NFL Quarterback Club ’96

Genre: Sports Developer: Iguana Ent. Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1995

Over the past few years, the Quarterback Club series has been a laughable attempt at creating a respectable football franchise that could compete against Madden. With some terrible attempts on the Dreamcast and mediocre showings on the Xbox and Playstation 2, it eventually grew so the game was such an embarrassment to Acclaim that it was cancelled. Yes, it certainly has gone downhill, but back in the day, they weren’t half bad. Not spectacular, by any means, but they were solid titles that provided an in-depth simulation-style football game with options galore.

You first turn on the game and immediately you notice that the game has a lot of flair. The iguana on the Acclaim screen, coupled with the funky music and flashy menu design creates a great first impression. The menu screen has a plethora of options, including (but not limited to): battery-backup season, preseason, pro bowl, playoffs, practice (which includes every type of practice session, including kicking, defense, passing, etc.) and the “scenario” mode. The scenario mode is what the franchise is most known for, but I’ll get into that later. So far, so good. Battery backup, flashy graphics, I decided to get to the meat of the game in a preseason (or “normal”) game.

Naturally, I picked my favorite team, the New England Patriots. Wow… more superfluous presentation. Before each game, a two-man team is shown in the commentary booth talking to you about the game ahead. They give reports like weather, what field we’re at, and even “important players” that will be in the game, and a brief history of their past seasons. It looks great, and it really fits a great atmosphere for a realistic football game.

At first glance, you notice that although the players on the field are a tad small, they are well drawn and nicely animated. The referee is also present, and he too is pleasing to the eye as he runs back and forth making the calls. However, because of the size of the players, much detail is lost, and they all look the same. The fields look good, with either turf, grass, or dome, and sometimes snow can be present. A few minor problems I have are that the endzones don’t have the team logos, just team colors. Also, the crowd is present on the sidelines – only at the endzones! This hurts the realism ever so slightly.

Once the Quarterback Club ’96 gets in play, you notice that the animation is lacking. It’s not terrible; running animations are smooth, but tackling and other moves like spinning are jerky and choppy. When you tackle an opposing player, one second you’re standing up, then the next minute, you’re either on the ground or on top of him. This makes defense difficult, and detracts from the gameplay.

The game itself is a mixed bag. Control lags a bit on one-touch commands like spinning or juking, but on passing or running, it’s dead on. Offense is very different from Madden, and it takes some time to get used to, but one comes to realize after playing that this is a football game for a true football fan. In order to pass the ball, you first select a play. After hiking the ball, you hit the A button to bring up your receiver icons. Whether or not they are eligible to receive depends on the color of their icon (green, yellow, red). You really have to look where they are and where they’re going before you pass. One must be observant to succeed in offense. The passing game is very good once you get a feel for it, though, and can be quite fun under tense circumstances. The running game is iffy. When you run through the middle, you can break for the long run, but due to the small size of the players, you can’t see holes too well. Running through the middle on a cramped formation is basically a thing of luck, whereas running to the outside can be easy. Defense, like I said, can be wholesomely difficult due to the animation. This makes the game all the more frustrating, and really drags the game as a whole down.

The sound isn’t too shabby. The referee gives clear “FIRST DOWN,” “INCOMPLETE,” “NO GOOD,” etc. calls, and the sound effects are appropriate, like a light thud when a ball is caught, or shouts and yells at the line of scrimmage. The crowd is very dead, though. Complete a pass… cheer. Nothing happening… murmur. There are two variations on crowd sound, and that’s it. Also, if you listen closely, you can hear when the crowd noise starts to loop!

This isn’t a bad football game, really. Not so much bad as it is sloppy. If this game had been tightened just a bit; more animation frames, more attention to minor graphical and sound details, this could have been “A” material. As it stands, it’s just okay. An okay football game to blow a half hour on when you’re waiting to leave for an appointment, or the such. If you’re into football, pick it up, because you’ll love the thrill of the quick pace of the game. If you’re a casual player who happens to enjoy football AND can look past the small shortcomings that NFL Quarterback Club ’96 has, it makes for a decent purchase.

SCORE: 6 out of 10

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