Publisher: Interplay (2000)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, animated violence)
MDK2 is an absolute paradox
. One minute I'm thinking it's the most kick-ass shooter ever made, and the next I want to cast it into the fiery depths of hell
. Like the original MDK
(Playstation One, 1997), this third-person platformer features surreal sci-fi landscapes, sniping action, and an off-kilter sense of humor. Grasping the basic controls can be a challenge. Never has the lack of a second stick on the Dreamcast controller been more glaring. The one analog stick is used to look around and aim, forcing you to use the face buttons to move. The right trigger shoots and the left trigger jumps. Hitting jump while in the air deploys a skeletal "parachute". This less-than-intuitive scheme is necessitated by the fact that you need to constantly
keep moving while shooting enemies. Heck, in some cases you even need to keep moving while sniping!
When you're not sniping, you're circle-strafing. The textures are smooth, but the characters look chunky due to a low polygon count. The gorgeous sci-fi stages are accented by beautiful lighting effects. Unfortunately certain areas are too dark and poorly defined, making it hard to tell where you can or can't land. Enemies tend to be green aliens, and those with high-pitched voices call to mind the lowly minions of the Halo series. In addition to the main character Kurt, some stages let you control a chain-smoking, four-armed dog named Max. Max can equip and fire up to four guns at a time!
Eat your heart out, Lara Croft! My least-favorite playable character is the professor who can combine items to create weapons - with much difficulty!
MDK2's difficulty is definitely "up there". One FAQ states that bosses are easy to defeat once you know what to do, but nothing could be further from the truth!
One boss has more than a dozen health meters, and many stages are crippled by lousy visibility. Max's vertically-oriented jet-pack stage is an absolute nightmare
. Fortunately well-placed checkpoints automatically save your progress, triggering a long, satisfying beep of the VMU. The audio effects are terrific and the pumping techno soundtrack is a good match for the ultra-modern graphics. Sadly, MDK2 has its share of bugs. Especially in the early going I encountered cut-scene glitches and the periodic loss of audio effects. When you die, your body will typically become partially embedded in the scenery. My feelings toward MDK2 fluctuated wildly as I reviewed it. How can a game be so good and so bad at the same time? © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Crave (2000)
Magforce attempts to mimic the futuristic hovercraft racing thrills of Wipeout
(Playstation, 1995), but it's a lukewarm effort. There are a few vertigo-inducing drops and loops, but the game fails to convey that sense of breakneck speed you look for in a racer. Still, the frame-rate is smooth, and I like how the tracks are sufficiently wide. Magforce Racing's single innovation is its "magnet button", a minor gimmick that lets you defy gravity on certain sections of the track. I found it to be fairly worthless. What this game really
needs is a map and a real
countdown at the beginning of each race (it counts down to two!). But worst of all is the lame weapon system. Yes, there are missiles, lasers, and mines, but hitting an opponent is rare, and even scoring a direct hit only slows him down momentarily. Worse yet, you often end up plowing into the back of guy you just shot, slowing you
down in the process! The clunky, oversized vehicles are uninteresting, and the background scenery mainly consists of generic buildings and barren landscapes. The sparse electronic soundtrack is appropriate but equally forgettable. On the bright side, my friends were impressed with the four-player split-screen mode, and best times are automatically saved to memory card. A single-player mode challenges you to finish first on all the tracks so you can advance to the next class, but inexplicably, the menu screens do not
indicate which tracks you've already beaten! Magforce Racing is not a terrible game, but with no distinguishing characteristics, it offers little incentive to play. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atlus (2000)
Rating: Mature (animated violence)
I recall seeing Maken X in all of the bargain bins years ago, but as it turns out, it's quite a gem in the Dreamcast library. I was expecting a total dud, but a few minutes into the game I found myself saying, "Hey, this is pretty cool!" Maken X (pronouncing "mockin X") has a unique style of play I haven't seen since Crossed Swords
(Neo Geo, 1991). It's a first-person sword fighting game, where you block, dodge, and slash your way through room after room of evil freaks. Atlus kept the control scheme simple, which was probably a good idea. X is used to slash, A jumps, Y locks onto an opponent, and the right trigger is used to strafe. Simply pulling back on the analog stick initiates a block. While it sounds simplistic, there's ample technique involved, especially in the later stages. When facing multiple foes at a time, careful timing and strategic positioning is paramount. Your mask-wearing adversaries are a colorful bunch, including agile red skaters, overweight armored warriors, and brawny thugs armed with rocket launchers. It's easy to navigate the imaginative stage locations, which include the inside of a gigantic airplane, an opulent Indian palace, and the rainy streets of Hong Kong. What makes Maken-X effective is its ultra-smooth, 60 frames-per-second visuals that keep you firmly in control - even in the midst of chaos. Adding variety is your ability to "brainjack" other characters, which essentially lets you switch characters and weapons. Each playable character has a unique skill, such as the ability to vault over enemies and attack them from behind. If there's one thing bugged me about Maken X, it's the gratuitously complex storyline involving traveling through alternate dimensions, a sword with a mind of its own, and conspiracies galore. I think storylines in video games are vastly overrated, and once you sit through one of these half-hour intermissions, I think you'll agree. There's also the issue of repetitive enemies, some of whom can be tedious to dispatch. If you can look past those issues, however, Maken X offers a formidable challenge and an intriguing game playing experience. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2000)
