This marks the second appearance of Play Under Review at GameCritics.com. If you’re unfamiliar with this feature, we try and give general impressions of several sports-related videogames. Generally, sports videogames don’t get main reviews here, mainly because of the common role of straight simulation. This is our way of giving more exposure to sports games.
This week, we’ll cover one of the earlier sports games for the PlayStation 2, which is also our first arcade-style sport game that we’ve covered here. We’ll also take a look at one of the Formula One games for the PlayStation 2, as well as the latest college football game from EA.
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing Round 2
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing Round 2 is a perfect example of an arcade-style videogame. Rather than attempting a straight simulation of the sweet science, Round 2 instead concentrates on offering up a variety of cartoonish characters engaging in up-tempo brawling.
Certain aspects of Round 2 work well enough. The characters are fairly well-designed and entertaining, if a little overly stereotypical in terms of racial parodies. The fighting system is simplistic and therefore, easy to learn.
But therein lies the problem. The combat system is far too simplistic, to the point where a single good learned combo is enough to advance the player through all the single-player battles. When fighting against a friend, it won’t really matter if one person has played the game a hundred times more, as button-mashing stands just as good a chance of carrying the day as careful planning. When there is no inner complexity to the gameplay, there is no reason for the player to play the game consistently, as the challenge ceases to exist.
This means that while Round 2 is a serviceable game for a quick multi-player session, it’s not something you’re going to spend a lot of time with by yourself. Add to this the fact that there are quite a number of better multi-player games for the PlayStation 2, and Round 2 is likely to be gathering a lot of dust on your shelf.
Another problem is that although the PlayStation 2 is nominally a more powerful machine than the Dreamcast, the PlayStation 2 Round 2 is noticeably uglier than the DC version, especially in terms of the character models.
It’s hard to fault Round 2 for what it tries to do, but it is relatively easy to fault it on the execution. What could have been an enjoyable arcade take on boxing winds up being a one-trick pony.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
Formula One 2001
Developer: Studio Liverpool
Formula One is a racing competition that still remains largely unknown to the average American. However, given its popularity in Europe, games get made that attempt to simulate the competition. Formula One 2001 is the offering from Sony’s 989 Studios.
Formula One 2001 offers you a good selection of options, from a Quick Race to the chance to drive an entire Formula One season as a specific driver. All the teams and famous drivers from F1 are on display here, and those who follow Formula One will appreciate the little touches, such as Michael Schumacher banging you around as you try and pass him.
This game definitely has some influence from Gran Turismo, although sadly, not in terms of graphics. Driving these cars is a steep learning curve, even with the easiest difficulty setting. All too often, the car will run straight into a wall as it careens off the course. Using your brakes in this game is absolutely essential. Players used to the ‘never step off the gas’ gameplay of many driving games will be at sea here. The real gearhead portions of the game will be a delight to race fans, as you can modify nearly everything on your car and test out your changes with laps around faithfully recreated Formula One tour stops. There’s nothing like lowering your car and fiddling with gears, then seeing your changes have an impact on the tarmac.
However, once you have figured out what’s going on, the game turns out to be far too forgiving. It’s possible to pull out of spins and to correct egregious driving mistakes with a minimum of effort. Those who are familiar with Formula One will recognize that the game ultimately wimps out in terms of simulating F1 cars, which require years of training to drive and are incredibly unforgiving in terms of mistakes.
Graphically, Formula One 2001 is competent without being spectacular. There isn’t much in the way of slowdown, and the game seems capable of handling a track full of cars without draw-in, but nothing really catches your eye. The cars are fairly bland and the tracks do nothing to attract your attention. The weather effects are the one noticeably impressive graphical achievement in the game, but they don’t make up for the overall visual mediocrity of the title.
NCAA Football 2003
NCAA Football 2003 is the latest college football title to come from the juggernaut of the sports game world, EA Sports. Featuring all of the Division 1-A teams, as well as a slew of the smaller ones (and a create-your-own-college feature), the game has a wealth of different squads to choose from.
NCAA Football 2003 uses an older engine than the one used in the latest Madden game. Although this may sound bad, it actually winds up working quite well. The game is much slower, and you’re more dependent on your best players and breaking big plays. The feeling that is imparted is very close to the college game, which, as any gridiron fan will tell you, is a far cry from the NFL.
One of the biggest gameplay differences is the option, which is redone in this edition. The new option controls are superb, as are the defensive controls added so as to allow you the possibility of stopping option teams.
Graphically, NCAA Football 2003 is solid, but not spectacular. The uniforms could stand to look a little better, and wear and tear on the field could have been better done. Generally, the title is fine graphically, but nothing that stuns the player. There’s also some slowdown when you have a large amount of onscreen players all moving at the same time. Although somewhat annoying, this does not have any impact on the gameplay.
Like most of the EA franchises, NCAA Football 2003 has a wealth of options available to the player. Probably the most interesting is the Dynasty mode, where you attempt to manage a college program over the course of many seasons. It’s great fun to recruit your next incoming group of players and to manage your team by red-shirting those players you think might need more seasoning.
Because the gameplay and management strategies are so different from those you see in the NFL, NCAA Football 2003 is an excellent game to have even for those who already have a next-gen NFL football title. College football fans will get a kick out of the true-to-life gameplay.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.