Wednesday, July 19, 2006


EA Sports, for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC
rated E for Everyone, $39.99.

"NFL Head Coach" is what is known in some circles (namely my own) as "niche publishing."

To put it another way, this is a video game that’s best appreciated by a select few. Specifically, the football nerd.

This isn’t a football game for casual fans or devoted supporters of a particular team, no sir. This is a game exclusively for hardcore armchair quarterbacks: those who pore over charts, quote statistics and spend their free time drafting their own fantasy league. You know who you are.

For those folks, "Head Coach" must sound like a dream come true. Here’s their very own chance to take the reins behind a major NFL franchise and tweak just about every aspect of it.

The main section of the game is the Career Mode, where you start from the ground up, designing the look of your coach and then interviewing with several teams.

Once someone’s hired you, you follow the coach’s odyssey from the re-signing period to postseason, fussing over every niggling little detail along the way.

Should you, for example, trade with the Bears for their cornerback? Listen to your scout’s draft picks or choose your own? Chide your players during training camp or give them specific strategies for each play? Design your own plays or stick with the ones provided? And so on and so forth.

The problem with "NFL Head Coach" is that it assumes you already know quite a bit about football and have no problem retrieving annoyingly specific facts from your memory. Besides needing to know every rule and what every position does, you’ll be expected to remember who plays what on your team.

For example, during a game you’ll see a list of who the most tired players currently are. You can thus make a substitution, but only if you remember that Joe Mucinfutz is the defensive linebacker, since the game won’t remind you of his position or number.

I confess the game left me lost in its morass of menus and statistics. But then, questions about finding a proper position for your tight end is more likely to get sniggers from me than anything else.

And the loading times! Have I mentioned the loading times? Oh, I simply must. Even when being generous, the load times are excruciatingly long. How long? Well, let’s just say I got to get quite a bit of reading in.

"NFL Head Coach" is designed for a specific group of people and is downright unfriendly to anyone who doesn’t fall in that category.

If you’re the sort of person who gets the most out of micromanaging sports teams, then this game will make you immensely happy. But woe betide you if you aren’t.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


At 5:58 PM, Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

This sounds right up my alley, but at the same time, the faults you noted are exactly the kinds of things I was worried about when EA scored the exclusive license. I might have to rent it first, or wait for it to drop to $20.

Which year's roster does it work from? It's oddly timed, so I'm assuming 2005.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Chris Mautner said...

I'd have to double-check to be 100 percent certain, but yes, I believe it is the 2005 roster.

Yeah, I would definitely rent it first. I'm sure your local Blockbuster has a copy. It's EA after all.


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