Sega Bass Fishing was an excellent early Dreamcast title, and this sequel improves on it in many ways. In Bass Fishing, all you could catch was bass, but in Marine Fishing, 15 different varieties of fish are available, including blue marlin, sailfish, tuna, and Mako shark! Unlike Bass Fishing where it was easy to catch a fish, these fish battle you to the bitter end, making it more satisfying when you haul one in. The scenic fishing spots are large and wide open. You can post your catches on-line, and even save your fish in your own personal aquarium. There are mini games and over 200 bonus items to unlock. Be sure to use Sega's Fishing Rod controller for maximum fun and realism. Marine Fishing may be the best fishing game I've ever played. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
It's the year 2309, and the newly-colonized planet of Mars has declared its independence. Earth doesn't even
want to hear all that. As any good gamer knows, there's only one way to resolve intergalactic conflict: shoot everything that moves
and ask questions later! Or don't even bother!
Back in 2000 I really didn't really know what to make of Mars Matrix with its inescapable waves of missiles and raining gold bars. Since that time however I've developed an unhealthy appetite for these "bullet hell" shooters. On the surface, Mars Matrix is a chaotic vertical shooter with grainy, somewhat pixelated graphics. As you fly over the industrialized planet surface you're attacked by hulking airships, tanks, mechanical spiders, and boiling
tea kettles! Color gradients convey texture and depth, but there's nothing here I'd characterize as "eye candy". When it comes to pure shooting and destruction however, Mars Matrix hits the spot. You're armed with a rapid-fire shot and a medium-range auto-piercing weapon. Best of all is your ability to consume
incoming missiles and then propel them outward to obliterate all enemies. Be sure to save that for times when you're being overwhelmed. Keep in mind that flying over
attackers will not harm you - only their missiles pose a threat. Mars Matrix is relentlessly difficult but also intoxicating. I love catching the gold bricks, and those mammoth gold blocks are irresistable. The industrial musical score isn't very tuneful. In fact, the first stage sounds like a T-Rex in a meat grinder!
Continues are available but you only "rank in" with your first credit. The game records several pages of high scores (with initials) and these scores are so long it's comical (zillions
!?) As a sweet bonus, your cumulative scores are used to unlock new modes and bonus materials. Mars Matrix won't win any beauty contests, but if you're in the mood for some balls-to-the-wall shooting action, this is what you want. Note: Use an arcade-style joystick if at all possible. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Marvel Vs. Capcom
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
Capcom pioneered the fighting game genre and Marvel superheroes kick ass, so what happens when you put them together? Suffice to say, it is on
like the proverbial Donkey Kong! Marvel Vs. Capcom (MvC) takes 2D fighting to new heights in terms of frenzied action and actual altitude
. The Capcom side of the roster features Chun Li, Ryu, and Zangeif (of Street Fighter fame), Mega-Man, Morrigan (Darkstalkers), and Captain Commando. Representing Marvel is Spiderman, Captain America, Venom, War Machine, Hulk, Wolverine, and Gambit. MvC's 2D graphics are a visual feast for the eyes. The characters are huge
and animated with style. The layered 2D backdrops are expansive but not particularly detailed or memorable. Each contest is a two-on-two "tag team" match, although a third "guest" character can be called in to provide a strategic quick hit. This guest is randomly chosen from a large grid containing second-tier characters like Thor and Arthur (of Ghouls and Ghosts). MvC's two-on-two format is ideal because matches are quick but still long enough to allow for some strategy. The laws of gravity have been alleviated for this game, and high-flying attacks cause the screen to scroll upwards. The overloaded control scheme doesn't map well to the Dreamcast controller. Since the three punches and three kicks use up the main buttons, you'll need to hit combinations to call in a guest or switch fighters. MvC's style of play is conducive to button mashing, but even then you'll regularly stumble across some jaw-dropping moves. It's easy to lose track of your character in the midst of the chaos, especially when a third fighter enters the fray. Still, Marvel Vs. Capcom is thoroughly entertaining arcade fare. High scores are saved to the VMU, but you'll need to manually load and save them. In addition to the standard modes, there's even a "Cross Fever" mode that lets four players fight simultaneously. I'm sure that's not the least bit confusing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Gamers couldn't get enough of the first Marvel Vs. Capcom, and this sequel blows the roof off
with an unheard-of 56-character roster!
