Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
8/03/2007 11:19:00 AM
Review: NASCAR 08 (PS3)
By Lou Dubois
I consider myself a very casual NASCAR fan. I attended my first two races this year -- the Daytona 500 and Aaron's 499 at Talladega. My appreciation for the sport is pretty high. I respect the talent that the drivers and their teams have, and they all seem like relatively good guys, if not loyal to their thousands of advertisers.
So when I picked up EA Sports' latest foray into the sport with NASCAR 08, I was relatively excited. I always appreciate a good driving game, if not for the self-satisfaction that comes from beating a bunch of other drivers. And that feeling didn't fade in my time playing this game. It's still fun to win, but for playing sake, it's not as fun as being in the middle of the pack.
NASCAR 08 :: EA Sports
The main feature of this year's game, The Chase, is an enjoyable and semi-interesting concept. Essentially, you are required to complete a certain number of training tests and challenges to earn a contract from one of the major racing teams. The ultimate goal through all of these challenges is to own and operate your own racing outfit, with a garage stable of cars for every different race in the NASCAR season. This includes the Car of Tomorrow -- a strong and necessary addition to the game.
Despite the fact that you're not really racing, the challenges are fun and keep your attention. The best comparison I can make on these is to the Training Camp mode in Madden, as you're trying to hone game skills that will make you a better player. Some of the challenges become repetitive at times, as drafting, slingshots and passing drills are all essentially the same thing. And one challenge where you are asked to avoid a massive pileup and come out unscathed is entertaining, except that once you get into real gameplay you'll never actually need that skill. One thing that The Chase has going for it is replayability, as you'll have to earn various contracts to fill your garage of cars, and you can always improve your contracts with better challenge performances.
Imagine you're Tony Stewart. Now imagine you're blind in one eye and the other eye wanders a lot. Here's what would happen:
The conceptual ideas of this game aside, NASCAR 08 is a racing game at heart. And when it comes to the actual on-track performance, there were some things that left to be desired. It was obvious to me that the game was designed to be played with a driving wheel instead of the standard PS3 controller. With the accelerator as the R2 button, your finger will get sore if you're racing for hours. Add trying to steer with the left analog stick gets tricky and borderine impossible at times. You'll want the wheel if this is a game you want to play a lot.
When you're ahead of the pack and in first place, you're in great shape (though it will become boring after a while). But if you fall back a few spots to the rest of the pack then navigating through the crowd of cars becomes nearly impossible. It's difficult to maintain position in a pack, which makes waiting for the right time to pass -- a key to the game and the sport -- even more difficult. Add to the fact that the AI cars will continuously bump your rear and side -- requiring unnecessary pit stops for damage -- and your chances of winning fall even further. And speaking of pit stops, when you set up a race the default is to make it 10% of the normal distance. Using those settings the the Daytona 500 is reduced to 40 laps. This is good and bad. You won't have to race forever, but you don't have to pit, one of the most strategic elements of the sport.
NASCAR 08 :: EA Sports
I can't completely criticize the game, as there are many things that make it entertaining and will keep me coming back for more. Graphically, it's as realistic as NASCAR can get. The blocky experience from last year's game is an afterthought, as the rolling landscapes of each of the tracks will move with your vehicle. Visually, it's very aesthetically pleasing. One option you must turn on while you play is the drafting visual, as it will tell you when you can pass the car in front of you with the slingshot maneuver. And when it comes to online play, this game is solid. I guess EA is making up for the fact that it's not a two-player game at home. You can use the Bluetooth headset to talk trash to the people you're racing against. It never gets old hearing guys from around the country rip each other on their driving skills.
Overall, this is a solid game that surely will satisfy the diehard NASCAR fan and even bring in a few of the casual gamers. There is plenty of opportunity to race in this game without actually hitting the track for an event, which makes it fun but also makes you wonder since they're moving away from the core of the sport.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
You want a driver’s wheel over the standard PS3 controller if you want to play this game a lot. It’s also annoying when AI drivers bump you to the point that you’re required to pit.
