The much-maligned football franchise is back off the turf for yet another
time. That's right. NFL QB Club 2002 from Acclaim is taking snaps on the
PS2. This time around the game features your basic modes of play as well as
the skills-based QB Challenge mode. The game promises authentic NFL action,
incredible detail, and plenty of defensive schemes.
Presentation/Graphics : 80
One of the bright spots of QB Club 2002 is the graphics. First off, the
fields are some of the best you'll find in a console football game. The
grass textures are well done and give the illusion of a natural surface.
Likewise, the brightly colored logos at midfield and in the endzones are
picture perfect. Fortunately, the nice visuals don't end with the fields.
Player models are well proportioned with various linemen sizes and
diminutive receivers, cornerbacks, and safeties. Each player has a fair
amount of detail in the uniform. Of course, the detail improves as the
camera is brought closer. After plays, the camera often shifts to a close
up view of the action, whereupon the real detail comes to light. Acclaim
put some time into adding realistic faces to each player, and when helmets
pop off you'll recognize many of the players by sight alone.
Even the animations excel. Unlike Madden, QB Club doesn't fully utilize a
momentum-based physics engine. Think of it more along the lines of a more
arcade-like NFL2K series game. As such, players can turn on a dime and
there is little-to-no overshoot by receivers as they come back for the ball.
This also means that running backs don't really bounce off tacklers like
they might in Madden. While some of the realism is lost in this respect,
overall the animations still work. There are several tackling animations at
the game engine's disposal, and all are used evenly. If there is a sore
point with the animations, it would be the lack of swim and spin moves by
the defensive line. The game suffers from virtual holding - as soon as a
would-be tackler is engaged by an offensive player, he invariably gets
locked in position with no possible way to escape.
This aspect of the game calls into question the collision detection of the
game. There are some issues in this area. For example, tacklers can dive
at the ball carrier, but if the game doesn't feel that the tackler is coming
from the right spot, it completely ignores the collision of players and the
tackler goes right through the ball carrier. I've never blocked a field
goal in console football. In one game, I broke through the line and jumped.
In live action I was sure I got my hand on the ball. Upon viewing the
replay, I was upset to find the ball went right through my shoulder. I can
take a moral victory for the effort, but the CPU still scored the three.
These are isolated cases that fortunately don't rear their ugly heads too
often. Still, when they happen, they are annoying.
Presentation/Audio : 92
I admit that I have a bias against John Madden when it comes to calling a
game. I liked his style early, but year after year of the same blathering
info got old. My distaste for Madden transcends into the game version of
Madden. I can't stand his booth commentary. With no Madden in the QB Club
franchise, Kevin Harlan and Bill Maas provide the play by play and color,
respectively. And what a job they do. The action on the field is called
very well. In fact, it's some of the best I've heard in a football game.
Not only will you be kept abreast of who is carrying the ball, but added
play by play info is added. I was amazed when Harlan mentioned my back
broke through to the secondary and almost got through Woodson. The extra
effort on the audio is definitely noticed. One thing the game lacks in
audio is more variety on the field. I love the chatter of players in the
NFL2K series, and none of that is present here.
Interface/Options : 40
This is bare bones football. Many criticized Madden 2001 for leaving out
many features of the 2001 version of the PSX game. Well, Madden 2001 looks
like a cornucopia compared to QB Club 2002. The available game modes
include an exhibition match up with any two teams, a practice mode, a
playoffs mode, a simulation mode (set up some parameters and try to score -
whoopee), a season mode, and the QB Challenge mode. The football plays the
same in the various modes, and the game options for each mode are all weak.
There are no AI sliders to adjust offensive and defensive tendencies,
penalties are a simple on/off switch, and the stat tracking is limited
(though the stats that are there are realistic). At least you can adjust
the difficulty level. The excellence we've come to expect with the Madden
franchise mode is nowhere to be seen in QB Club. No multi-season mode
exists in the game, and the front office moves are limited to player trades,
cuts, player signings, and player creation. Sim lovers who look forward to
the off-season will be disappointed.