Only 24 are available from the outset, but even that
is an impressive number. Returning from the first game are favorites like Spiderman, Hulk, Wolverine, Chun Li, and Morrigan. Newcomers included are Jill Valentine (Resident Evil), Servbots (Mega Man), Akuma (Street Fighter 2), and Cable (Marvel). Has there ever been a hotter chick in a fighting game than Psylocke? That girl is stacked!
I don't care much for shape-shifting types like Anakaris the mummy or Amingo the flexible cactus, but I guess that just comes with the territory. I've never even heard of oddball characters like the pirate chick Ruby Heart, the monkey girl Sonson, or the kid in the mech (T. Bonne). MvC2's matches are as chaotic as ever, and this time the contests are three-on-three. You only control one fighter at a time, but you can swap them out at will, or call upon them to administer timely "assists". The new format pushes the limits but adds more strategy as you strategically rest characters to recuperate their strength. The controls have been streamlined to perfection. Now there are only two punch and two kick buttons, leaving two buttons for calling in partners. As in the first game, the screen scrolls up as the characters battle in mid-air, and there are some absolutely outrageous special attacks. Iron Man has the biggest gun ever
(where does he keep
that thing?), and Ruby Heart's pirate ship practically consumes the entire screen as it plows into its helpless victim. The backdrops are now rendered in high-resolution 3D polygons, and while I still prefer the 2D illustrated look, there's something to be said for those smooth graphics. MvC2 is loaded with extra features including an auto-save and an option to view your high scores. Between matches you see where your current score falls in the rankings, and it's exciting to move up the chart. You'll gradually earn points to unlock new characters, stages, and outfits. This is one game that just keeps on giving.
With tremendous replay value and ridiculous arcade gameplay, Marvel Vs Capcom 2 is one of the best fighters I've played on any
system - much less the Dreamcast. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Metropolis Street Racer
Publisher: Sega (2000)
Now we're talking about some serious
racing action! MSR was developed by the people who made Project Gotham for the XBox, and the similarities are unmistakable. Metropolis Street Racer is a very realistic racing simulator with tracks set in a variety of real cities. The graphics are noticeably brighter and more colorful than Project Gotham, featuring cities painstakingly modeled after the real things. The cars also look detailed and shiny, and handle remarkably well. The courses are fairly simple, but it still can be hard to judge the turns. The difficulty is a bit excessive, and you'll need to master the hand brake to do well. A highly original "Kudos" system rewards good driving technique with bonus points, but unlike Gotham, you can also LOSE Kudos, which really sucks! Complementing the fine graphics is a superb soundtrack that will have you tapping your toes to a wide array of songs. My main problem with MSR is all the menus you need to trudge through. Even in the so-called "quick-start" option, it seems like you need to go through a dozen menus just to set up a two-player game. Not for the squeamish, MSR is a racer for gamers who crave a real
challenge. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Mortal Kombat Gold
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Rating: Mature (animated violence, animated blood and gore)
Mortal Kombat Gold is basically a polished version of Mortal Kombat 4, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The gameplay is reasonably good, with beautiful graphics and silky smooth action. Although the characters are rendered in 3D, the gameplay is still primarily 2D. Compared to the much blockier Playstation version, Gold looks like a whole new game altogether. I especially enjoyed checking out the mysterious background scenery and violent special moves. The 20 characters include most of your original favorites like Scorpion, Sub Zero, Raiden, Mileena, and Sonya. A few of the fighters from MK3 have also survived including the yellow robot warrior Cyrax. While Gold promises some "Dreamcast only" surprises, the gameplay is largely unchanged. There are weapons that appear at random, but they rarely have much impact. And unfortunately, one of the best moves from MK4, the sidestep, doesn't work very well here. According to the instructions, you must "tap" the right trigger twice to get it to work, but it's extremely erratic, and you can't even reconfigure it on the options screen! That problem sucked a lot of the fun out of the game, and that's a shame, because otherwise this is an good-looking fighter. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1999)
I feel like I should
like this fast-moving puzzle game a lot more than I actually do. Mr. Driller is a cute little fellow who drills down through colorful blocks while trying to avoid the mini-avalanches he triggers. Like any good puzzle game, both skill and strategy is involved. I always thought that moving quickly downward was the best strategy, but a friend demonstrated that a slower, more deliberate approach can really pay off. I love Mr. Driller's crisp arcade graphics and brisk pacing, but I could never quite wrap my brain around the strategy. I understand how some blocks will join with each other and some will disintegrate, but I found it hard to process on the fly. The controls are responsive enough, and the upbeat musical score sounds like something you'd hear in a Sonic game. I really don't quite "get it", but Mr. Driller seems to have developed a very devoted following among the Dreamcast faithful. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness
Publisher: Namco (2000)
