|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Opponents are everywhere.
Sega's promise to take gamers where they want to go — online — has been a mostly empty one, with the Dreamcast's built-in modem used for little more than web-browsing and email.
NFL 2K1, a football game developed by Visual Concepts and published by Sega, marks the one-year anniversary of the Dreamcast's release, and the system's first real foray into the world of online gaming.
As with all sports games, NFL 2K1 is best enjoyed with friends. But if they're not around, Sega has made it easy for you to find live competition. NFL 2K1 comes with fifty free hours of SegaNet, Sega's own Internet Service Provider (ISP) designed especially for online gaming. Just follow five easy steps and you're online.
Once online, choose from the chat rooms divided by geographical location. At anytime of day you'll find people gathered in Boston, Dallas, or Los Angeles, looking for a match. If you have a keyboard, you can talk beforehand, but more than likely you'll experience the chat rooms as a sort of football bordello: people come in, pair with someone already there, and leave together.
SegaNet currently offers no apparent method for matching players by skill level. This makes it difficult for amateur gamers to find a fair challenge online. And unless both parties have a keyboard, negotiating the various gameplay options can be a nightmare.
With a good connection through SegaNet or any other ISP, the latency, or lag, is extremely low. It's no exaggeration to say that the NFL 2K1 plays as smoothly over the Internet as it does when your opponent is sitting next to you. The screaming rivalry is translated into in-game taunts and other messages, which may be sent using the keyboard peripheral.
But head-to-head competition isn't the end of NFL 2K1's online capabilities. Real NFL rosters can be downloaded as the season progresses, keeping a player's stats consistent with actual trades, injuries, and hot streaks.
Be it online or offline, NFL 2K1 is a masterpiece. Watching the game is like watching a live broadcast. A variety of functional and cinematic camera angles show the action, which continues even after the play has ended. Athletes rejoice at completed plays, and bemoan and argue over failed ones. Automated and manual instant replays show exactly how that last play worked out, though this mode exhibits some collision detection errors — like a player's head going right through another player's torso. NFL 2K1 doesn't have the same level of graphic quality as its predecessor, which speaks more for the original's high standards than any fault of the sequel's.
The constantly running commentary completes the presentation, making NFL 2K1 as much fun to watch as to play. (Well… that's a lie. There ain't nothing like having 24/7 access to dweebs waiting to get their butts kicked — but you get the idea.) Every play, completion, fumble, and score is noted by the announcers. Player grunts, team talk, and PA music round out the stadium atmosphere.
The gameplay is solid, with a logical control that both veterans and newcomers will appreciate. Players can run, juke, dive, spin, and hurdle their way into the end zone. The running game has been much improved since NFL 2K. In the original game, it was nearly impossible to get yardage from anything other than a pass.
As a stand-alone game, NFL 2K1 is not as revolutionary as the original NFL 2K was. Most features have just been tweaked here and there.
But the addition of Internet play is a huge step forward. Sports fans (and you'll have to be one to appreciate this game's online "community") have never had it better, so go ahead and tune in, turn on, and drop-kick the competition.
This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 25-Sep-00