The folks at EA found a way to make last year’s blocky cars and scenery a lot better. When it comes to NASCAR, this game is as real as it gets. You really feel as though you’re in the car. My only criticism is the pit crew looks like they came straight from an old-school Mario game.
This game, and all NASCAR games for that matter, show extreme replayability. Add in the new Chase feature, and you’ll be earning contracts, upgrading your garage to get new cars and testing out tracks. You can then race through a full season with your team. When you consider the online capability of racing other people, this game really has no shelf-life.
By Aaron Samus
In our office fantasy football is king. But for me the shine came off fantasy gaming about the same time I played my first online league using NFL 2K5. At the time 2K's flagship title was waging war for NFL gaming supremacy with EA's juggernaut Madden series. The next year EA broke out the atomic bomb when it purchased exclusive rights to use NFL players and teams. 2K was forced to retreat and plan a counterattack that has finally manifested in the release of All-Pro Football 2K8.
The first time you fire up APF2K8 you're prompted to build a team consisting of retired NFL legends. The game features 240-plus players that are broken into three classes: gold, silver and bronze. Your user created team consists of two gold, three silver and five bronze players. You can stock your team any way you like but putting all the talent on one side of the ball isn't really rewarded.
All-Pro Football 2K8 :: 2K Sports
Gold players include the likes of John Elway, Joe Montana, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson and Reggie White. Basically gold is Hall of Fame caliber. The silver tier is a mixture of players in the HoF and players with very successful careers. Lem Barney, Randall Cunningham, Roger Craig, Andre Reed and Bart Starr to name a few. The bronze group consists mostly of standout players that likely hit the Pro Bowl at some point in their careers: Brian Bosworth, Dexter Manley, Raghib Ismail, Bernie Kosar and Jim Harbaugh. Politically Correct Warning... 2K included O.J. Simpson in the game (he's a gold level player). Here's a YouTube video with some in-game footage featuring The Juice:
Each player has up to five special abilities that manifest on the field. For instance John Elway's include Cadence, 4th Quarter Comeback, Scrambler, Speed Burner and Rocket Arm. His scrambling ability makes it easier for him to evade the pass rush. Barry Sanders has a special spin that makes him especially elusive. Some of the abilities require you to charge up your player by holding down the A button. This aspect of the game is easily the most arcade-like dynamic but it's nothing new to fans of the 2K franchise. The range of player abilities is impressive and there's no doubt that they add depth to the action on the field.
After you've picked your 10 stars you have to decide if you want your offensive line to favor the pass, the run or to be balanced. Your choice defines the base abilities of the generic players that fill out your roster. Next you get to define your team.
APF2K8 includes a fairly robust amount of options in creating the look for your team. You can pick from a healthy amount of pre-defined city names, team names and logos. The best part of this process is editing your team colors and uniforms. It's not too hard to closely copy the look and feel of any NFL team. With all apologies to Roger Goodell and Co., I created a sweet Denver Broncos-like team stocked with the best Broncos from the game and a few more I created to round out the roster.
Even with APF2K8's deep stock roster there are plenty of NFL greats not in the game. We were disappointed not to see Bo Jackson, Terrell Davis, Terry Bradshaw, Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Howie Long, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Jim Brown, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk. We would've added Lynn Swann to the list but apparently he refused to sign on because he was running for office. Give us a break, Swanee.
All-Pro Football 2K8 :: 2K Sports
APF2K8 allows you to create players but the process is somewhat limited in two key areas. The first is the amount of special abilities you can assign to your created player. For gold you get three, silver two and bronze one. The problem is that most gold players in the game have five abilities as do many silver and bronze players. So when you create Bo Jackson he's automatically not as good as included players like Earl Campbell (four special abilities) or Walter Payton (five) because of the limit. The second letdown is the lack of options in defining the look of your player. Most of the basics are there but we've come to expect far more robust creation tools (shout out to Tiger 07). To rekindle some Tecmo Bowl glory I did create Bo Jackson. But despite countless tweaks he still looks like Urkel on steroids.