With the success of last year's Pac-Man World (Playstation), it's no surprise that Ms. Pac-Man is making a comeback as well. But instead of being a typical 3D adventure, Maze Madness is more old-school. The levels are much like the 3-D mazes in Pac-Man World, but they are more elaborate and linked together to form large stages. It's a winning combination of classic Ms. Pac-Man gameplay and modern 3D graphics. There are four major theme worlds: Egyptian, Ice Caves, Harbor, and Halloween. Each stage offers several challenges such as collecting all of the dots, collecting all of the fruit, or making it through in a certain amount of time. It's hard to dislike this game! You can feel the vibration of Ms. Pac Man eating the dots, and the stages are full of surprises. There's some switched-pulling and crate-pushing action ala Crash Bandicoot, but nothing too complicated. In addition to the standard ghosts, there are other characters you'll have to deal with as well. In a nod to the classics, there's even a centipede that wonders through some of the stages! The controls are simple (no buttons!), and the music is exceptional. Maze Madness is fun to play and will appeal to all ages. In addition to the main game, there's also an arcade-perfect version of the original Ms. Pac-Man, which of course is one of the greatest video games of all time. The one bad thing about this game is the multi-player modes. There are some original ideas here, like playing as ghosts or bombs, but these games are rather unpleasant to play. You have to contend with CPU controlled players (unless you have four people), and the gameplay is utterly confusing. I would have preferred that they included a two-player simultaneous version of the classic Ms. Pac-Man - THAT would have been fun. But nevertheless, Ms. Pac-Man fans looking for some solid one-player action should pick up this disk. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1999)
Due to crazy amount of time and money Sega invested in NFL 2K, I didn't think the lower-priority NBA 2K would be up to the same standards. Fortunately that does not appear to be the case, as NBA 2K takes the sport to a whole new level! The game is FAST and the graphics are fantastic. Each player looks exactly like his real life counterpart, with changing facial expressions and shifting eyes. The players perform their patented moves and even react to fouls called against them. In fact, even the coach and the players on the bench react to what's going on in the game. The arenas and crowds are detailed and realistic, although the cheerleaders are glaring omissions. The audio is amazing, with two-man commentary and players who shout at each other. Control is responsive, allowing you to perform a nice variety of moves, including backing-down a defender, cross-over dribbles, and calling for a pick. You even have total control of alley-OOPS! All the new NBA rules have been incorporated into the game, and when you play in season mode, every statistic imaginable is tracked. The user interface looks just like NFL 2K, and allows you to completely customize the game as well as create new players. NBA 2K is great but not perfect. It seems as if illegal defense penalties are never called, and during the season, injuries happen far too often. Another flaw is the horrible new free-throw method, which requires you to push the analog R and L buttons at the same time in order to line up two arrows. It's really, really dumb. But overall, NBA 2K is far and away the best basketball game so far. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2000)
This year's edition of Sega's basketball game doesn't look a whole lot different than last year, but it does play better and has an on-line mode that works fine. Other new additions include a franchise mode, historic players dating back to the 50's, street courts, a few new moves, and additional camera angles. The new moves include a much-needed juke move and new animations include players encouraging each other during foul shots. Unfortunately, the horrendous foul-shooting system from last year is back! You have to gently squeeze the analog shoulder buttons to aim arrows, which is not only unintuitive, but it's nearly impossible if you've had any caffeine. Another problem is that the computer cheats when it's losing at the end of the game! Sega missed a few opportunities to improve the presentation. The coaches and bench players are present but rarely seen during the game. And where are the cheerleaders?? I have to admit that the commentary is improved, with more varied and more intelligent color commentary. NBA 2K1 isn't a huge improvement over last year, but it's still the best basketball game out there. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2001)
The world's best basketball video game has returned for another slightly improved iteration. NBA 2K2 features fluid gameplay, excellent control, and intelligent computer players. Yes, there are some new moves and animations, but only die-hard fans will be able to distinguish between this and last year's edition. I should also mention that I've detected occasional graphic flaws you wouldn't expect from a third-generation game. Shots from behind the backboard sometimes pass through the backboard, and some shots change their arc ever so slightly in mid-air. And let's not forget the goofy foul-shooting system that once again rears its ugly head. NBA 2K2 is only a miniscule step forward, and only serious basketball fans should feel obligated to trade up. