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SummaryA decent title, and one that's not a sell-out!
The GoodContinuing on with my Backyard Sports series of reviews, Backyard Football is the third game in the series. Following the immense success that Backyard Soccer brought, Humongous got permission to use three major sports licenses: MLB, MLS, and the one for this game, NFL. According to the old Humongous site, before any of this happened, Basketball was planned on being the next title after Soccer, but that ultimately fell through when they couldn't acquire the NBA license. Point is, this is the first game in the series to bring a major sports license into the mix, but was it utilized well? That's for you to find out.
Once again, the game follows the same formula established in Backyard Baseball -- pick a field, choose the game options, and draft your 7-player team. One cool bit is that you can actually change the weather of the game as well. If you want to play the game in the rain or snow, by all means, go for it, but it will realistically make the game harder as well.
New to this game (aside from the obvious addition of the professional league) is that you can now play with two players using a keyboard or a game controller for the second player. The mouse controls work great and are just as easy to use as they were before; click where you want your player to move or pass the ball. The keyboard and gamepad controls are unfortunately a bit wonky, as you can only move in eight directions (the mouse lets you move in any direction, essentially making it an analog controller). Passing is also a pain to do without the mouse; the "pass" icon moves in the direction that you are moving, but it's made needlessly complicated with only eight directions to work with. The sequel fixed this, but since this isn't the sequel, it's an issue. My recommendation is that if you're going to play with two players and you have a gamepad, don't let either one use the mouse or they'll have too much of an advantage.
The seasons in this game are massively improved from the previous two games. The games all run at a reasonable length at only one minute per quarter, and the regular season consists of fourteen games. No division gimmickry, no needless padding, it's all short, sweet, and just the right length.
A nifty feature in this game is the ability to make your own playbook. You get a lot of default plays if you're not the creative type, but you can also make your own plays if you so desire. It's an easy to use editor, and although the default playbook is usually enough, if you aren't satisfied with it, you can change it to your heart's content.
Okay, now for the elephant in the room -- are the pros a good addition to the game? In some respects, yes. Unlike later on, the pros weren't milked for all they were worth. They were a selling point when the game first came out, don't get me wrong, but in later games it really felt like they were only there to sell more copies. Here, the pros actually blend with the Backyard kids really well -- they have actual identities and feel like kids you could get to know. While they may not have the distinctive stereotypes that the Backyard kids do...well, except for Brett Favre who is depicted as a country boy in this game, they at least feel realistic and not just slapped in for a quick buck.
Aside from the pro players, all of the NFL teams are present here too -- the Seattle Seahawks, the New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans, they're all here. In case you liked the cartoony names that you could give teams before better, those are still here too. Even better, you can actually change the team name adjectives and their colors. For example, if you'd rather be an orange and blue version of the Mighty Saints instead of the typical gold and white New Orleans Saints, you can go on ahead and do that. It absolutely baffles me they got rid of this level of customization in future games; were the major leagues mad about this or something? Regardless, this makes the game a whole lot more enjoyable to play, and I wish they weren't so carefree about the major licenses after this.
The BadUnfortunately, the addition of the pro players are not without its issues. My absolute biggest complaint about the pros that existed from the minute they showed up is the fact that they're completely overpowered compared to the Backyard kids. This game is, unfortunately, not immune to that flaw -- since most of the recognized players in the NFL are (shocker!) quarterbacks, almost all of them have higher throwing stats than anyone else. Barry Sanders and Steve Young also really break this game when it comes to speed, rivaling Pete Wheeler.
The powerups in this game are a mixed bag. Most are pretty interesting, like the Hocus Pocus which poofs a wide receiver down the field out in the the open. The Leap Frog can either work really well if there is virtually no defense in the field, or it can work against you when they're all far behind the line of scrimmage. However, the Chameleon powerup is undoubtedly the weakest. All it does is changes your teams uniforms to match the offense. Unless you are offense-defense blind, it does absolutely nothing to confuse you, and considering the AI is...well, perfect by its very nature, they sure as heck won't be confused.
And speaking of the AI...I won't say it's bad, but the difficulty setting in this game could really have used expansion. The only difference between Easy, Medium and Hard is the speed of the game. That's right, the Hard difficulty does absolutely nothing except speed up the game, and at a very negligible rate I might add. What kind of difficulty setting is that?