPN telecast of Sunday Night Football, so any football nut will feel right at home. Some small touches, like jerseys that get dirtier throughout the game, and some sharp looking helmets round out the positive aspects of the game.

Primetimes commentary is performed by Chris Berman and Tom Jackson. Yes, If you want to hear Hecouldgoall thewayTouchdown! youre in luck in this high scoring game. When final scores often add up to a hundred points, youll be hearing that a lot. Bermans and Jacksons commentary follows the action well, but doesnt provide much insight into what is going on in the game past the current play. Theres no poignant information on why something happened or why a team isnt performing.

The requisite grunts, bangs, and yells are all present during the game, and they sound just like every other game out there. Again, the license is put to good use and ESPNs Primetime theme is used for good effect. Its not the best sounding game out there, but it is far better than a lot games. If youre a big Berman fan, youll get a kick out it.

The strength of Primetime lies in its wide array of gameplay options. In addition to exhibition and season modes, theres a robust franchise mode and a nifty customization mode that lets you put your team in almost any game situation. The game features strong stat-tracking, and full control over general manager operations, so anyone trying to build a dynasty on the strength of their wheeling and dealing has all the tools they need to do it.

Not as strong as the features list is Primetimes gameplay. By far its biggest problem is its sub-standard AI performance. While it might not appear to be too horrible to the casual pigskin fan, anyone who plays a significant amount of video football will see things that are way off. Catching passes seems to leave too much to chance, especially when the difficulty is bumped up a few notches. On the higher levels its not uncommon to see Jerry Rice drop a short pass with nobody near him - its the computers way of keeping things close. If the Defensive AI was anywhere near as good as it should be, the developers wouldnt need to resort to this sort of trick, but alas it is very poor so we have the cheapness. The computers defense also seems to suffer from the complete inability to adjust to what you are doing. You can win games by running the ball every play, or just as easily throwing the ball every time, the computer just cant seem to adjust the defense correctly. The games controls feel similar to NFL2K2, which means that they are quick to respond, and not quite as realistic as Maddens. Players can stop and cut on a time, and jukes, spins, and big hits are present on almost every play. This might not be what a purist wants, but its definitely the best control scheme for this kind of game. If you cant make it a super-realistic experience, might as well make it fun, right?

In the end, theres no real compelling reason to go out and purchase Primetime. It can be fun to play for a while, but the truth is, its not the best at anything that it does. If you can pick it up for a real cheap price, or you just want to rent a game thats easy to pick up and play, this might be worth a look, but otherwise, go with Madden.

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"It can be fun to play for a while, but the truth is, its not the best at anything that it does."

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