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Like the classic NBA Jam (SNES 1993), Showtime offers lightening-fast, high-flying basketball action for one to four players. The 3D players are rather angular in appearance, but their movements are smooth and the dunks are SWEET. This game uses the real NBA theme music, making it sound like an actual telecast, and a high-octane announcer makes insightful observations like "Boom-shaka-laka!!" Showtime could have been awesome, but there are serious issues regarding the computer-controlled players. To put it bluntly - they cheat!! These guys goal-tend on a regular basis, and automatically grab every rebound or loose ball. In addition, their three-point, end-of-half, desperation shots ALWAYS go in the basket! Even at the lowest difficulty, the computer will frustrate you to no end! What does it all mean? It means you'll have to play a two-on-two (four-player) game to truly enjoy NBA Showtime. That's where the game REALLY shines. The action is non-stop, and the in-your-face dunks are amazing. Unfortunately, if you don't have four players, this game is pretty worthless. Other problems include a severe lack of options and an excessive number of loading screens. The Matrix-like camera sweeps that happen at the end of each half are meant to look dramatic, but usually just look silly. With some tweaking (or game testing) Showtime could have been great, but instead it's just so-so. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
NCAA College Football 2K2
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Reviewing this game after
playing EA's NCAA College Football 2004
on the Playstation 2, I'm quite amazed at how well 2K2 has held up. You'd think the graphics would be a big step down, but that's not the case. As a matter of fact, the players look cleaner and the grass and crowd look even more realistic in 2K2. Some of the animations, like runners getting tripped up around the ankles and receivers leaping high into the air aren't even present
in the newer college football games. Playing offense is a little tougher than I'd like it to be, but that just adds to the challenge. Using the Dreamcast VMUs, you have the option of selecting your plays from the viewport of your own controller, but that small window doesn't display much information, so you'll already need to be familiar with the plays before you try that. I do wish this game had included more option plays, which are a staple of most college team offenses. Thanks to the wide-ranging trigger buttons of the Dreamcast controller, the instant replay feature is a pleasure to use, letting you adjust the speed of each playback with precision. The stereo sound is used to good effect, as you'll hear voices yelling from multiple directions before the ball is hiked. NCAA 2K2's play-by-play features two commentators who are somewhat boring but usually accurate. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of NCAA College Football 2K2. Not only is it a terrific Dreamcast sports game, but it even stands up to more recent football titles. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1999)
The initial crop of Dreamcast titles were impressive, but this game was the first to garner widespread media attention. NFL 2K was light years ahead of other football games of its time, offering a degree of visual and audio splendor comparable to an actual NFL telecast. When watching the computer play itself, it was like watching a real game!
The ultra-detailed graphics reveal creases in player jerseys and amazing "breath" in cold temperatures. 2K's responsive, intuitive controls make it easy to pick up and play. The standard behind-the-quarterback view isn't the most dramatic camera angle, but it's easily the most playable. The gameplay is no joke. Runners react naturally to hits and receivers wrap their hands around the ball. The limited tackle animations usually fall into two categories: ankle tackles and body slams
. I love how players display elation or frustration depending on the outcome of a play. You have the option of selecting plays via the controller VMU (to hide your selection), but since it only displays the name of the play (not the routes), you'll need to be an expert to use it effectively. NFL 2K incorporates a fantastic instant replay system that utilizes the analog shoulder buttons to give you perfect control of the playback speed. Usually I struggle to use instant replay systems, but this one feels surprisingly natural. Two broadcasters provide timely and realistic play-by-play and color commentary, often playfully bantering with each other in the process. They rarely repeat themselves, but some may object to their use of the word "damn". The game makes effective use of TV-style graphics to highlight players or statistics. The main problem with NFL 2K is its ineffective running game, which makes it nearly impossible to bust a long run. Another issue is how passes tend to "float" since you can't adjust their velocity. You'll want to make sure your receiver has plenty of room before heaving the ball. Your playbook is limited, so if you're a blitz-happy defense, your options will be limited. 2K also lacks extraneous bells and whistles such as a half-time show or cheerleaders. I recently revisited this game with my friend Scott, and we were amazed how well it's held up. With its no-nonsense interface and arcade-style gameplay, NFL 2K actually compares quite favorably to Madden 10! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2000)
