Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: "All-Pro 2K8" gets the nod, but not Pro Bowler yet ...

Getting a chance to play with football greats in the video game "All-Pro 2K8" on my 360 is awesome. Having to read the manual to learn how to kick? Not so much.

The multi-console title, published by 2K Sports, is a really good football game, considering EA has an iron grip on the official NFL license. So, instead of go completely generic, 2K did the next best thing - and filled the game with retired NFL legends. I had a blast building my team, giving Joe Montana the starting nod, with Jerry Rice as my star receiver, Rocket Ismail backing him up and Johnny Unitas as my reserve QB (Just for you, Phill). I also tapped Ken Norton Jr., Too Tall Jones, "The Fridge" and "The Boz" for my killer defense.

After being taken back to the mid '80s, I wasn't too happy about one thing - I had to choose between several legends at the Gold Level. While I can see the logic behind having John Elway, Joe Montana and Dan Marino as your team's QB, and having Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders as your RBs, limiting you to two choices for your Gold players is sad. I wish there was an option to disable the limit of Gold stars you could select. It gets a wee bit better at the Silver level, but the quality of player drop significantly. By the time you get to the Bronze level, I was having a tough time remembering who some of these people were.

I decided to create a team - The Top Guns, based in where else? Albuquerque! And had a blast modifying the uniforms. I did enjoy the depth of the customizations, and had fun creating my digital likeness in the game.

I started the game making a homestand against a generic opponent. We won the toss, and decided to kick. After playing Madden on various consoles, and playing 2K football titles before, I was sure I'd have no problem learning these controls. When I kicked off for the first time, I nearly had an onside kick! Throughout the game, I dreaded having to kick. Finally, I went into a practice mode, a very cool feature that allows you to brush up on problems areas on your offense/defense, and selected kickoffs. I also did something I rarely do - pulled out the game's manual and read up on kicking. For the Xbox 360, you have to pull the right analog stick back to initiate the kick. As soon as your punter/kicker nears the ball, you push up on stick to determine the force of the kick.

Visually, 2K did a good job on the graphics. The details to the field are awesome - and while the game is no "Gears of War," it is still nice looking on an HDTV.

And a surprise feature, which is surely a sign of things to come, is the on-screen sports ticker. At first, I thought it was a fantasy ticker - but I realized there was real news on it ... I had heard about that feature - showing real-time news and transactions - in-game. It really gives "All-Pro" an authentic feel.

Sound totally rocks. Whether it's a bone-crushing hit, or a sound of a running back popping a linemen, it's on point.

The soundtrack is not bad either. The commentary can get repetitive, and sometimes downright corny. Overall, the sound for "All-Pro" makes the cut.

There are also various modes in the game, including season, single game and practice. You can also enable coach mode, which allows you to call the plays and watch your team execute your calls.

While "All-Pro" is a solid football filled with crazy comments and funny in-zone celebrations (the animation of a player who just scored a touchdown giving the football CPR is priceless), the lack of a postseason and draft of sorts really hurts this game.

Controls are another issue. It's nearly impossible, even with the CPU's AI turned down, for OJ Simpson - yes, "The Juice," or Barry Sanders to break away from tacklers. The toned down AI for the game is as good as a starter in other gridiron video games. I am scared to try uping the setting without fear of getting manhandled like a Barbie doll.

So ... does "All-Pro 2K8" get the starting nod? Yes, no doubt - it's a solid title and playing with legends like Deacon Jones, Kenny Stabler and the original Manning, Archie, is soooo sweet. The in-game ticker is a nice touch, and graphics are good. However, the amped up AI and kicking, and controls need some work, as well as uncapping the ability to adds as many Gold players as you want. But knowing 2K Sports, this is just an appetizer. I can't wait to see "All-Pro 2K9" bring it.

Duke City Gamerz' quota: 1 (Unacceptable) to 10 (SiCK)

Why should I care about this game: It's a football title with NFL legends, but don't expect to play as Randy Moss or Steve McNair, thanks for EA securing the NFL license.

What makes this game rock:
NFL legends - Playing as Brian Bosworth on my 360 is sweet. Excellent use of the past NFL greats. I would love to see Jim Brown and Bo Jackson, though ... and LT ...
Graphics - they aren't perfect, but just a taste of things to come
Sounds - good mix of tracks, and the in-game sounds are crushing
In-game ticker - if you are a sports nut, keeping up to date on sports happenings rocks.

What hurts this game:
Limiting the number of Gold, Silver, Bronze players - Comeon, we get two choices. Make it unlimited!
Kicking - I have tough times in other football titles kicking ... don't make gamers dive into the manual to learn how to kick!
Control - there's nothing wrong with copying Madden's controller scheme.
AI on steroids - please, PLEASE make it clear how players can unamp the AI. Even on rookie, I was getting slammed ... and this is from a Madden champ on the SNES, Playstation and 360!

Duke City Gamerz' rating: 8.5 - It's a great Madden alternative - and playing alongside NFL legends totally rocks. "All-Pro 2K9" is definitely going to rock.

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