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NFL Quarterback Club '98

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Let me start off by saying that I'm very much a die-hard pro football fan. I'm not necessarily a college football fan, but I love the National Football League. Because of my love for the sport, I'm in three different football leagues, including the ownership of two fantasy football teams and a league in which we pick against the spread. Heck, I'm so much of a fan that I even watch full exhibition games. I'll also note that I live in Western Pennsylvania and that my favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. With all of the background information out of the way, I'm now going to tell you why NFL Quarterback Club '98 for the Nintendo 64 is nowhere near as good as some make it out to be. First, I'd like to say that I think it's great Acclaim is starting to turn it around thanks to the Nintendo 64. It's great to see the tremendous sales and publicity that it is experiencing. It's also nice to see the company making very good games now. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that four out of five Web sites and/or magazines are hyping the heck out of this game for all the wrong reasons. Sure, NFL Quarterback Club '98 looks amazing, but when you begin to examine it on a much deeper level, the flaws start to appear, especially against EA Sports' Madden 64. Upon firing up NFL Quarterback Club '98, the game is immediately less impressive than Madden 64. There are no real-time introductions and the music doesn't get the blood pumping. However, the actual front end (i.e., navigating through the menus) definitely looks better than Madden 64. As far as all the options and modes go, both games are basically the same -- with one exception. NFL Quarterback Club '98 has a cool "historical simulation" mode that lets you try to change NFL history. This helps bring up the gameplay and lastablility a notch. When it comes to controlling your players, NFL Quarterback Club '98 is both better and worse than Madden 64 in some ways. In the department of being better, there are a few cool individual moves that help escalate the total football experience. For example, you can shift the defensive line to the left or right before the ball is snapped. There's also a special button that lets you anticipate the call with a jump. You can pretty much do this for an individual player with the Control Pad or Stick in Madden 64, but it's nice to have the whole defensive unit anticipate the snap. In addition to those two moves, there is better "hut" faking in NFL Quarterback Club '98 and there is a button for a pump fake. On the other hand, the movement, button placement, and overall feel of the control isn't as sweet as it is in Madden 64. For instance, an abundance of pass interference calls makes it difficult to defense a pass yourself. Also, because the game is too slow, it's not even fun to run the ball. That also makes it harder to pursue the person with the ball and make some quick cuts. Oh yeah, NFL Quarterback Club '98 forces you to use the Control Stick (Z is hike/pass button). It's used pretty well, but I use the Control Pad in Madden 64 and would like the option immediately available. But the problems don't stop there. First of all, why does the ball hover in the air on a pass? Nearly every ball thrown, whether short or long, acts like a hail mary. That greatly destroys the gameplay balance. In fact, because of this it's way too easy to catch passes. I was thunderstruck to see a receiver catch many balls in triple coverage! And as I mentioned above, it's too difficult to defend the pass on defense. This little boo-boo leads to way too much scoring, because everyone will just keep on passing. Second, when the receiver doesn't catch the ball, why does the ball pop out nearly every time like the guy was run over by a freight train? Give me a break. Third, I know I mentioned this before, but I'm going to mention it again: the game is too slow. Madden 64 is at least twice as fast as this game -- and not just during the gameplay. For whatever reason, there appears to be a slight but very annoying delay before you can select certain things. Here are a few other quirks/negatives: There is way too much text after a play is completed. Sheesh, I don't want to read all of that. Just give me what I need to know like Madden 64. Also, because of the high-resolution graphics, some of the text is just too small to read. Speaking of text, why give the opponent an edge by putting the name with a play? My guess is that they needed to fill up the screen because of the high-resolution mode. And now that we're talking about the playbook, I will point out that some of NFL Quarterback Club '98's individual plays are cooler, but Madden 64's playbook style and selection scheme are better. Plus, why can't I select my own kick/punt/return formations? There are some other things that aren't as good. For example, the instant replay function isn't as condensed and useful (much like the control) as Madden 64. There is no need for two separate sets of options. Speaking of instant replay, how come there isn't a cool automatic instant replay from multiple angles like Madden 64? Also, where are the on-screen statistics during the game like Madden 64? And for all its high-touting power of the NFL license, why aren't the fields more accurate? You can find the dirt infields from baseball in some stadiums in Madden 64, but not in NFL Quarterback Club '98. Just the general overall modeling of the stadiums is more accurate in Madden 64. Also, why on earth do all of the fields have the team's logo on each 35-yard-line and the NFL emblem on the 50-yard-line. All football stadiums aren't like that. Finally, where are the injury timeouts and why aren't there any pre-game notes? Graphically, NFL Quarterback Club '98 is light years ahead of Madden 64 -- in static screenshots, that is. Once the game is in motion, numerous flaws become apparent. First, the game is just too slow. Second, there is a painful lack of animation compared to Madden 64. I don't know about you, but I rather see a plethora of animation in a lower resolution than badly animated high-resolution graphics. In all honesty, they should get rid of the digitized pictures of the players and use that extra space for more animation. NFL Quarterback Club '98 is noticeably worse than Madden 64 when it comes to the sound, too. The music sucks, but that doesn't really matter in a football game. What brings the game down is Marv Albert's commentary. I don't care about his little troubles, but what I care about is that his commentary is boring, repetitive and uninteresting unlike Madden 64's duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden. Calling players by number is useless. Despite all of the flaws, there are a few good things about NFL Quarterback Club '98. First of all, the actual number of weather settings is greater than Madden 64. You can choose from auto, fair, rain, snow, hot, windy and cold. And what's really cool is that you can see the player's breath when you are playing in the cold. Second, it's cool that the game has wrap tackles like NFL GameDay '98 on the PlayStation. But this doesn't make or break a football game. Third, you get automatic injury updates on the screen. In Madden 64 you have to go to a special menu option to find out. When it's all said and done, NFL Quarterback Club '98 doesn't even come close to matching Madden 64, Madden 98, or NFL GameDay '98 in terms of realism, gameplay, intelligence and control. The only thing it got over its competitors is the high-resolution mode (and the NFL license over Madden 64). And using that video mode obviously had its drawbacks. NFL Quarterback Club '98 certainly isn't terrible, as it will appeal to many casual football fans, but it's certainly nowhere near as good as it's hyped to be. Take it from one football fan to another, do yourself a favor and get Madden 64.

Graphics: 4.7 out of 5 Sound: 2.9 out of 5 Control: 3.8 out of 5 Gameplay: 3.2 out of 5 Lastability: 3.8 out of 5 Overall: 3.5 out of 5

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