At first glance Sega appears to have "pulled a Madden" with NFL 2K1, re-releasing the same basic game except with updated rosters. Further investigation however reveals that NFL 2K1 represents a substantial improvement. First and foremost the running game is easier. Thanks to better blocking and runningbacks that fend off tacklers, you can really fight for yardage and occasionally break a big gain. The new juke move is welcome, but hitting both triggers to initiate it seems odd. When passing, you can now throw the ball at different speeds, but it would be difficult to classify the hardest as a "bullet". The kicking game has also been upgraded thanks to a directional arrow that now moves with the wind, adding a bit more challenge. New animations include receivers who make spectacular leaps to snatch passes and then spin around when hit. Defenders apply more realistic tackles and attempt to knock down low passes. Runners fight to maintain their balance, and occasionally are able to regain their footing. Opposing players can get into shoving matches, and I like how the linemen on one team will clap when the other side draws a penalty. A nice variety of penalties are called, but it takes the referee too long to specify which side is at fault. The overall presentation is superb, with beautiful replays, statistical graphics, and a sports ticker at the bottom of the screen. On occasion however the flashy graphics appear prematurely and get in the way. The solid, two-man play-by-play team are a little less outrageous this year, but still deliver spirited commentary. I always find it amusing how they pause when stating the score ("It's the Ravens [pause] ten, the Steelers [pause] seven.") The guitar music that blares after a score sounds a heck of a lot like U2's Vertigo
- a tune that wouldn't be written for many years to come! NFL 2K1 was also notable as being the first football game to support on-line play. The CPU difficulty could be tweaked a bit, but for sheer playability, NFL 2K1 could be ranked among the greatest pigskin titles of all time. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2001)
By the time NFL 2K2 was released, the franchise was no longer the spectacle it once was, and Sega was closing down shop on the Dreamcast. Even so, NFL 2K2 offers some slick refinements including better graphics, improved animations, and team-specific playbooks. The players look far less angular this year, and players are different sizes depending on their position. Quarterbacks and receivers tend to be thinner, while the linemen are usually big and bulky. The user interface feels different but it's not necessarily an improvement. One useful new feature is the "bluff" mode which allows you to disguise your play selection when playing against a friend. NFL 2K2's ground game puts Madden to shame as runningbacks fight off tacklers and roll off defenders, resulting in plays worthy of the instant replay (imagine that!). Tipped balls are prevalent, but the game sometimes has difficulty differentiating fumbles from incomplete passes. In one my games a player was injured and writhing in pain in the middle of the field. Finally a teammate ran over to him in an apparent effort to help, but instead of lending a hand he he carefully stepped around the poor chump and continued towards the sideline. Too funny! 2K2's two-man commentating is far more insightful than anything you'll find in Madden, but what's the deal with the volume levels? Their voices seem to fade in and out, and it can be annoying. The game supports up to eight players on-line. NFL 2K2 continued the steady progression of the series, and it's one heck of a football game. After this, the 2K series enjoyed a short stint on the Xbox platform before Electronic Arts instituted its infamous NFL monopoly. Play NFL 2K2 if you want to remember how much better things used
to be! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1999)
I loved the original NFL Blitz
(Playstation, 1998) but this ill-advised sequel takes the franchise in the wrong direction. Blitz made a name for itself with simple controls, arcade graphics, frantic action, and rampant unsportsmanlike conduct. This 2000 edition takes things a little too far however. The graphics are clean and well defined, with lush turf that looks exceptionally sharp. Your playbook is limited to a modest number of pass plays, and selecting them using the over-sensitive analog stick is a pain. On the field, the action is a little too
fast for it's own good! After hiking the ball you need to get rid of it almost immediately or you'll find your quarterback being body-slammed into the turf. Receivers get minimal separation, resulting in an inordinate number of interceptions and fumbles. Blitz 2000 needlessly complicates the controls by incorporating an additional button - the right trigger. For the life of me, I'm still
not sure what the hell that's supposed to do! The left trigger is now used to initiate turbo. The original Blitz game was well balanced, but NFL Blitz 2000 feels out of kilter. The flying helmets and 10-yard dives are fun, but the 80-yard field goals and constant turnovers are tiresome. The lines tossed out by commentators (and players) are amusing at first, but they get on your nerves once they start repeating. I enjoyed the photos of drop-dead gorgeous cheerleaders on the statistical screens, but they are very much underused. Blitz 2000 was extremely hard to review, not only due to its breakneck pace, but the fact that there's no pause
function, making it really hard to take notes. All in all, it left me with the distinct impression that the series had jumped the shark. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (2000)
NFL Blitz 2001 offers a wealth of new features including create-a-team, create-a-player, new stadiums, expanded playbooks, mini-games, and updated rosters. Sadly, nobody really gives a [expletive]!
Blitz has always been all about head-to-head football action, and these extraneous features do little more than clutter up the main menu. Fortunately, NFL Blitz 2001 is more fun than the last year's edition, mainly because it's slower
. You now have reasonable time to pass the ball, and receivers actually get open on occasion. The control scheme has been simplified, but having to use the left trigger for turbo is awkward! The graphics have allegedly been overhauled, but to be honest I couldn't tell the difference. The playbook is much bigger, and the cheerleaders on the load screens are definitely hot. The zany one-liners and hysterical "after the whistle" late-hits are back, but they are largely unchanged from last year. The turnovers are still too frequent, and in a single play I once witnessed three fumbles!
