Madden, Minus the Action
In a sentence, NFL Head Coach 09 isn’t for everyone. It is essentially an RPG that puts you in the shoes of the head coach to lead your squad to a title, as you work throughout the regular and off-season. What separates it from a typical Season or GM mode featured in other titles is that the player has absolutely no control over the players. You are the coach, and if running drills in practice throughout the week and calling plays during games with a whole lot of menu-flipping is your cup of tea, then Head Coach offers an alternative to Madden for those who eat, sleep, and breathe football.
As you begin playing your career, the game starts in the off-season after you choose the head coach you would like to play as. You can choose from each existing coach in the NFL, including cover coach Tony Dungy. Each recreated coach is an incredible likeness of their real-life counterpart and some gamers may enjoy living the life of their favorite play-caller to lead their team to the top. For those who prefer to create their own character or simulate themselves into the game, there is also character customization. Unfortunately, the character customization leaves much to be desired as far as physical characteristics, which is pretty disappointing. However, the obvious focus of this game isn’t your coach’s physical characteristics, but learning and developing coaching techniques as you play throughout the season to improve not only your own skills but every aspect of your team.
As you begin the off-season, you’ll plan for the draft by learning your team’s weaknesses and strengths and deciding which players you’d like to attain. You can also scout college players and athletes in the free agency pool. Though the off-season is incredibly important as you build your team as best you can in preparation, playing a regular season is when things get incredibly in-depth. It is also when those who aren’t absolutely fanatical about the coaching side of football may become either bored and discouraged or just plain uninterested.
As a coach, you’ll need to come up with strategies on defensive and offensive ends, and work with every single player on your team. On your off days, you’ll look at strengths, weaknesses and statistics of your upcoming opponents each week by looking at scouting reports. Basically, reports tell you if your next opponent is more likely to run or throw based on statistics and let you know what some of their most successful plays are, so you can work with your team to exploit their weaknesses and teach your squad new game plays in preparation for Sunday. As in real life, practice in NFL Head Coach 09 is essential to succeed. You will have to decide which plays you should practice the most and which players need more coaching. The more practiced your players are, the better their chances of pulling off plays when it comes down to the wire.
Gameday is when your preparation and coaching will be tested. While Sundays are definitely the true test of this game as you try to get a “W,” more active gamers may still become frustrated by the lack of action. During a game, your job is to set up plays while a table alerts you of the most likely play your opposing coach will choose to make things a tad easier. Your success is determined on how familiar your team is with the play and if you’ve chosen the proper play in both offensive and defensive situations. Then, you simply sit back and watch the outcome.
The process of getting through an entire four quarters is quite tedious, even to the most patient NFL gamers used to selecting plays and executing them on field. While some gamers will inevitably become frustrated by not being able to actually play in a game, NFL Head Coach 09 does a good job of simulating the exact feeling of a head coach watching from the sidelines. How fun that feeling actually is while playing a video game is up to you.
As dull as this game tends to be, EA has gone to lengths to make Head Coach a little more exciting. NFL fans will appreciate the excellent character models of the athletes. Watching them play, athletes move fluidly and realistically, enough to make watching them quite enjoyable in all honesty. You also have the option to sim each game, or alternatively, SuperSim, so you can still pick each play and learn from their outcomes after a game. There are a few noticeable new additions to this title as well, including more detail on home stadiums; the camera pans over the crowd to get a better sense of the atmosphere and add a nice visual to make things a bit more interesting. There are also updates provided by commentator Adam Schefter, as he alerts you of new things happening with other teams around the league along with NFL Network promo videos. Little things such as these aren’t much, but they do make the game slightly more interesting as opposed to simply looking at menu after menu.
While the thought of a football RPG may bore some who enjoy the hands-on experience of Madden and other similar titles, there are some positives to NFL Head Coach 09. Football heads may enjoy the fact that the game does a good job of applying what your team learned from the drills they worked on throughout the week to the game you play the following Sunday, and that EA does a good job of adding a level of excitement to a very slow-paced game. Where it fails is in its ability to appeal to a wide audience. The only people who may actually be interested in purchasing NFL Head Coach 09 are those who crave so much football that their latest installment of Madden simply won’t do.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
In a game not particularly graphics-oriented, in-game animations and stadium detail make for an enjoyable aesthetic compared to the amount of menus this game features. 3.0 Control
Not a whole lot to the controls in this game, though menu navigation is comprehensive. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Addition of some voiceover work and music is a nice touch to add a level of enjoyment to an otherwise very silent game. In-game stadium ambience is captured well. 3.1 Play Value
This title will only appeal to a small group of football fans, though those who enjoy this style of game will have an endless coaching experience. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.