Gameplay is where APF2K8 sets itself apart from other football games. Even though players have special abilities the rest of the action is far more a simulation that you'll ever see in Madden or NCAA 08. That means you can't just fire a bomb downfield on the run. In APF2K8 you have to stop, plant your feet and allow time for your QB to wind-up and throw the bomb. The same realism plays out in terms of player fatigue and overall control responsiveness and momentum. If you're used to EA games you'll have to accept that there's a learning curve but the payoff is a richer, more realistic feel to the action.
Another good example of the great gameplay is the weather. In NCAA 08 the rain was glitchy and more or less irrelevant to the game. In APF2K8 the rain will have an impact. You'll see players lose footing and drop or cough up the ball a lot more. Unfortunately weather control doesn't seem to be an option when you create a game. It only seems to happen during season games. This is a significant oversight by the programmers.
I've read a few complaints about the kicking game in APF2K8. Kickers and punters are available from the gold/silver/bronze lists but there's no way you'll want to waste a roster spot on them. Using the generic kicker and punter is no problem once you get the timing of it. (Hint: Push forward straight and fast right before the kicker's foot reaches the ball.)
All-Pro Football 2K8 :: 2K Sports
Overall the graphics and presentation in APF2K8 are solid. Because the game uses fictitious teams 2K was able to create some pretty cool stadiums and logos. The game uses a very vibrant and rich palette. Player models are good but the animations are the real attraction.
The action on the field (collisions and tackles) sound great but the voice announcing in the game is mostly average and far too repetitive. The voice samples for the players are laughable in the few moments when they speak before the game or in the huddle.
If you're looking for robust season options you won't find them in APF2K8. There's no franchise mode, no player development, scouting or recruiting -- or anything like that. This is a nuts and bolts game that you ultimately play against the CPU in a no-frills season mode or against humans.
The upside, however, is playing against humans online. The online options to create leagues or tournaments are very straightforward and functional. We experienced zero lag in several contests online. The online dynamic is fueled by the ability to edit your team and make roster changes at any time (other than in-game). So if you get schooled by a certain strategy or team you can easily tinker with your team. Better still APF2K8 allows you to create multiple user teams so you can prep a variety of player combinations for different opponents.
You can play online with base teams in the game, but all serious games are played with user created teams. Because of that the playing field is finally level online. This is a welcome change as nearly all online sports titles devolve into a never-ending parade of people using the same loaded teams. (Yes, Colts and USC users, I mean you!) In APF2K8 you're picking from the same pool of players as everyone else. So if your team isn't as good then it's because you built it that way or because you suck as a gamer.
APF2K8 isn't without flaws. There's a little bit of clipping where players walk through one another, though this is limited to after-action beauty shots so it doesn't affect gameplay. When you assign defenders to cover the other team's stars the game sometimes deletes those assignments. This seems to happen more with created players for whatever reason. Also once you start a season against the CPU you can't change your rosters. The game has a well implemented live ticker feed with news and scores but the formatting of the scores is annoying (Padres 0 at Diamondbacks 0 10:30 PM ET).
Because APF2K8 isn't limited by the NFL it would be great to see the playbook open up to include the option. Additionally a more interesting playoff format (or greater options) would be welcome in the season mode. The AI in the game is decent but it's not nearly varied as it could be. Adding different AI personalities with teams stocked with appropriate players would be welcome (like a team that passes all the time and has the offensive firepower to back it up). 2K created an application that you can download from Live to make custom videos from highlights. This would've been a lot cooler had it been included with the game to reward the loyalists and entice first-time users.
Comparing this game to Madden or NCAA 08 is tricky. Plenty of people won't be able to look past the lack of an NFL license and plenty more might prefer the more arcade-like gameplay in the EA titles. Players that are more interested in strategic gameplay, especially versus other humans, are going to appreciate APF2K8 a lot.