Also, the field goals are so freakin' long that they actually appear to hit the sky
on occasion! That's pretty high! And is there a reason why the names on the team selection screen aren't in alphabetical order? That's just stupid. NFL Bltz 2001 can't stand up to the original Blitz, but it's still the best one you'll find for your Dreamcast. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
NFL Quarterback Club 2000
Publisher: Acclaim (1999)
I didn't expect Quarterback Club 2000 (QB2K) to give NFL 2K a serious run for the money, but nothing could have prepared me for this steaming pile of dung. Acclaim must have paid Brett Favre some serious dough to plaster his image on the cover. At first glance, QB2K doesn't look half bad. The players are well proportioned but their rough edges give the game the look of a PS1 title. Upon breaking from the huddle, the players all wave their arms in unison like a flock of geese!
After witnessing a single play I had already compiled a laundry list of flaws. The animation is choppy and the frame-rate stutters. Players pause momentarily before responding to your commands. Receivers approach the ball at odd angles, and defenders seem oblivious to what's going on around them. I'm not sure what the mindset was behind the control scheme, but it seems as if the developers were trying to be different for the sake of being different
. When running with the ball, the A button functions as a "brake", and I can't imagine
why anyone would ever
want to use that. Catching a pass requires you to hold in the X button, and it really takes a lot of practice to get the timing right. After an incomplete pass you never know if it was you or the receiver at fault. The kicking system is inordinately complicated, and it's funny how the nets behind the goalposts appear to rise about 500 feet into the air. QB2K's commentary is sparse and full of mistakes. As an example, I heard the commentator say Jermaine Lewis "is back to punt", instead of "back to receive
the punt." An ear-splitting whistle is blown with annoying regularity, and the referee runs around like he has a large pole up his butt. QB2K's main claim to fame is its celebrations, but these are unspectacular and it's irritating how you can't skip the extended showboating. The lone highlight of QB2K is its a half-time show featuring cheerleaders forming letters on the field. When that's all a football game has going for it, it's time to head back to the drawing board. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
NFL Quarterback Club 2001
Publisher: Acclaim (2000)
The first Quarterback Club was an unmitigated disaster, but could Acclaim get their act together one year later? Not really! Quarterback Club 2001's graphics have been cleaned up and the running game is stronger, but the same substandard game engine continues to hamper the action on the field. The most notable graphic improvement is the fact that the players are different sizes, with linemen being thicker than quarterbacks and wide receivers. The play-calling interface is also cleaner and easier to read. Interesting bells and whistles include chain measurements and players on the bench that react appropriately to their team's performance. I was pretty excited to see the chain gang make a measurement, until I realized there was no chain attached to the markers!
The action on the field unfolds at turbo speed, but player movements are still jerky and unpredictable. During play-action passes, the quarterback has to go a long way (several steps) to fake the hand-off, making him vulnerable to sacks. After each play, unnecessary text is displayed recapping the play, and you'll get tired of hitting A to bypass it. The control scheme has been improved, but that's not saying much. It's no longer required to hit X to catch the ball, but it does improve your chances of pulling in a reception. When running, the A button is now used for a shoulder-charge, which makes a lot of sense but is not particularly effective. The CPU can run the ball well, but he's no fun to play because he takes forever
to snap the freakin' ball! At least the game is easy to make fun of. Check out the "Play Football" banner hanging near the end zone. Some imaginative fan was probably up all night working on that one. Quarterback Club 2001 emphasizes celebrations, and it's unintentionally hilarious to watch the kicker
shamelessly gallivant around the field after converting a long field goal. The half-time show, which was the single memorable part of the last game, has been unceremoniously axed. Brett Favre once again adorns the cover, but we'll try not to hold it against him, because that guy is awesome. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2000)
Like Sega's NFL 2K and NBA 2K, this is a huge step up from Playstation-quality sports games. The game features photo-realistic players, easy controls, and fast gameplay. Amazing details include ice scrapes and skate sprays. Even the fights are fun to watch. The game has an arcade sensibility to it, so it's easy to pick up and play. Unfortunately, the frame rate gets choppy at times, and it can be hard to keep track of the puck during quick one-timer plays. Passing is no problem, although it can be difficult to thread the needle because defenders can easily intercept the puck. The sound is mediocre. The crowd noise isn't noticeable, and the commentators are much less interesting than the NFL or NBA games. But the biggest flaw with NHL 2K is the difficulty in scoring. No matter what skill level you play, scoring goals is like pulling teeth. It's not unusual to have more shattered glass or shots off the posts than goals in a game. I played a 0-0 tie with over 100 shots taken combined. Needless to say, not being able to score is frustrating. Another letdown is the lack of rumble pack support. This game would have been perfect for that, especially with all the body checks and fighting. C'mon Sega, get your act together. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2002)
