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Archived: Game Review: APF2K8 - MVP Gameplay, JV Options

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Game Review: APF2K8 - MVP Gameplay, JV Options
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Continuing on with my "Summer of Football" theme, we move away from Electronic Arts, as well as College Football, and move into the world of Pro Football. In order to set the tone for this review, we need to look back in time at a timeline of events that occured to bring us to the present day.

Flashback: Summer 2004

NFL 2K5 was released for a mere 20 dollars and was arguably better than EA's famed Madden franchise. Its gameplay was widely considered to be more realistic than Madden, while the brand new First-Person mode allowed users to actually go inside the helmet and pads of their favorite player to give a rather unique twist to your football gaming. EA Sports, for the first time in their tenure at the top of the list of sports gaming, finally has some true competition for Madden.

Fast-forward: December 16, 2004

EA Sports took the ball right out of 2K Sports hands by signing the NFL and ESPN to exclusive licenses, thus eliminating the competition by simply becoming the only franchise allowed to use the NFL and all of the players in the league. The outrage from fans of the 2K series was loud and clear, but there was nothing that they could do. 2K was forced to shut down its football franchise for the time being.

Now it's 2007, and 2K has decided that enough is enough and went to work on a rival title to the Madden Franchise. The result of this is All-Pro Football 2K8. Once again, there is more than one title to choose from. Is it worth picking up? Read on and find out....


Presentation

2K Sports went back to the drawing board, needing something that was a fresh idea in order to resurrect their football franchise. Without the NFL license, there weren't many options, other than to create a game that was about a fictitious league. Most gamers agreed that doing this was a huge risk, considering the fact that most people want to play as their favorite players. 2K took that idea and spun it upside down by signing over 200 players from the years past. Your three cover boys for the game says it all: John Elway, Jerry Rice, and Barry Sanders. You will find many other of your favorites from the past, such as Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Mike Ditka, Fred Blietnikoff, and the list goes on.

The first thing you will have to do upon turning on the game is create your own team of superstars. 2K Sports did something very fresh when it came to judging how good players are. Instead of giving players individual ratings, they are based on whether they are Gold, Silver, or Bronze caliber players. Gold players will generally have five special abilities, while Silver will have four, and Bronze will have three or less. For instance, a quarterback can have abilities such Laser Arm and Fourth Quarter Comeback. Running backs can have Quick Feet. Receivers can be fantastic route runners or deep threats. So, instead of having the old numerical ratings, players will be based off of these abilities.

Getting back to your team creation, you'll have to pick two Gold players, three Silver players, and six Bronze players. Some of these players on these levels, however, aren't exactly legends. Case in point, Andre Ware, who is possibly the biggest NFL Draft bust ever, is a Bronze level player. I guess there comes a point when you run out of legends and just need past players to fill up the roster. Regardless, you can pick from a wonderfully long list of players and can even go by themes if you want. It's actually pretty easy to stick to players from your favorite team.

After you've picked your superstars, you'll have to round out your team with generic players. Don't worry, you aren't going to have to create them. Instead, you'll choose what style they are. For example, your offensive line can either be balanced, great pass blockers, or great run blockers. Each position is broken down by specific styles of play, so you can tweak your team exactly the way you want it.

Once finished with this, it's time to create a team name. The customization that goes into altering your uniform is amazing. You can change a color scheme of any team completely to fit your own liking. I found myself creating a team that looked like Ohio State on here, simply because I managed to put together a team of all former Buckeyes (more on that in a minute) at all eleven superstar slots. The fictional stadiums are very over-the-top, but all in all, I'm a big fan of them.....except for that gigantic firebird. It's not something I need to see when I'm dropping back to pass during a game.

I made a mention of making a team that was all Ohio State players, and this is true, although I had to do a little surgery in order to do this. If you don't like some of the players available at certain levels or positions, you can simply decide to create your own players. You can make them Gold, Silver, or Bronze. However, you will be limited to three, two, or one ability respectively, depending on the level you choose. My two Gold players that I created? Troy Smith (2006 Heisman Trophy Winner) and Eddie George (1995 Heisman Trophy Winner). I find that this style of creating players is a lot more fun because you are not tempted to jack up all the ratings to create an unstoppable player.

The menu system itself is very simple and easy to navigate. You can immediately jump into a game with your newly created team, start up a new season, or take your team of superstars online and play against other users' teams. I'll jump into those modes later in the review.


Gameplay

One of the things that fans of the 2K series will always rant about is how great the gameplay was on NFL 2K5. 2K Sports remembers how much praise they got for their style, so they didn't really change much regarding their style. This was a welcome sight to see, because I'm a huge fan of the old saying "If it isn't broken, don't fix it", and the saying holds true here.

The game itself runs very smooth and player motions are equally good. In past football games, sometimes the very touch of the analog stick will cause your player to wildly jump forward in a dead sprint, only to come to a dead stop in a split second. Doing this in APF is far more controlled, making it more forgiving for those little mistakes. It's a testament to the terrific gameplay that APF offers.

Some differences that you're going to find if you're used to playing Madden is that the control scheme is quite different. Most of us are used to having the sprint button as the right trigger. APF, instead, has the sprint button as the A button....and you don't just hold it down. You can either rapidly press it to try and get an extra burst, or you can hold it down and receive a jolt that can also bowl over would-be tacklers. Spin moves are also more natural in this game, especially if you try to do it when running with a speed burst. Timing is everything with your spins and jukes.

Passing on APF is just as good as the running game. Quarterbacks will actually do proper drop backs depending on the type of pass you run. Short passes will require you to stay with the three step drop, or else you'll be off the timing of your receiver and will probably be sacked or throw an interception. Rolling out with a mobile quarterback requires a little patience since you won't be able to do the extremely fast rollout that you can in other games. Unless you hold down a button, your quarterback will do more of a jog while he's looking for a receiver. Realistic indeed, but it takes a little time to get used to.

