The king of football has returned-.kind of. That’s right folks Visual Concept’s has blessed us with another football game, in the same tradition of their last game NFL 2K5. The catch is that since EA owns the rights to the teams, and current players. This game lets you play with legends from yesteryear. Rice, Montana, Marino, Payton there all here for you to choose from. I am sure a lot of you are questioning how fun can a game with no real teams on it be any fun. Well read on and I will gladly tell you.
Because it lacks the NFL license, no current pro players, teams, or stadiums can appear in All-Pro 2K8. To make the experience satisfying, Visual Concepts gathered a bevy of retired pros and allowed gamers to draft their own teams. The Hall of Fame roster is impressive. Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and O.J. Simpson are all on the list ready to be drafted to your teams. Yes, you read right the Juice is in the game! There is also a healthy number of lower-tier pros, many of who had good but not Hall of Fame careers.
This large collection of more than 240 players is assembled into your own personal hall of fame football team the first time you turn on All-Pro 2K8. You get to select two Gold Star players’ three Silver Star players, and six Bronze Star players. In other words: Gold = Hall of Famer; Silver = Pro Bowler; Bronze = Played in the NFL. Everyone else on your team will be filled out with made up players with average stats. This system sounds really good on paper, but it is unfortunate that you can’t sacrifice a couple bronze picks for a Gold Player. My team consisted of a Gold QB and Running back. So what you really have to do is decide what is more important to you. Running up the middle with Barry Sanders or the long bomb to Jerry Rice.
The biggest draw back in the player picking system, is that in the very bare season mode you will play teams that have no gold players, or you will play teams that have 5 gold players. Of course this was done on purpose so that you couldn’t dominate in the league. They could have had a better system in place, especially since the AI in this game really plays the same every game. This is somewhat sad since the greatest football game ever, NFL 2K5 had the best AI around.
Visual Concepts has changed the way the players are ranked in this game. Instead of seeing a 99 next to every person’s name, they all have different abilities. There are more than 80 different abilities in the game that range from Brick Wall, which gives lineman superior pass blocking skills. To Route God, this is self explanatory. They actually nailed the abilities to the type of player the person was. For instance Jerry Rice has Route God, Clutch, has Break Away Burst, Soft Hands, and earns a Leadership Bonus all of which number 80 had in his heyday.
A few nice presentation touches have been included with All-Pro’s debut. At the coin toss and in special “Field Pass” moments, you will get cinematic views of key players who will chatter with their teammates. This is better than Madden’s close up shots of the quarterbacks eyes or camera passes over the defense as they wait to get in formation. Commentary is provided by longtime fictional 2K broadcasters Dan Stevens and Peter O’Keefe. And while some of the commentary that you will hear is recycled from 2K5, it certainly beats getting a crappy radio broadcast.
Game play is the key to any great sports experience and in this, All-Pro Football 2K8 delivers. VC did an excellent job at making this feel like real football. Blocking opens up holes; linebackers hold up running backs while waiting for a teammate to deliver a hard blow. Much of the sense of realism is due to the excellent animations, which are top notch! There are some great subtleties in the animations, you’ll see backs trying to slip through the grasp of linemen, receivers tiptoeing along the sideline as their momentum carries them out of bounds, and quarterbacks shuffle their feet and duck the arm tackle of a pass rusher. This is what football is supposed to look like!
But 2K8 is not perfect. As I stated above the AI is very lacking. It will make predicable plays on offense and defense especially on defense where you can almost always find a hole in which to pass the ball. Even playing on Legend I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference with the style of play the computer uses. It was a bit more difficult but, if you can read defenses and offense you will be fine.
Just like Madden had a very limited feature set when it came out on next gen systems in 06 so does All-Pro Football 2K8. You will have 16 games in season mode, and the playoffs. That’s it, no pre-season, no pro bowl. The most frustrating thing is that the great franchise mode that Visual Concept’s had been known for is also absent. Here is hoping that if they make another game, they will add a full feature set so that their superior football game can compete with that 800lb gorilla!
With all that being said, I still stand by my original statement. The King of Football has returned. I have always preferred 2K over Madden ever since I had my Dreamcast. The game play is better, the animations are top notch, and the commentary has always been better than hearing John Madden call a football game between doughnut bites. That was mean–oh well Madden Sucks! But seriously if you care about playing with Colts and Payton Manning, or you just have to have real teams and stadiums then Madden is your option. But if you want to play a good football game with the players of yesteryear then pick up All-Pro Football 2K8.