We're about halfway through the summer, and for football fans it's one of the itchiest times of the year. The official season is scant weeks away from starting, and you have to find ways to while away the time until you can play sideline coach once again and scream at the television until the veins in your forehead spell out the initials of your college team.
Some people pass the time by going on vacation, others read quietly, some take up a new hobby, like whittling, and still others reflect on the nature of man vs. the infinite. The rest of us simply purchase the latest football games and pick up the yelling and screaming like it never left off. With that in mind, we're rounding up the reviews for this year's crop of gridiron offerings. Choose wisely, and prepare yourself for some thumb blistering goodness.
The collegiate entry has always been a fan-favorite for the past several years, although it faces no competition since NCAA Football 08 is the only college football game in the lineup. Last year's title wasn't met with open arms, and a lot of fans cried out for penalties on the gameplay, but they've apparently ironed out most of the problems this year. Of course, where you squash one bug, another one always pops up ...
- GameDaily (8/10) says "NCAA Football 08 rights the wrongs of last season and begins its sophomore campaign as one of the most enjoyable football games of the past few years." Strong words indeed, although they also say the motivation system "feels tacked on" and that the AI has "occasional lapses." Despite the strong score, they conclude with, "NCAA 08, despite its best features needs more polish."
- IGN (8.1/10) however liked last year's title and points out that "Veterans of NCAA 07 will definitely note the lack of groundbreaking adjustments that made last year's title so great to play." Despair not, because they go on to say, "Don't think that NCAA Football 08 isn't an enjoyable football game, because it is ... however, by comparison to last year's title, NCAA Football 08 is a mild step backwards."
- 1Up (8.0) agrees with GameDaily, saying "Even the most storied college gridiron programs have suffered the occasional subpar season. That just happened to be last year for EA's NCAA Football franchise." They don't love the fact that you can't take the Dynasty Mode online, but do say "From the very first snap, you'll notice this game runs a whole lot faster and smoother than last year's edition."
The "other pro football" game in the bunch is All-Pro Football 2K8 from Take-Two Interactive. Since the NFL license for current players is held by Electronic Arts, All-Pro features over 240 ex-football players. From Jerry Rice to John Elway, you can play classic greats from yesteryear in a slew of teams created for the game, like the Rustler, the Sharks, etc. It's a return, of sorts, of ESPN NFL 2K5 from Sega (who sold game developers Visual Concepts to Take-Two), but how does it stack up?
- 1Up (6.5/10) has a good point, "It's been too long since there's been a choice, and you'll find some seriously solid gameplay in All-Pro Football." But they also cry foul over the lack of game modes (there really aren't any), and conclude with "if you were expecting 2K euphoria after two years on the sidelines, you'll be disappointed."
- GameInformer (8/10) really feels the love, though, and says "For all you NFL 2K5 and football fans out there – this is the game you hoped it would be." They cite improved gameplay mechanics and want more story about the faux league and teams "Bolster this aspect and make some gameplay tweaks, and All-Pro Football will threaten Madden's NFL more than the XFL ever did."
- A reader at IGN (6.9/10) says "The AI, blocking, and controls are all done quite well", but then goes on to point out a lot of things they don't like, including some problems with the mechanics. In the end they say, "This series has a looong way to go." The extras o's are to show just how far it has to go.
Madden is still the end-all, be-all of football games, and remains king of the hill after many years. Since it's the only NFL-licensed offering this year, it'll stay on top again with no problem, but hopefully we'll see more competition in the coming years. Not only is it nice having a choice, but it forces Madden to continue upping the ante through improved gameplay and innovations. Madden NFL 08 comes out on August 14th, and as many of you readers have pointed out, none of the major review sites have touched the title yet. We'll post a roundup of some of the "previews" below, and we'll do a metareview once the scores are in.
- 1Up thinks the game is a big improvement over the first "next-gen" offerings, although thinks they fumbled the online elements, "The online options here are bare bones (where are the online leagues?!)" They also point out that the game looks "silky smooth at 60 fps" on the Xbox 360.
- IGN sings the biggest praise for the game with, "This year Madden is back in a big way, with all of the trimmings that you'd expect from a true next-gen football experience." They like the new and improved animations and other bells and whistles that the game offers, but sum it up by saying, "The real star of the show is finally the gameplay."
- GameSpot says that this is "a game that feels markedly different from last year." They point out the graphic and gameplay improvements, concluding with "Thanks to some extremely responsive controls, the gameplay in Madden is already feeling like an improvement over previous years."
Of course, your own mileage will vary. Chime in and let us know what brand of football you'll be playing.