This is a big weekend in football, wouldn't you say? I already had my Madden review a few months back though, so I had to dig around for something else. I'm stretching here, but what the heck: All-Pro Football 2K8 was staring me down this week. I have played it before - even commented on it about nine months ago as part of my cheap sports game article. I touched on each game briefly, talked about their scores and moved on to the next. Now? I'm going to talk about this one real quick.
What is it? It's 2K Sports' answer to the Madden NFL license. No longer able to use the players actively participating in the NFL, 2K Sports set out to do something a bit different - the ultimate pickup game if you will. It was an inspired idea really: get some of the greats players of all time - like their cover stars: Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice and John Elway. Three of my all-time favorite players - including my absolute favorite in Barry Sanders. The game's emphasis is on offense, at least that's how I felt in playing it - so it's interesting that none of the three cover athletes were defenders. I was hanging up some pretty substantial point totals while playing. Some of the names are kind of odd - The Boz and Andre Ware? Really? Guess they had to designate someone for the bronze roles.
So, next up - what are the teams? Well, they don't have an NFL license so these are fictional teams and you 'draft' players. Barry was my first pick - shocking no? They group the players by Gold, Silver and Bronze ranking. I had a handful of Lions on my team - like Herman Moore (another old but favorite player of mine as I glance up at the autographed football card of his I have on my sports memorabilia shelf). So you get to fill so many positions with gold, silver and bronze players and it autofills the rest of your team for you.
The customization options are decent - you can pick cities, design uniforms, name your team, and so on. I think setting up a team is probably my favorite part of the game. It's a lot of fun putting together a team of legends. I loaded up on the defensive side of the ball one time, created a team of mostly Detroit Lions another and even set up a third team just to help me establish Barry Sanders as the greatest of all time, spending my top picks on linemen, a quality tight end and fullback. My offense was a tad bit predictable. Still, the actual play modes feel a bit lacking. Part of it is probably due to the fact that the game feels a great deal like it's spiritual predecessor - NFL 2K5. The season modes are okay, but lack the punch of Madden's more established franchise modes. That said, I think this game aged better than the older Madden entries - perhaps because it has not seen the updated versions that help improve upon the formula each year?
Graphics - 6:
I feel like I'm being a bit hard here. For when it was released, it was pretty solid. Compared to the pretty visuals of Madden last year or this year? It suffers. The engine is very similar to what NFL 2K5 ran, which is both good and bad. NFL 2K5 was a great game, but by now it's an old game too. Animations aren't too bad though - juking and tackling is fun. The crowd is nothing special, though - and the stadiums just felt sort of lifeless to me compared to their real counterparts found in Madden games. It's tough not to compare the two, even if they're not trying to be the same thing.
Sound and Music - 6:
The music was nothing special, but the sound wasn't too bad at all. One of the areas I sort of nitpick at sporting games is the commentary. Here's the thing, the commentary found in this game isn't that much worse than what you would find in this year's Madden. With all of the advancements made with video games in general and sports games in particular, this seems like perhaps one of the most outdated aspects in sports games. The sound effects from the game itself are pretty solid as well. Some of the hits look and sound appropriately violent.
Gameplay - 7:
This is a pretty solid element of the game Running is good - though I like it better in this year's Madden. Offense is easier than defense in my opinion. Gang tackling was a bit ahead of its time back three years ago. The menus are easy enough to navigate and the game of football itself is solid. Unfortunately the modes are a bit lackluster. It was more fun to play a game against another person than the computer. Something deeper and more involving than the season mode would have been nice as well.
Intangibles - 5:
There's not a lot of depth here. Even 2K5 had a franchise mode with progression. There's just not a lot to invest in here. The season mode feels a bit throwaway after going through it once. It seems unlikely you can even find someone to play this game with either. There are a lot of different players - 200+ I believe. That helps because setting up teams is fun, like I mentioned earlier. But the game feels more like a glorified version of fantasy football than the real deal, and that hurts the package quite a bit. The idea of a dream team is great - who doesn't want to see Elway throw to Rice? But once you've played for a bit, there's not much reason to pick it up again. Now, for the primary reason to pick it up in the first place - this game was $4 used at my Gamestop.
Overall - 6:
Obviously this game does not compare to people who want a Madden game with fully fleshed out franchise modes, with real rosters and NFL teams, but you can spend more on five candy bars, which actually makes it worthwhile to take a flyer on this game if you have any interest in it at all. I got it last summer, played it pretty heavily for a weekend and did not pick it up again until this week. I gave it a few more days, and doubt I will pick it up again for awhile. It's a decidedly average, dated game - but at $4 I got a couple of weekends' worth of play out of it, and really that's not such a bad deal I suppose.