After a two-year hiatus, Sega finally has a new hockey game, and all things considered, it's a disappointment. You really can't fault the visuals; the graphics here are as good as any other hockey game out there. The reflections of the players on the ice look good, and the only visible blemish is the pixelated 2D crowd. During the game, I like how the camera is pulled way back to emphasize gameplay over graphic detail. And unlike NHL 2K, the frame rate remains smooth even in the midst of frenzied action. The physics is impressive - it's incredible how the puck bounces and spins after deflecting off the goalie. And thanks to the wide view and crisp controls, passing the puck is a joy. While the graphics and options have been upgraded substantially, the gameplay is still lacking. It's too easy to lose control of the puck once you get it. It seems like another player just needs to brush up against you to knock it loose. But the worst aspect of the game is the body checking. Maybe it's the understated sound effects, or maybe I've been playing too much NHL Hitz, but these checks seem awfully soft! Making matters worse, the announcers play up these weak collisions by yelling stuff like "Wow!! He was hit HARD!!" And I'm thinking "Where? In the parking lot before the game?" In general, the two commentators do a poor job. Their comments are often idiotic ("Do I see little birds circling his head?") and sometimes completely wrong ("What an amazing save!"). On a positive note, the option menus are loaded, and you can now choose jerseys, adjust the game speed, or set the fighting frequency. The control scheme is well designed, with advanced controls that let you dump the puck, deflect, sidestep, or poke dive. You also have the option to control the goalie, but I don't see this improving your chances. NHL 2K2 is respectable, but it probably wasn't worth the wait. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NG:Dev Team (2014)
I nearly mis-
reviewed this new shooter from the good people at NG:Dev Team after mistaking it for side-scroller. In fact this is a conventional vertical shooter with the horizontal mode set as its default
. Neo XYX lets you spray projectiles and unleash screen-sized fireballs on big, fat mechanical beasts. The parade of adversaries is relentless, but their waves of projectiles aren't as insane as other "bullet hell" titles. The pink bullets are well-defined and there's always a window for escape. It helps that the collision detection is forgiving and there's hardly any slowdown. At first Neo XYX wasn't quite "clicking" with me, but I couldn't figure out why. I found the graphics surprisingly pixelated. Once I switched to the vertical display mode however, it was like night and day. The game doesn't fill up the screen (only the middle section), but the condensed action sharpens the graphics and gives you a much
better perspective. Be sure to pay attention to the "how to play" screen to learn how the chains work. When you miss a chain a word bubble next to your ship says "DOH!" like Homer Simpson. Racking up a high score is fun, especially since it saves your initials along with best scores. What Neo XYX is lacking is imagination. Your enemies are cookie-cutter and the stages are nothing to write home. Heck, in the first two it looks like you're flying over green cesspools!
The visuals improve with the shimmering water of stage three, but the general lack of eye candy is disappointing. Using continues lets you progress deep into the game, but it won't let you to rank in. The intro and game over screens feature some neat sci-fi art, but the music is so-so. I seem to have a lot of complaints about Neo XYX, but I can't stop playing it so I guess it can't be all that bad. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Nightmare Creatures II
Publisher: Konami (2000)
Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I tend to enjoy scary games even when the gameplay is a little weak. If you enjoyed the first Nightmare Creatures (Playstation), you'll be happy to know that this edition provides plenty more frantic action, weird monsters, and creepy locales. For those new to the series, Nightmare Creatures is part exploration and a whole lot of fighting. You wander around dilapidated old buildings and dark streets, picking up objects and power-ups between battles with monsters. Like the first game, the atmosphere is extremely dark and foreboding, and the Dreamcast's graphic power makes the locations look even more eerie. The buildings are nicely detailed, and each room has its own distinctive look. Bloodcurdling sound effects like crashing thunder, rain, creaking doors, and rattling chains add to the experience. The cover of the game boasts music by Rob Zombie, but thankfully that's limited to the title screen. The in-game music is sparse but effectively bone-chilling. Exploring the linear levels is fun, but the fighting system is weak. It lacks technique and gets pretty repetitive. Most of the combat is of the button-mashing variety, and you are forced to perform fatalities whether you want to or not. The rumble pack is supported, but it tends to be either off or running at full rattle. It got so annoying I turned it off. There's another problem that I've also encountered in other games: When given the choice of Continue or Quit, you can't tell which color is the "select" color. Despite its flaws, Nightmare Creatures still delivers its share of creepy arcade action. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Shinforce, Sega.com, Racket Boy, Wikipedia, GameSpot