I might as well come right out and say it: I've never been a fan of sports games.
Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I was never a huge sports nut. Only in rare cases will I ever get into watching a game on TV. And it's always a surprise to me when I see a player on a different team, which shows you how much I keep up with them. I never quite caught on to the mystique of collecting cards, either.
Unfortunately, Konami's ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 didn't help to change that.
Almost everything about the game feels rushed. It has almost none of the polish found in games like EA Sports' Madden series or the Xbox's flagship sports title, NFL Fever. The player models look terrible, almost blocky, and they're about as animated as the stale, lifeless turf they play on. For instance, when you start a game, you can see just about every player do the same stretching animation three, four times in a row, and none of the players have any facial animations to speak of. You won't see any fancy diving catches, either. With some rare exceptions, it's strictly a jump-straight-up affair for these players.
The gameplay really isn't a different matter. It seems that no matter which play you pick, the outcome is mostly the same. Players frequently drop passes thrown directly into them, penalties seem to be handed out randomly, and when a defender collides with a lineman, there's no pushing and shoving at all. The two players just stand there and hug until one of them falls down. Apparently someone forgot to make some kind of relationship between size and speed as well, because even 300-pounders can run remarkably fast. Thankfully, the AI isn't so bad that it can be beaten by the same play over and over, but that isn't enough to offset the flaws that render the game stale after the first few plays.
Don't count on the sound to come up big either. I've always kind of enjoyed Chris Berman's commentary, but if he ever gets as repetitive as he is in this game, I'll demand that my cable company block ESPN. The thuds and grunts are hardly convincing, and the crowd seems about as excited to watch this game as you'll be to play it.
Maybe it's not that sports games are so bad after all. Who knows, maybe after playing this one, anything even marginally better could get me interested in the genre. But until that time comes, I'll be sure to avoid "Pre-owned" shelf fodder such as Primetime 2002 like the plague. Any self-respecting sports game fan would do the same.
· · · Soakrates