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by Acclaim Sports

18-01.jpg (6955 bytes)There seems to be no limit to the amount of sports titles a successful console system can support. But when it comes to football they’re all just competing with the Madden franchise, aren’t they? Certainly, this is the case with NFL QB Club 2002 on the Gamecube as it is currently the only other football game available on the system. While QB Club ’02 has its problems, and cannot rival Madden ’02 in the realm of sports sims, it does have an upside as a multiplayer party game due to its unique Quarterback Challenge games and simplistic gameplay.

04-01.jpg (8280 bytes)QB Club ’02 is your quintessential "lob and pray" football game. Try as you may, it simply does not get much deeper than that. There are times when you will throw a Hail Mary pass into triple coverage and walk away with a touchdown. At other times you will fire a short pass directly into the arms of your receiver and come up bust. Sure, this happens in real life, but not with this kind of random regularity (a befitting oxymoron). This is not a thinking man’s football game. There are no laws of physics guiding these passes, or the running game for that matter. Your runner can juke, and spin from one direction to the next, with no attention paid to momentum or gravity. To dumb things down a little bit more, it is also one of those games in which every team has a few magic plays. You know—those plays that regardless of the odds will always, somehow, magically result in a first down conversion or 80-yard touchdown run.

08-01.jpg (8359 bytes)You can choose to play a single game in Exhibition Mode, a Super Bowl bound Season, or an orchestrated one-play Simulation. Simulation allows you to create single situation events to see if you can pull off a 4th and goal against a certain team in severe weather, or even to re-create exciting moments in football history. You can do this by manipulating options like teams, stadium, possession, weather, time of day, quarter, time left, score, yards to go, etc. This is the kind of thing football trivia nuts will drool over.

14-01.jpg (8461 bytes)You will notice that a Franchise mode is absent from the list. This is a huge faux pas when you consider the immense popularity of the franchise sims in the Madden and NFL2K series. I chalk it up to the options fitting the gameplay. QB Club ’02 takes the simpler is better route by including a General Manager option in which you can trade and create players, but it seems a little half-hearted when you can’t spread it out over seasons and years like the other games.

11-01.jpg (8801 bytes)All of this amounts to a shallow and unsatisfying single player experience. On the other hand, it does lend itself well to a party game atmosphere where levels of experience may vary. As an example, I am not a hardcore Madden nut. So when I sit down to play with my friend who is, he obliterates me mercilessly for as long as I am willing to suffer through it. Madden is too deep for a novice to compete with a pro. The simple, more arcade-like gameplay of QB Club ’02 allows anyone to pick up a controller and lob and pray along side the owner of the game.

10-01.jpg (9055 bytes)The most unique feature of QB Club ’02 also adds to its party game appeal: The Quarterback Challenge. Football fans know what this is all about—quarterbacks compete by hurling footballs at targets, all in the name of sportsmanship, charity, and of course, fun. QB Club ’02 presents this in mini-game fashion, allowing up to four players to take part. There are four challenges in all, measuring the QB’s performance in terms of speed and mobility, accuracy, distance, and read and recognition. Players choose a QB from a list of current stars and retired legends. Each QB is rated according to speed, agility, acceleration, accuracy, and arm strength, and each comes with a customizable wardrobe (hat and sunglasses, shorts and shoes, that sort of thing). They then compete in each of the four challenges. For speed and mobility, players move through an obstacle course and throw a ball at the target. For accuracy, players move through three stations trying to bull’s eye several targets. The long distance throw is exactly what it sounds like. Read and recognition, the most complex of the challenges, requires players to hit moving targets which display pass tags representing eligible or ineligible receivers. The QB Challenges are by far the best part of this game, and something that you won’t get in all the other football titles out there.

15-01.jpg (9272 bytes)In terms of presentation, QB Club ’02 prides itself on giving you the goods in true TV fashion, and it succeeds with flashy cut scenes and good camera work. The graphics are nothing to brag about, however. The characters have great facial models, many scanned to look just like the real players, but the their bodies are blocky and unconvincing. Big players look like little players whose torsos have merely been stretched to fit their height. And their movement is bumbling at best. A player who is trying to leave the field, or merely maneuver past a referee will often get hung up, jittering and spinning like one of those old electric football board games. The stadiums look just like their real life counterparts, but the crowds are a big, fried, aliased mess, which is unexpected on the Gamecube.

03-01.jpg (9352 bytes)The sound effects are good, the crunch of a good tackle and thwack of a catch are what you would expect. The commentary lags behind the game at times, and is very repetitive, but I think we all expect that. I must say I was disappointed most by the lack of ambient noise in the stadium. The crowds do cheer but rarely chant, and I miss hearing the band play sports faves like the charge anthem or "Rock & Roll, Pt. 2" by Gary Glitter (the "hey" song). The games that include this do a better job of putting you into the stadium.

12-01.jpg (9721 bytes)The QB Club franchise has been around for a while, so it obviously has its followers. If you view it as a party game, it works pretty well, but its lack of any kind of depth makes for a lousy single player experience. The QB Challenges are the only shining elements of the game. As such, I can only recommend NFL QB Club 2002 to those diehard football fans that need that added element to their gameplay, or who are looking for a quick and easy pigskin game to share with their less fanatic friends.

Jeremy Kauffman   (04/02/2002)


Ups: Great for playing in groups; QB Challenges.

Downs: Very shallow gameplay; no franchise mode; mediocre player models.

Platform: Gamecube