By Lee Clontz
Even though it was only the first next-gen NCAA football game, last year's edition of EA Sports' NCAA franchise was one of the best football games ever made, even better than last year's edition of Madden. EA took everything they'd done right in previous iterations of the series and honed the gameplay to near perfection. If you're into football gaming, successfully running the option in NCAA Football is about as good as it gets.
Given the success of the 2007 game, my hopes were high for 2008. The 360 version of 2007 was missing some features found in the PS2 and Xbox versions, so I expected to see those, but all I really wanted was moderately improved graphics, solid online play and faster loading times. In my dream world, the game would have real player names, or an easy way to download them, but you can't have everything.
Can you guide Tim Tebow and the Gators back to the BCS promised land? :: NCAA 08 :: EA Sports
So first the good news -- if you found yourself annoyed that the Campus Legend mode found on the PS2 and Xbox versions wasn't included in the 360 version, you'll be happy to see that it's here now. It's a fun variation, where you create a high school player and play as that player -- and only that player -- through a high school playoff and into a college career.
Dynasty Mode is still around, and it lets you indulge in as much or as little of the recruiting process as you like. If you want to woo individual players and schedule recruiting visits, you'll be in heaven here. If you just want to play, you can let the computer do the work for you. I've never totally understood the appeal of recruiting completely fictitious players, but there's a lot of detail to this mode if it floats your boat.
The game offers the fast, exciting gameplay that we expect from this franchise, and the AI usually puts up a good game. There are still a handful of exploitable plays that you'll turn to time and again, but AI opponents don't let you get away with running the same cheap junk play after play. The only way to win is to mix up passing and running plays, work your hot players and not get too aggressive.
Here's a clip of the new features intro that you see when you fire up the game:
Online play is near-flawless, with very little lag. The game feels a little different because of the latency inherent in online play, but once you adjust your timing, it works very well. There's no co-op play online, which is somewhat of a disappointment. You can also upload photos and videos of your favorite plays to the EA Sports servers, though the process for registering and viewing them is far more awkward than it should be.
Graphically, the 360 version runs at 60 frames per second, so the graphics are usually more fluid than last year's game. Usually.
For all the game does right, it seems to take a few steps back. There's no way around it: the game feels rushed. Graphics during gameplay are rife with clipping --
the effect where parts of one player appear to pass through another player's body -- and, most annoying of all, there's a constant stuttering when menus and graphical overlays appear. Since that happens constantly throughout the game, the little annoyances build up quickly. Add in a significant framerate hit during rainy weather, and you get a frustrating sense of what could have been with some additional development time.
Can TCU upend Texas for real? :: NCAA 08 :: EA Sports
Sound is similarly unpolished, with much of the repetitive play-by-play lifted straight from last year's game. Most of the jokes fall flat and go on for so long that you've often moved onto a different play by the time Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit have finished talking about the previous one. Another glitch: at various points throughout the game, the crowd noise will sometimes silence entirely, even during a big play at home.
The playbook interface has been redesigned, and not necessarily for the better. At critical times of the game, you'll get dropped automatically into a Corso-recommended play, which can be confusing if you're trying to get off a play quickly. It's a small detail, but it's just another annoyance.
Worst of all, my copy of the game had significant stability problems, with periodic crashes and disc read errors. It's possible I received a bad disc, but it's troubling nonetheless.
For owners of NCAA Football 2007, it's hard to recommend 2008 unless you're really itching to try the Campus Legend mode. The graphics are only marginally better than last year and the game isn't quite as refined. That said, if you love college football, you'll probably put up with the nuisances to play a game that's much more good than bad.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 9
The NCAA series has always played a good game, and 2008 is no exception. Online play is very smooth.
Generally better than last year, but not by much. The faster framerate is nice, but why the heck do the menus cause the entire game to hiccup? Sure, we all love huge yellow graphical overlays with a gigantic Old Spice logo, but not at the expense of a smooth experience.
Big time. There's a lot to do here if you're a hardcore football fan. You can recruit players, create a player, manage playbooks, play minigames, play as a second-string high school RB -- or just plow into Dynasty mode and let the game manage all of the extracurricular stuff. Either way, the core game is still a lot of fun.