All-Pro Football 2K8 impressions

Posted July 21st, 2007 at 4:23 am
Warren Moon APF 2K8

I’ve never been a big fan of reviews. Basically I don’t believe in the use of an arbitrary number to describe a game. I’ve always felt that impressions, and laying out important details, were much more important. I don’t feel that my opinion should be taken as a reason to purchase or pass on a particular game. However if my thoughts help someone make a decision one way or the other, it will have been for the right reasons.

Media sites will do reviews and the use the number system because it works for them even if it doesn‘t make any sense for gamers. They get entered into Metacritic and Gamerankings that way. A score at the end is basically meaningless because there is no standard, unless scores are relatively consistent over several reviews which can paint a better picture. However these reviews often tailor themselves to the casual gamers not the hardcore, and sometimes they’re just factually wrong. And who is to say what a constitutes an 8 to two different people? How do you know whether one reviewer weighs fun factor more heavily in an overall score than another? It just doesn’t work. Yet places will continue to use a number system because it benefits themselves, and readers will continue to obsess over the numbers that are handed out.

My goal is to simply tell you my feelings on a game. I’ll try and present info and experiences that are helpful if you are making a decision. One thing media sites generally do is review games without actually playing the online modes. They’ll review what they’ve been told is available, but won’t actually give insight into whether they work or are any good. That’s why reviews never mentioned the distance based lag problems that plagued EA Sports titles in the past or the broken leagues in 2K Sports games. You can go back to my report on The BIGS online play for an example of a game that was never really discussed in the detail it should have been. Or even NCAA Football 08 which IGN called the online experience for “solid“ but most everyone is having horrendous problems with.

If I do include a score, that score is only based on my personal feeling on the game. I don’t believe in giving a score that represents the game for everyone out there. Certain things matter more to me than they might to someone else and vice versa.

So that being said, read on for my review impressions of All-Pro Football 2K8. My final impressions of NCAA Football 08 will follow soon.

The main element of APF 2K8 that I was looking forward to was the shaping of the teams. Strategically selecting the legends appealed to me. So as soon as the game launched it was time to get into it. I hadn’t charted out who I would select, but had an idea of what type of players and what positions I would be targeting. I wanted to tailor the team to my strengths and how I liked to play football games.

I generally attempt to play an efficient West Coast Offense style. So I wanted a good QB, a decent RB with pass catching skills, and at least two reliable wide receivers who preferably would have the possession ability. On defense I take on the “bend don’t break” philosophy so I wanted to try and secure a good secondary that wouldn’t give up big plays. If I could also solidify the offensive line to help me have time in the passing game that would be a plus. Finally I wanted to grab a legend at kicker, since I tend to struggle once I get to the red zone.

Here is my squad: QB Warren Moon (G), CB Rod Woodson (G), HB Chris Warren (S), WR Irving Fryar (S), T Mike Munchak (S). FS Eugene Robinson (B), ILB Ken Norton Jr. (B), DE Clyde Simmons (B), DT William Perry (B), WR Rob Moore (B), K Jeff Jaeger (B).

APF 2K8 lineup

I had concerns about how you can tell who is better at what outside of what special abilities they have. That still stands true, however for my first team I just didn’t worry about it.

The rest of the team was filled in by the generic players. I took a pass blocking offensive line, a run support defensive line, and coverage at the LB, CB, and S positions.

It then moved on to coming up with the name of the team, their home stadium, and creating the uniform. I just went with the Seattle Orcas, playing at a new but relatively generic Landmark Coliseum, and didn’t make many changes to the uniforms which were already a Seattle-like Blue, neon green, and white. I’ve seen some great things being done with the uniform customization, and allowing for sharing of the codes is a neat idea. I just wish the codes weren’t so difficult to enter in as they are extraordinarily long and case sensitive.

The graphics for the game are marginal, but they’re not as poor as some have been describing them. They look excellent in replays and up close however the actual gameplay view definitely comes across as mediocre. The thing is that the graphics didn’t negatively affect the enjoyment of the game. It may not be the strength of the game certainly, but they’re decent enough to get by. I found there to be some collision detection issues. Nothing that really affected the game but visually they stood out.

Presentation wise I somewhat like the Field Pass. I prefer on-the-field action and reaction vs. generic cut scenes. Still I found myself skipping the Field Pass elements even during my first game playing. It just doesn’t do much for me. I was quite impressed with the post-game show, with the highlights that are shown and the commentary that goes on throughout. When it comes to commentary its pretty good, certainly better than Madden’s radio announcer. However those who played NFL 2K5 may find it too familiar as not much has changed from then.

The atmosphere of the game is very good. While I’m not a fan of the over-the-top stadiums, they don’t come across as too intrusive which was my main concern. The crowd seems to get into the games and react at the right times. I’m not sure I understand the constant flashbulbs though. I can’t remember ever being at a football game and seeing that many. The interactive sidelines are neat, although it seemed odd to see a player walk into a coach and have him slide backwards like he was on ice. For the most part they’re well done. Certainly a big edge over the other football games in this area. I don’t believe APF has a built-in Home Field Advantage system. That is still something that is really important to me and I’ve been disappointed that it has been ignored with all the football games.

When it comes to the gameplay it’s easy to understand why so many people really enjoy this game. It is very fluid and it just feels right in many aspects. It take some time time to adjust as I’m used to playing Madden and NCAA Football and I still have yet to figure out everything that can be done.

Overall I did feel like the gameplay was a little slow and I can understand why I’ve been seeing the common suggestion of changing the setting to “fast”. I don’t think it’s a necessity to do so but it is probably a good option to consider.