Gameplay : 55
The gameplay of QB Club is a tough one to call. On the one hand, the game
falls short of being a simulation. On the other hand, it is removed from
being a total arcade package in the vein of Blitz. However, I just can't
get past thinking that the game plays more like an arcade title. The game
is geared towards easy play. I quickly moved my games to the highest
difficulty level due to the inability of the CPU to either score or stop me.
Even at the most difficult setting you can score almost at will and easily
stop the AI offense.
On offense you can run the ball at will and pick up 5 or more yards on
nearly every play. The exception is with sweeps or tosses where an outside
linebacker or defensive end flattens you. But if you run between the big
boys on the line, expect big gains. This is due in large part to the
holding patterns mentioned earlier. As soon as a defensive player is
engaged, he's locked down and big gaps open up. You find the secondary
makes most of the tackles on run plays. This also occurs in the kicking
game. No matter the difficulty level, you can expect 20-yard punt returns
and 30- or more yard kick returns. The passing game is a little more
difficult. Blitzes are well disguised, and to be successful at the passing
game you have to pass the ball off quickly. If a receiver is open, it's
almost automatic that a reception will be made. Only when your receiver is
covered will there be a strong possibility that you won't make the catch.
This points out a decent secondary AI. Both my secondary and that of the
CPU team proved to be effective at coverage. The secondary is better than
that of NCAA 2002 and the Gameday series, and only slightly worse than
Madden 2002. When you examine replays you'll find a secondary that is aware
at all times. My only complaint with the secondary play is actually a
complaint with the playcalling. The game claims to have over 300 defensive
schemes. That may be, but the playcalling is odd, and never did I have
confidence that my secondary was playing a zone or man coverage scheme.
When I play a football game, I expect to have to call a variety of defenses
to counter the offensive sets. In QB Club, I can call the same 4-3 defense
during the entire game and the AI offense never exploits me. On pass plays
my secondary does an exceptional job, and just slight pressure on the QB
(even though sacking is tough) causes the QB to dump the ball.
When you get right down to it, this really plays like an arcade title. It's
the type of game that doesn't require deep thought or even the smallest
amount of strategy. Sure the occasional sack can put you in trouble, but
that's it. Despite having the penalties set to on, penalties occur with the
frequency of Halley's comet. The one penalty that was called in all the
time I played the game was wrong. On a two-point conversion my QB was
tackled by the facemask. The ref called a facemask penalty, but instead of
lining up for another attempt at the conversion, I was forced to kick off.
The one bright spot in the game is the NFL QB Challenge. Here you test your
skills in a variety of competitions. The first challenge is an obstacle
course that must be navigated. The second is a target mode where targets
move across the field; you need to select a target with the controller
buttons and then correctly pass to it. The final competition is a throwing
distance contest. All the games are fun, but not enough to warrant a
It's really too bad that the game is too easy to beat. There are some
definite strengths in the game. If the running game were toned down it
would be right up there with Madden. The secondary AI is actually quite
good and should be applauded. If the game were just a tad more challenging,
the arcade-like play would be a blast.
Replay Value : 40
If you want a challenge, this game won't provide it. Even at the highest
difficulty level little effort is needed to beat the CPU. The shallow
season mode cements the fact that QB Club is little more than a football
title that's a good holdover until a real one arrives. Unfortunately,
Madden 2002 is one of the best football games ever created. For the same
price, you can have the best the PS2 has to offer. The QB Challenge mode is
fun, but not enough to keep your attention.
Overall : 59
With some tweaks to the engine, NFL QB Club 2002 could be a very nice
alternative to games like Madden or the upcoming NFL2K2 for the PS2. The
secondary AI is solid, but the running game is too forgiving. The sound
package is one of the best I've come across. However, when it comes to
football I want a challenge, and even at the highest difficulty level the
game provides little challenge.