“Buggy, tedious, but with Hidden Fun”

Ok, that line,which originally was my review tagline, may be – officially – the most cryptic tagline I’ve ever written for a review. Heck, I’m not sure what I wanted that to mean. We’ll delve into each part individually and try to make sense of a game that’s not sure what it wants to be, either.

First off, NFL Head Coach is a coaching sim. A beginner’s hard-core coaching sim. A hard-core sim in that you get deeply entrenched in numbers, stats, and details, but a beginner’s sim since it’s all laid out in a reletively simplistic manner. The gameplay is also explained in detail at every step along the way. However, all of that detail makes for some tedious gameplay. For one, it takes damn near forever to get to your first regular season game. Realistic? Maybe. Fun? No way. There’s no reason to make players sit through half a million “Office Time” sessions just to coach their first game. The average gamer will quit before they ever get to step on the field and see all of their hard work in action. That’s a real shame, since you will have invested a good hour or more (depending on how much you sim) in the workings of your team –  coaching, game planning, drafting, signing and trading – that you really deserve to see it come to fruition. Is it worth all of that work once you finally lead your team onto the field? Not as much as it should be.

You get onto the field with your squad and are met with graphics that are – simply put – ugly. The textures are poor, the models are weak, and there are jaggies everywhere you look. It’s also rather choppy, frame rate-wise. The field even looks tiny and cheap in comparison to Madden 07’s. Lastly, the physics are lousy. Even if it looks like crap, though, it could save itself with great gameplay. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have that safety net.

Calling plays is usually easy, but add in motivating your players, strategizing and managing from the sidelines all in real time with the play calling,  and you can really get stressed out. It is, though, a fairly accurate representation of the frantic job of a head coach. Still, when you’re telling your defensive line how to play the next drive and hear your home crowd boo and hiss, you frantically try to back out and see what the heck happened – but you’ll always be too late. An auto-replay, say on in-stadium jumbotrons, would be nice!

For all I complain, though, I did have some fun here. I did get a kick out of my lead role on the sidelines in-game and coddling my team’s progress. If they could shed some of the down time and clean up the play, EA Sports could have another great franchise on their hands. As it stands, though, NFL Head Coach is simply too buggy and monotonous to recommend to anyone other then stat-heads. Alphasim out.