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Video game review: NFL Head Coach (cont.)

Posted: Monday June 26, 2006 3:07PM; Updated: Monday June 26, 2006 3:07PM
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All of this happened within the first few days of my virtual career, and it's emblematic of the NFL Head Coach experience. Where Madden is all about the action, NFL Head Coach is about the blueprint. You're charged with everything from hiring your staff to building your team, through free agency and the draft, and it's both exhaustive and exhausting; the depth in the game is simply staggering. Either these guys all have completely useless GMs and secretaries, or the game is taking a few liberties.

I put the game in the PS2 at 10:00 p.m. on Friday night, and by 4:00 a.m. on Saturday I was just finishing the draft combine. As the coach, a major part of this game is spent sitting in your office, working on your computer and making phone calls, which is about as much fun as that sounds. Oh, and there are meetings, too. Meetings with your owner, your staff, your players, even a wardrobe stylist.

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By Saturday afternoon, I'd made it through the Draft and endured the criticisms of a virtual Mel Kiper. I drafted Santonio Holmes with the 15th pick in the draft, and every round after that my scouting director suggested we take another receiver, despite us already having six under contract. By the time I finished shooting him down round after round, my scouting director's confidence was shot.

Training camp came next, a series of drills in which you have your guys practice various plays and build their poise. As the coach, you can pull any player aside and talk to them, but this mostly seems worthless, as whenever you yell at any group of players, no matter which tact you use to motivate (fiery yelling or quiet praise), almost uniformly half will react positively and half negatively.

On Sunday, I finally got to the preseason. After a few weeks of training, the games begin, and you prowl the sideline and call plays, then watch things unfold on the field. The game actually supports the use of a headset, so you can sit on your couch and yell plays in, although even I draw a line somewhere.

When I was in eighth grade, we had a computer teacher who had purchased a completely text-based basketball game. You could make substitutions and call plays, but then you had to wait for the words to pop up on the screen to see what had happened. That's kind of how NFL Head Coach feels. Here, you at least get to see the action unfold, and you can simulate stuff and skip ahead, but it feels like you're waist-deep in numbers and schedules.

After a couple of preseason games, I was done with NFL Head Coach, just plain worn out by it. I'm an avid NFL fan, and I love playing Madden and building a team using the franchise mode, but what makes Madden worthwhile is that after building your squad you not only call the plays, you get to go out and run them yourself. In NFL Head Coach, you're just stuck on the bench, hoping the players you've assembled will remember what you've taught them.

Luckily, Madden ships on August 22.

Game Of The Week

By now you've probably figured out that my favorite online games are golf games. Don't know why, other than they usually are pretty close to the total golf experience, that of wishing you can take a shot over again. The people at Tea Games have introduced a new pitch and putt golf game which is perfectly frustrating.

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com

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