August 2, 2007


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All-Pro Football 2k8 (360/PS3)
2k Sports, 2007
By Xander Scott

Imagine if you drank Pepsi, but never Coke, and one day Coke were able to buy exclusive rights to become the sole producer of cola-flavored beverages. As a brand-loyal Pepsi-ite, you’d be pretty ticked off at Coke, right?

In the world of NFL-branded videogames, that’s exactly what happened in 2005 when Electronic Arts opened the vaults and secured exclusive rights to NFL-branded teams and players for its hugely popular “Madden” franchise. In one stroke of the pen, EA had knocked its only true rival, 2K Sports, out of the business altogether.

Or so we thought. After skipping two years to try and figure out how to make an NFL-simulation game without NFL teams or players, 2K Sports is back on the scene with All-Pro Football 2K8. The solution 2K came up with was to go after retired players and sign every one they could get on the phone to an individual contract to use their likeness. The result is an impressive list of 240 former players including Hall-of-Famers like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders and Reggie White. Just about everyone you’d expect to see walk out of the proverbial cornfield is here, including O.J. Simpson, who is now finally able to take his quest for the real killers into the matrix.

Before you are able to play a down, the game walks you through the creation of your own team by selecting 11 of the former players, and the rest of the team is filled in with unlicensed no-names. Customization is meant to be the big selling point here, and getting to draw up your own fantasy team is a lot of fun. There are a ton of logos, color schemes and uniform choices and 30 creatively designed stadiums to call home. Our Manchester Demons opened the inaugural “APL” season in Wolfram & Hart Coliseum, which features a 60-foot statue of a monster by the southern end zone. Nice.

Unfortunately, in a game where customization is the chief calling card, there need to be a few more options. It’s a nice touch that the Manchester team is automatically dropped into the same four-team division as the Boston Minutemen, New York Knights and New Jersey Assassins. However, if your creativity knows no bounds, it could be frustrating not to be able to create a whole league of teams and customize the whole league top-to-bottom. Why can’t I relocate Dan Marino to the Miami team in my fake league if I so choose? Plus, Madden takes the time to flesh out every player on every 53-man roster in the NFL, and names and numbers can be changed on a whim. In 2K8, anyone aside from your 11 retirees is simply a faceless stiff; there are no trade options, and no way to add additional character to your team beyond your 11 hand-picked gladiators. That’s all stuff to hope for in 2K9.

Once you step onto the field, the 2K Sports rock-solid football engine takes center stage, and the game play some hard-core gamers swear is superior to Madden is still as robust as ever. For those who have been missing the football equivalent of Pepsi, that will be enough.

While’s there’s much to like here, Madden will remain the game of choice for the hardcore football fan. But, if you are football crazy enough to want something a little different, or if you are just tired of sitting down to play Patriots-Colts for the 458th time online, All-Pro Football is unique enough to be the best NFL alternative on the market. B- — Xander Scott