I quickly learned to let the CPU drop my QB back by itself otherwise I would end up throwing off my back foot. This wasn’t because I wasn’t setting my feet, but the game didn’t react as quickly as I’ve been used to. And that is one thing I’ve found to be a little bit of a problem is how strong the momentum is. If you run your LB up towards the line of scrimmage before a play, be careful that you stop far short of it otherwise he’ll just continue on right into an offensive lineman for a penalty. It also has made playing manual defense a bit tougher as a LB or a DB. The players don’t feel all that reactive, feel a little heavy because of that momentum getting started and stopping. Although I have started to get the hang of it the more I play as I just have to stop their movement earlier than I would think would be necessary. 

The running game is definitely a plus. The blocking is very good from what I’ve seen. If the defense is in a Dime and the offense is in a running heavy formation, the RB is going to have big holes to choose from and the lineman seem to move to the next level to block well.

There is a sense of feeling rewarded for making a smart play or quick reaction, while if you make a mistake you’ll get punished for it. I liked the feeling of a true pocket for the QB. There did seem to be a lot of dropped potential interceptions. Legend or not, that can be somewhat frustrating when you know you forced the opposing QB to throw a bad pass but you still didn’t capitalize on it.

Right away I really liked the touch you could put on passes. Floating them high or throwing a bullet pass. Of course having Warren Moon helped here. But I had more control in this area than I was used to and seeing the variety was a positive thing.

The tackle animations are fantastic. The gang tackling does its job well and you have feel like you have control over it. The only thing that I don’t like about the tackling is how exaggerated the sound effects are.

A new system was put in place for kicking and punting that involves holding the right stick back until shortly before the kicker/punter is about to boot the ball, then pushing it forward. I’ve read that some people don’t like it, but I actually found it to be more challenging and at the same time more fun because of it. I’ve grown bored with normal kicking which is generally automatic. Of course I do have the benefit of playing with a legend at kicker. Even with a non-legend I was booming punts right away. I didn’t have any trouble getting the hang of it because I had read beforehand how the system was supposed to work.

I don’t mind the play selection setup, with choosing the d-line assignments followed by the rest of the defense. But it seemed like I didn’t have as wide of a variety of plays as I’m used to with the other games. I’m sure there is more there than I have seen, and I know that you can customize your playbook. That’ll probably be one of the next steps I take.

On to some minor gripes. The receiver icons are awful small, especially when trying to distinguish between RB and LB. I scored a TD one time but it never really gave me any indication of such. I actually thought I had come up short. So I picked a normal play and ran it, not realizing it was actually a 2-point conversion attempt. The ref is really ugly. Everyone in the game has crazy looking eyes. The player models still come across as scrawny especially in the arms. I still don’t care for the mashing of the button for turbo.

Now to a couple little things I liked. After the play there are some cool reactions such as defenders giving a pat on the helmet to a RB or players diving for a loose ball that was actual an incomplete pass. Those things give a sense of what you see at a real football game. The sports news and scores ticker is better than EA’s ESPN one showing not only scores but also AP headlines.

Of course along with all the positives I’ve discussed, the main drawback of the game is the lack of offline depth. Outside of just play now type games and practice, it only has a basic season mode and online play. So other than putting the teams together it doesn’t offer me much offline. In comparison, NCAA Football has practice and online, plus an incredibly deep Dynasty Mode and the very fun Campus Legend mode. It is practically several different games wrapped up into one. Longevity is certainly a concern with APF because of the empty experience offline. Yet I’ve never played NCAA Football past Madden’s release anyway. So if APF could do just as well filling that gap then it has done the job for me. For some people though that just isn’t going to be enough.

I played several games online and have to say that the experience was fantastic. The games played just as well as offline. There was no evidence of any lag at all. Having unique teams and uniforms made for another fun element. Luckily I got matched up with people who played the game right and it was a lot of fun. It did seem that the 5 minute quarters weren’t long enough though. I didn't catch if it was using an accelerated clock or what but I certainly didn’t feel as if I had enough possessions in the games. There was no playing field position and if you drop behind in a game I doubt that you would feel like there was much hope of coming back. They were all relatively low scoring and competitive for me so far.

One negative to online is in ranked games they force the auto-strafe to ON. Most everyone hates auto-strafe as it makes it much more difficult to play manual defense with anyone but a lineman. There has been a call to change this and hopefully 2K reacts and either turns it OFF or makes it optional.

The online leagues still don’t have websites. Not sure what is going on with that. I plan on starting up a league with buddies to test it out since all of 2K’s leagues in next-gen have been broken in one way or another.

There is no online co-op, which I was understanding was going to be included. That is somewhat of a letdown. The co-op in The BIGS is a lot of fun and really offers a completely unique playing experience.

Overall All-Pro Football 2K8 is certainly a solid offering and worthy of consideration. No doubt this is the game to get when comparing to NCAA Football 08 if you play heavily online. The experience is much more enjoyable and it offers the unique aspects of the game even online. For offline-centric gamers it may not offer enough to justify its $60 price tag.

I see this as a supplemental title to Madden (just as I do with NCAA Football). I think it has what it takes to fill the gap between now and Madden’s release. It looks like until then I’ll be playing APF online and playing NCAA Football offline with Campus Legend. It is questionable whether APF will hold any interest past the release of Madden. How long can the appeal of building a team by selecting legends last? How many people will be playing online a month from now? Will the leagues actually function as they’re supposed to? Will auto-strafe be turned off for ranked games? These are all questions I can’t really answer at this point. Regardless, for the time being I find this to be a satisfying game that I'll continue to play over the course of the next couple weeks.