September 9th, 1999: a day which lives in infamy not only for the release of Sega’s next-gen Dreamcast console, but also the launch of what would become EA Sports’ largest rival throughout the years.
Due to EA’s reluctance to publish on Sega’s new console, the latter sought out a developer to create their own football franchise. Coincidentally, the developer which Sega settled on, Visual Concepts, was tapped by EA to create the first Madden football game on Sony’s PlayStation.
Instead, the game saw tons of delays and was ultimately canceled – which opened the doors for Sony’s in-house NFL Gameday to gain record sales with EA unable to release a Madden title on that console until the following year – and without Visual Concepts as the developer.
Visual Concepts bounced to Sega and provided the Dreamcast with its own exclusive pro football game, NFL 2K. It quickly became the chief competitor to Madden until EA later acquired exclusive rights to the NFL license.
But until then, the 2K football games gave Madden a run for its money – and it shined early on with the first edition.
Returning to this game years later, I can really appreciate how advanced it was for its time. Some of the things I took for granted in the PS2 era of Madden games is included with 2K: the player’s association branding with names for most of the roster, real-time stats and instant replays, every team and stadium (incredibly detailed down to player names on the jerseys) and even seamless commentary that makes sense (mostly) for what you’re watching on-screen.
There’s audibles, a decent-sized playbook, penalties (with referees drawn and rendered making the relevant calls) and just so much more, its no wonder this game was a hit – and reliving some of the classic teams and rosters as of this review in 2021, I found myself glued to the game still.
I’m looking forward to reviewing more football games, but in the annals of classics and hits, NFL 2K earned, and deserves, its reputation. For the budding Dreamcast retro scene, this is still a must-play.