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Written by  :  Mr. Eight-Three-One (1581)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2014
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars

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Wait, it's not just the same game again?

The Good

When it came to updating the Backyard Sports, usually all that was done were one or two improvements and the developers called it a day. Sadly, this is nowhere near more true than in the "golden age" of the series than anywhere else. This is not the case with Backyard Football 2002. The similarities between it and its predecessor end with the fact that it's football. The rest of the game is a total overhaul; the physics are totally reworked, the graphics are entirely different, the play control has been changed, and so much more. This is incredibly refreshing to see after Soccer MLS Edition and Baseball 2001. Just how much of it was an improvement, though?

The core gameplay is mostly retained; pick your field, pick your team, and draft your players. All of the NFL teams are available to choose, although there is still sadly no option to customize them (I still want to know where they got the idea to remove that feature). The classic teams are also available to choose as well. The only returning professional players this time are Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe; all of the others are new to the game, such as Ricky Williams, Cade McNown, Steve McNair, among others.

The seasons are the same as last game, being only fourteen really quick games. This works really well, but what works even better is that you can pick a home field this time. Originally, you would just play on recreational fields in a regular season, but this time you have several fields to pick from that aren't available in normal play. The best part is that if you win a season, these fields are unlocked for use in a single game! Geez, this took them long enough to add an unlockable besides Mr. Clanky (Well, to be fair Basketball had them too, but I wouldn't know because I never got rewarded them from how glitchy it was). You don't get any of the championship fields, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

So, about the core gameplay being overhauled...first off, the difficulty setting not only actually affects the AI in this game, it affects other factors of the game too. Whenever you kick, you now have an accuracy arrow that moves back and forth until you click, and this arrow moves faster at each difficulty making it harder to get a straight kick. Speaking of which, this is a welcome addition as well; you no longer have to pick a direction to kick and stick with it during a kickoff. You also may not always have to point straight for a field goal as well. The controls have much improved as well; you can choose to use two-button mouse controls that allow you to right click to pass the ball. Holding down the pass button makes you "zing" the ball instead of throwing it, which is a nice touch. Also, remember how I said you had to face the player you wanted to throw the ball to in the original, and I found it really annoying? That's gone; you now use a button to cycle through the players, making the gamepad and keyboard controls much more tolerable.

There are all sorts of other improvements to the game as well; there is an Assistant Coach feature that adds some extra features if you want them, such as an on-field diagram of each play or an Auto Pick Play if you don't know much about how football works. You also no longer have to wait for the play to start after picking one; just double click and it'll take you straight to the field.

The playbook has a lot more customization options this time around. You can now make defenders run backwards before they actually start defending, among other things. The power-ups are mostly improved upon, as the chameleon power-up is gone and we have a few more creative ones, such as the gopher power-up that lets you burrow underground and sack the offense. However, I do say "mostly" for a reason, but more on that later.

While this feels very minor, I should also mention that although most characters retained their original voice acting, Sunny Day was completely re-voiced in this game. It was still Jen Taylor, but she is far more of a realistic announcer than a high-pitched enthusiastic one. It sounds like I should hate this, but I actually find it way better. Believe me, after you play this game, you'll wonder how you ever lived with her original voice acting.

The Bad

The balance between the pros and Backyard Kids has improved a little bit, as there are fewer quarterbacks this time around, but unfortunately it still has a long way to go. The newer pros are also really bland in personality, which is a shame because they had potential. Overall though, they're at least somewhat of an improvement.

There are a few things I dislike about the new gameplay mechanics. The biggest issue I find is that blocking is nowhere near as effective as it was in the original. Very often the defense just ends up plowing through the offense, making it very easy to get sacked in this game. Forget even trying running plays, you're as good as dead if you do. I also feel interceptions get thrown way more often than they should.

So, what I said about the power-ups being "mostly" improved? There is one power-up in this game I seriously can't believe made it past the quality assurance. If you've played this game, you know what I'm talking about. I shudder to even think about it; it's the Invincible Run. Basically, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back, and he cannot be tackled for a ridiculously long time. As in, you will make it two-thirds across the field before it wears off. This is pretty much a guaranteed touchdown if you use it against the computer, and if the computer uses it and you anticipate it, you not only have to run way across the field in advance, but they still make it two-thirds across before you can tackle them. The bottom line is that this power-up is way too overpowered to have even been considered, and I don't know how or why it's even in the game. Some later versions toned it down by making the running back slow down every time they got tackled, but in this game, it's just too inexcusably useful.

Some more minor things I dislike is the fact that I think Chuck Downfield can get really annoying in this game at times. He could get annoying in the original at times, but here he makes way too many jokes that will get old with repetition. If you sack the computers a lot, be prepared to hear a lot about clerks sacking groceries or going down like a sack of potatoes. The final game, the Cereal Bowl, is also downplayed in this game. Chuck no longer paints himself to be your team colors and there is no confetti if you win, although they at least had the courtesy to add a halftime show.

The Bottom Line

Despite the shortcomings, I can easily see myself recommending this game over the original. Even though the game mechanics have been slightly screwed, the difficulty is much higher and I think that alone warrants taking this over the original. If you don't think you're a fast paced kind of person then I'd say go for the original, but this one is probably the superior game. And once again, I must stress -- even if you have played this or the original, you can get a lot out of playing the other one just with how different the two are. And that's when you have a good sequel; it's good for its own reasons and not something that just tries to live off the success of it predecessor. Surely this will lead to some far more creative future games... (sees Baseball 2003 is next) ...oh dear. See you next review.