ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 Review (Xbox)
Submitted on: Feb 11, 2002 by Jim Cook
A funny thing happened when I went back to play the PS2 version of this game after playing the X-Box version. The PS2 version looks better. There is some shimmering that you don’t see on the X-Box, but the colors seem brighter and the game more alive. This seems to be a trend on sports games that have been on both consoles. This review could really apply to both games, I noticed very few if any differences with regards to gameplay.
GAMEPLAY AND AI
One of reasons I was going back to the PS2 version was to play around with the sliders that Primetime offers. I wanted to adjust the tackling slider because on All-Star level or above I found it virtually impossible to run. I adjusted the slider down to 1 and then played the Redskins and Stephen Davis against the Colts and Edgerrin James. The adjustment helped, I was able to run, even breaking a 52 yard TD run with James.
The two main problems with Primetime are the inability to run on the harder levels and the fact that your defensive linemen are useless on the harder levels. If you try to use the power move recommended in the manual, you will end up on your butt almost every time. This game suffers most, in its line play especially in the passing game. You and the CPU, just have too much time to throw the ball.
In the running game with the default settings on Pro your fine, I was averaging over 4 yards a carry with Anthony Thomas. The other side is that on Pro it’s just too easy to pass. After a few games, once you get used to the controls, you will be able to roll up the score. Obviously, you move up to the All-Star level, this is where the running game problems start, if you go outside you will be routinely dropped for 4 or 5 yard losses. If you try the middle you won’t see many holes, but even more frustrating is that when you do see the whole as soon as you get to it, the defensive linemen breaks away from his block with lightning quickness and takes you down. It gets to the point where you consider a 1 yard gain an accomplishment.
So if you can’t run, you have to pass and fortunately you can, it is harder to pass on All-Star than Pro. I have had varying level of success, sometimes I think it is too easy, but then I am humbled. The CPU will provide a challenge on All-Star and Hall of Fame, mostly because they will score on you.
The CPU does mix up its plays on offense but seems to rely on the pass a little too heavily. One of the strong points of Primetime is the play selection screens. On offense you choose a formation which there are at least 8 off. Then you select the set, usually something like, Normal, 2TE, 3 wides, trips and 4 wide, you then select the play. The playbooks for most teams are about the same, the only real difference seems to be the West Coast offense is available for some teams and not others. You won’t lack for variation of plays to call though.
8 man front is one of the sets offered on defense. I can’t believe it took someone this long to add an 8 man front. Watching football in the last few years, teams routinely have 8 or 9 guys in the box. I commend Primetime for having this option. Hopefully other games will follow suit. The rest of your defensive choices are standard. The jury is still out on the CPU defensive AI, right before I sat down to write this I was abusing the Redskins with the out pattern, but I tried it one too many times and Champ Bailey jumped in front of Marvin Harrison and picked me off.
The AI as far as clock management is concerned is fair, it probably calls timeouts a little too soon in some situations, but I haven’t seen any blatant miscues. For the people who complain about clock management in almost every game just look back to last weeks Super Bowl. The Rams and the Patriots both used their timeouts way too early. John Madden was saying the Patriots should just sit on the ball with 1:30 left in the game and no time outs. Madden wasn’t coaching the Patriots and the rest is history. The point is that there is a lot of human judgment in clock management, it’s not an exact science and no matter how a video game handles it, people will disagree.
One thing that I have seen people complain about that I actually like, is that some pass plays just end in the ball being overthrown, it’s kind of anti-climatic but it happens in real games quite a bit. There are also a lot of drops or batted down balls but with some practice you will be able to pass effectively.
On the X-box they make the mistake of using the Black button. Usually it’s your third receiver, it may just be me, but I have a hard time hitting the black button without a lot of thought and effort. Moving around is very fluid and responsive. The special moves however are not as responsive and you need to anticipate a little too far ahead of time to make effective use of the special moves. Again on the X-box the juke buttons are the white and black buttons. Sorry, I just can’t hit those guys fast enough when the pressure is on to make a decision on which way to cut. These issues combined with the already difficult running game can make for a frustrating experience running the ball on the harder levels. I would definitely experiment with the tackling slider. I was able to slip some tackles with it set to 1 and get through a hole occasionally and pick up decent yardage.
The PS2 version seems to handle a little bit better, but that may be my experience with the PS2 controller and the configuration.
GRAPHICS AND PRESENTATION
The player models look more realistic than Fevers, but they are a little odd looking but nothing that ruins the game. There are plenty of animations and in some ways the game looks pretty real at times, except in the line play. Although one of my favorite animations is when the defensive end comes crashing down the line and tackles the running back before he gets to the line. Things like that make the game look pretty realistic.
The problem with the animation is again on the line play, it usually is just two O-linemen and D-linemen locking up and dancing around until they knock your d-lineman on his butt. They could also use a few more animations on the receiving end of the ball in the passing game. You will get tired of seeing the same animation for a dropped or batted ball.
One thing I noticed is that the ball seemed too small in the X-box version but not the PS2 version and their seemed to be some passes in the X-box version that would slip out of the QB’s hands and take very unusual paths to the receiver.
The presentation of the game looks pretty much like a game on ESPN. The familiar looking overlays and for stats and lineups help the look of Primetime a great deal.
Chris Berman and Tom Jackson are OK some of the Bermanism’s are in this game and if you like him, it can make it fun. Unfortunately at times it sounds like they are very far away and un-enthused. One bug I noticed in the PS2 version that I didn’t see in the X-box version was the fumble bug. Once Berman would say fumble once, in some games he would just keep saying it multiple times for no real reason. I haven’t seen it in the X-box version but then I can’t recall any fumbles.
Crowd noise and music are OK. I can’t get worked up about it one way or the other. But I do like the fact that when I create myself they say my name, always a winning feature with me, even though I am 36.
EXTRAS AND FRANCHISE MODE
Here is one place that I can say they hit the mark. They offer pretty much total control of your franchise over the years. At the end of the first year you are presented with your Free agents to re-sign and other free agents. You can control your offer in terms of salary and years and the players will reject your low ball offers.
They also have a draft preview in which you can see all the vital combine stats that scouts get so worked up about and draft Akili Smith and Cade McNown in the first round and let Tom Brady go to the 5th. You can make trades and continue to sign players over the off season. The off season is about 70 days long and you can skip ahead in days as you go.
Then you hit the draft which is very cool, mostly because of the ticker that looks exactly like the one used at ESPN on draft day. You also get little capsules about the players that project their future prospects. Fortunately no Mel Kiper to rip your picks.
The Preseason and player progression are two other great features, in the Preseason you can set the quarters that your youngster will play and watch their progression and over the course of season your players may progress or regress depending on how you do.
If you are a Franchise Freak I think you would want to check this game out. The gameplay alone is decent and if you are willing to play around with the sliders you may find settings that will allow you to run and make the passing game more difficult. However on the default settings I can’t recommend it. If you find it used or are a franchise freak, go for it.