|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 16, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (8 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
May 1, 2007 - Ever since EA signed an exclusivity contract with the NFL, competition in creating football games has been nonexistent. By ensuring that no other game developers could make a game using the NFL or any NFL players until the year 2009 and then securing exclusivity for Arena football and NCAA football, EA effectively (and some think shamelessly) locked out any potential for competition in their best selling football games. Gamers everywhere were angered and stunned by this move, which some considered an act of cowardice by EA.
No one was as damaged, however, as EA's primary rival, publisher 2K Sports, who competed yearly against EA with their NFL 2K games. After a brief hiatus to get their footing, 2K Sports is back with another football game to challenge the Madden supremacy and create competition in the football arena again.
All Pro Football 2K8 is an attempt to make a great game even with the restrictions placed on it by the NFL exclusivity. This is a very difficult task because when people play football games, they obviously want to be able to use the players that they normally root for or jeer while watching real football. It is hard to get into a football game while using unfamiliar names, players and teams, which means that Visual Concepts, the game's developers, are going to have to work extra hard to maintain their fanbase and to effectively compete with Madden. Fortunately, losing the NFL contract also grants the developers some liberties that weren't available with the NFL restrictions.
One such freedom is the ability to injure a player in real time. Previously, the NFL prevented game developers from emphasizing injuries, hoping to downplay the violent hits and tackling. Now, violent hits can often result in injuries that are reflected in the player animations. You'll actually be able to see the player landing on his limbs wrong preceding an injury. Another freedom that losing the NFL license brings is the developer's ability to customize the stadiums. Each fictional team has a stadium that is a personalized reflection of the team title, livening things up a little more than the average football game with accurate recreations of real-life stadiums with little variation from one to the next.
Visual Concepts is also doing something that is almost never done in sports games. Without the NFL license, they've decided to put a lot of the focus on the individual players instead of the team. Instead of creating a bunch of athletes and scoring them in individual categories, the developers chose to use a tier system that separates player based on their abilities and their positive and negative traits. This system focuses on each player's strengths and weaknesses, making it a lot easier to decide which player is best for which scenario.
While most of the players will be fictional, All Pro Football 2K8 won't be comprised entirely of created players. Due to the fact that retired athletes don't fall within the exclusivity deal, 2K will be able to include some NFL legends in the game. Visual Concepts has also promised us an extensive roster of Hall of Fame greats, including big names like Joe Montana, Emmit Smith, Barry Sanders, Dan Marino, Walter Payton, and even OJ Simpson. All told, there will be over 240 former NFL players available in the game.
The visuals in the game are looking pretty good, with a nice next-gen polish that should easily rival EA games' Madden series. The stadiums are especially impressive, with stands filled with moving fans and different touches to make each stadium distinct, such as a large Rhino statue in the stands of the Rhinos team stadium.
While nothing has been revealed about the game's soundtrack, lately Visual Concepts has done a great job in delivering quality audio, so that shouldn't be too much of a concern. One standout addition to the game's audio is the fact that the player and coach will sometimes talk to each other and players will also trash-talk, something that was unavailable before because of issues with words being placed in individual players and coaches digital mouths.
As things stand now, Visual Concepts may have a difficult time pulling consumers away from the ubiquitous Madden series, especially with the handicap of not being able to include true NFL teams. However, the developers seem to be on the right track with All Pro Football 2K8 and hopefully they can reestablish themselves as a force in football games. We'll see when All Pro Football 2K8 ships this summer.
CCC Co-Site Director