A nice little side piece that you'll enjoy throughout your games are the little cutscenes that happen in between plays. In some cases, you'll actually get to hear you quarterback call the play by its real name. While it's a very little thing that doesn't add too much, football purists like myself really enjoy seeing that.

One thing I'm somewhat critical on is the broadcast team of Dan Stevens and Peter O'Keefe. I enjoyed the broadcast that these two gave me overall, offering some great insight throughout the game, often getting sidetracked like real broadcasters on television do. While the broadcast itself is realistic and resembles that of a television broadcast, there are many voiceovers that will be repeated. Then again, most sports games end up doing this anyways (Insert standard Lee Corso joke here) so it's a mixed bag. Overall, you should enjoy the fresh commentary.

Unfortunately, the gameplay in APF, while it is excellent, does have some defects. The AI in this game is very disappointing. I found that the CPU was extremely predictable both on offense and defense. Once I had a few games under my belt, I found that CPU controlled teams all reacted and played the same. There are no differing styles on offense or defense for any team. You will get the same thing generally, no matter which team you are playing. Also, regarding opposing teams, you will find that there is some unbalanced teams out there. Some teams you play will only have silver and bronze players, while other teams can have three, four, or even five gold players on it. While I'm all for having some teams better than others, there needs to be at least a little parity in the game.


Offline Features


While the gameplay of APF stands out, the features and options of the game is what brings it down. Creating your own team is a very welcome feature, but here's the kicker: The team you create will be the only one you can play as. There's no way to just pick two of the random teams that are already assembled and play against someone else in your house. Why 2K decided to do this is truly a mystery. I understand that they want to be different, but at least give your players an option to play as some pre-made teams.

The Season mode is also very simple and lacking any major substance. Yes, you'll be able to look up statistical leaders and such, but there will be very little beyond that. Looking to make a trade? You're out of luck. Because this is your team that you personally created, you will not be allowed to make changes to it. So, if one of your Gold players is seriously injured and lost for the year, good luck replacing him. You're stuck with the generic players that you signed up for. It's not only frustrating to have that, it's flat out unacceptable.

On top of that, there is no real offseason draft, which is one of my favorite things to do in football games. It's extremely disappointing to have a game with such wonderful gameplay barely offer you anything else.

As previously mentioned, the pre-made teams that you will come across during your season will be ridiculously unbalanced. Some teams will be rather easy to knock off, while others can be so stacked on one side of the ball, it'll make your head spin. While this can be a misconstrued argument because NFL teams are unbalanced, I would expect a little different in a game like this because of all the legends that are available. You would think that each team would have one or two cornerstone players at the Gold Level.



Online Features


I'm done bashing for now, considering that one of the strengths that APF brings to the table is what you can do on XBL. 2K Sports has beaten EA to the punch when it comes to online gaming, allowing for 32 team tournaments over XBL as well as the option to even do an online league. Remember how EA was telling us a year ago that doing that wasn't really an option? Bravo to 2K Sports for sticking their foot into EA's collective mouths.

Diving into this a little bit more, I had the chance to partake in a tournament. The way it's setup works beautifully, although I only got to the second round of this tournament before I ran into a player who used Barry Sanders like it was his everyday vehicle. The simple fact that going online brings you a new experience with each game is excellent. Players are allowed to bring their own created superstars, so I had a lot of fun using my Ohio State-based players and running my own version of Eddie George down people's throats. Adding onto this, you will see some pretty funny things with players. For instance, I played against a user who created two defensive tackles with names that I can't repeat without getting an "R" rating slapped on my mouth. Both of them were probably 400 pounds and were the size of soda machines.

Really, I think the biggest positive that I've had online is that the players who play APF online are far more laid back than the ones who play NCAA or Madden online. I've had a couple of great sessions with guys who had a theme to their superstars like I did. Instead of getting upset with guys who create these mis-shaped players, you generally laugh at the names or themes that guys will create.


Final Thoughts


2K Sports has gotten their feet wet now when it comes to Next-Gen Sports Gaming, and hopefully next year, we'll see a more polished product when it comes to the feature set. The gameplay is already there and can only be improved upon next year with more additions, plus the Online features of the game stand out from the competition. If 2K Sports can revamp the rather pathetic season mode next year, EA Sports may very well be sweating once again due to competition. As for this year, 2K is a nice alternative to Madden if you enjoy playing online multiplayer. Anything else, you may want to just rent it to give it a shot and see what you think for yourself.


Ratings

Presentation -


The menu system is very simple, the graphics are very good with some beautiful looking stadiums to choose from. Creating your own team is fantastic, but let's get some variety and have a chance to pick from some pre-made ones too.

Score: 7.5/10

Gameplay -


Absolutely fantastic. The play calling is more in-depth than just choosing a formation and generic play name. Defense makes you think on your toes. The dumbed-down AI is the only true disappointment here.

Score: 8.7/10

Features and Modes

Online, you'll have plenty to choose from, from tournaments to leagues with various people on XBL. Offline, you may have more fun watching paint dry than dealing with the lack of options on the season mode.

Score: 7.5/10


Final Score: 7.9/10
Re: Game Review: APF2K8 - MVP Gameplay, JV Options
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Yay, thanks for teh review, you sure didnt lie XD
Re: Game Review: APF2K8 - MVP Gameplay, JV Options
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Yeah i think you hit the nail on the head on this one
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It's such a shame too. The gameplay is amazing. It really is such a nice changeup from the 300 miles an hour pace that EA runs at in comparison....but god the Dynasty mode on NCAA is oh so good....
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