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NFL Quarterback Club 2002 (PS2) Review

Publisher: Acclaim Sports

Background Info

PS2 Screens(18)

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 purchase.

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.

By: James Smith 9/13/01

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